Violence against women has been a major issue in the news in recent years ever since the Delhi gang rape case of 2012. That case brought to the fore, the awful condition of Indian women in terms of safety. It also highlighted the misogyny that is inbred in the Indian psyche. One year later, nothing much has changed as countless women are raped everyday all over the country. This problem might have come into international limelight only recently but it definitely is not something new. Here, we’ll try to explore the ten rape cases in Indian that were widely covered by the mainstream media and created rage in people.
One of the oldest cases of rape that was widely covered by the media was the 1973 case of nurse Aruna Shanbaug. She was raped by a contracted sweeper, Sohanlal Bhartha Walmiki while working as a junior nurse at KEM Hospital in Mumbai. As a result of the assault during which Sohanlal choked her with a dog chain, Aruna has been in a vegetative state for the last 40 years. Her euthanasia plea was rejected by the supreme court in 2011 but the landmark judgment was made to allow passive euthanasia in India.
She passed away on May 18, 2015. Read more about Aruna Shanbaug’s rape case and her perpetual suffering.
The Mathura rape case is a landmark case in the history of Indian women’s rights movement. In 1972, a tribal girl named Mathura was raped by two policemen in the Chandrapur district of Maharashtra. Initially the policemen were acquitted by the sessions court as the girl was said to have been “habituated to sexual intercourse”. Maharashtra High Court reversed the judgment which was again reversed by the Supreme Court. This shows the inherent patriarchal attitude of the Indian judicial system at that time. Later large protests led to formation of women’s rights group and a subsequent change in the Indian rape law.
Another landmark case is the Priyadarshini Mattoo rape and murder case of 1996. She was a 25 year old law student who was raped and murdered by Santosh Kumar Singh at her house in New Delhi. The trial court had acquitted Santosh but due to media pressure the Delhi High Court made a landmark judgment and sentenced him to death. This was the first time media pressure had helped to accelerate a trial and give justice to the victim.
The Anjana Mishra rape case was a high profile rape case of 1999. She was the wife of an Indian Forest Services officer had filed a complaint with the CM of Orissa, J.B. Patnaik against the then advocate general of Orrisa, Indrajit Ray, who had attempted to rape her in 1997. Patnaik tried to shield Ray and later in 1999, Anjana was attacked on her way to Bhubaneshwar by three men and was gang raped in front of her journalist friend with whom she was travelling. Indrajit Ray received 3 years imprisonment for attempted rape while two of the three accused were sentenced to life imprisonment after a CBI enquiry. The third accused is still absconding.
Soumya was travelling on a train from Erankulam to Shornur in Kerala when she was attacked by Govindachami in an attempt to rob her. He smashed her head on the wall and then threw her out of the train. He then himself jumped out of the train, went back to find her, carried her to the woods near the track and then brutally raped her. She was badly injured when she was thrown out of the train and later succumbed to her injuries. Govindachami was awarded capital punishment.
The latest of the notorious gang rape cases is the Mumbai gang rape of 22 year old photojournalist in a city that was thought to be very safe for women. This case caused a lot of outcry from the public and media alike as questions were raised about the rape epidemic which seems to be getting worse than ever before. While on assignment in a secluded area with her male coworker she was attacked by 5 men who asked the male journalist to join in the rape and when he refused he was tied and beaten up.
Bhanwari Devi was a grassroots level worker in Bhateri village under the Women’s Development Project in Rajasthan. In 1992 she was gang raped by 5 high caste men of her village when she got involved in speaking against child marriage. Her case attracted a lot of media coverage once it became clear that she was being denied justice on the basis of her low caste and gender. This case is considered very important in the women’s rights movement in Rajasthan and India.
The Scarlett Keeling case of 2009 is of importance because it was in the media for all the wrong reasons. Scarlett was a British tourist visiting India with her family. She was 15 years old and was left behind in Goa with her 25 years old Indian boyfriend while her family travelled along the coast. She was brutally raped and then drowned in the sea and murdered. The media covered the story as everybody ganged up against the bohemian lifestyle of her family and blamed her mother for her carelessness. It shows how in India most people still believe that “bad” women deserve getting raped.
The Imrana rape case of 2005 brings to light another problem in India about separate laws for separate religions. Imrana was raped by her father in law in Uttar Pradesh and the village elders treated it as a case of adultery instead of rape and ordered Imrana to leave her husband and consider herself married to her father in law. After a lot of media attention she got justice as her father in law was sentenced to a term of 10 years of imprisonment.
The most notorious of all rape cases has to be the Delhi gang rape of 2012. A physiotherapy intern was raped by 6 men while she was travelling in a bus with her friend in New Delhi. She was brutally raped and injured by inserting an iron rod in her vagina and later died due to her injuries. The case brought about a lot of public outrage as thousands of people spontaneously gathered in the streets of Delhi to protest against the gang rape. 1 of the accused was treated as a minor and given a sentence of 3 years in a reform facility, the main accused Ram Singh allegedly committed suicide while in police custody and the remaining 4 accused have been sentenced to death by hanging.