The brutality of last year’s gang-rape in Delhi was hard to ignore: a 23-year old physiology student was lured onto a public bus by six men who raped her so savagely, at times with a metal pole, that she died of her injuries five days later.
The news of the rape quickly captured the media’s attention; it tapped into a latent anger in India, spurring thousands to take to the streets to protest the treatment of women in their country. These events have highlighted the wider problem of rape in India, giving Indian women and their everyday struggles with sexual violence unprecedented visibility.
After the Delhi rape and the ensuing protests, the Indian government reacted quickly to toughen laws on sexual offenses. In March, it passed landmark legislation broadening the definition of rape, identifying stalking, acid attacks, sexual harassment and voyeurism as crimes and imposing harsher punishments on sexual offenses.
These reforms are important because they send the message that the Indian government considers sexual violence a serious violation, but their effectiveness will depend on how well they are implemented. So far, real change has been slow to come because India’s criminal justice system is too inefficient and overburdened to adequately enforce the new laws and procedures.
The public outcry surrounding the Delhi case spurred India’s top officials into action, resulting in a quick resolution to the case.