is such an unspeakable act that it is hard to find words.
First there is the very obscenity of a young woman's being targeted for planned gang rape by six men, including the driver of the bus in which she was riding and several other males – her alleged attackers, now facing murder charges – and her being savagely beaten, raped, sodomized with an iron rod with such force that surgeons had to later remove her intestines in trying to save her, and thrown from the bus to ultimately die of her awful injuries.
Then there is the further horror that, while this particular case made global headlines due to its blood-curdling brutality and the relatively high class stature of the victim, India's tradition of men beating, raping, and murdering women with impunity is long, pervasive, and still widely-approved.
All of this is part and parcel of a deeply-entrenched patriarchy in which a woman (or a girl) can be promised and delivered to a man as de facto chattel for marriage and servitude, and in which women suffer one of the highest rates of rape in the world. Were it not for the explosion of pent-up outrage by Indian women in the wake of this highly-publicized torture and murder, it might have continued to be business as usual. Even after this sensationally horrific crime, Indian officials continue to respond to protestors with rapespeak. This from an Al Jazeera piece by Naomi Wolf:
It is not simply the high rate of rape in India that is driving the protests' virulence. In a passionate speech, Kavita Krishnan, Secretary of the All India Progressive Women's Association, spoke to the deeper issue behind the protests: the blame-the-victim culture in India around sex crimes. She notes that government and police officials recently insisted that most rapists cannot be prosecuted in India, because, as one official put it, they are known to the women attacked. Other officials have publicly suggested that victims themselves are "asking for it" by their use of freedom of movement.
Like other coexisting regimes of rule by repression, including those of race and sexual orientation, rule by gender is both ruthless and steadfast. We hear an avalanche of reasons why we cannot change it: It's what God wants, it's what nature wants, it's what the public wants, it's what the law says, it's what people are going to do regardless. We've heard it all before on each unique front of battle, including gender rights: Maybe it's not fair, but you people just have to accept reality.
One front of battle in the war for gender equality is, of course, that of class. Indian feminist and publisher Urvashi Butalia has some interesting things to say about this. Listen to a radio interview in which she talks about how the bitter resentment of millions of low-income Indian men left behind by global capitalism expresses itself partly through rage and violence toward women, particularly toward "uppity" upwardly-mobile women who have the gall to seek education and equality. Women like the victim in this attack, who was a 23-year-old university student. The more women gain, the greater the desire of insecure men to dominate and punish them.
The conditions faced by women in parts of the developing world, where capitalist and pre-capitalist brutalities meet, are particularly dire. But before we pretend that elemental issues of gender justice exclude the West, consider this from Wolf:
This return to pre-feminist discourse is not confined to India. Italy is having a similar debate about whether women's clothes and behaviour invite rape. Even in Sweden, activists complain, rapes in which the men know their assailants go unprosecuted, because the victims are not seen as "good girls."
And this from yesterday's Huffington Post:
WASHINGTON -- Despite a late-stage intervention by Vice President Joe Biden, House Republican leaders failed to advance the Senate's 2012 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, an embattled bill that would have extended domestic violence protections to 30 million LGBT individuals, undocumented immigrants and Native American women.
"The House leadership would not bring it up, just like they wouldn't bring up funding for Sandy [hurricane damage] last night," said Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), a key backer of the Senate version of the bill, in an interview with HuffPost. "I think they are still so kowtowing to the extreme on the right that they're not even listening to the moderates, and particularly the women, in their caucus who are saying they support this."