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Photo illustration by John Lyman

The problem of rape in India has only gotten worse.

In India, the chilling fact that over 110 rapes are recorded every day casts a grim light on a profound problem: sexual assault. This statistic, unfortunately, is likely only a glimpse of the actual number, as many incidents go unreported. India’s struggle with this crime has become so notorious that even Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi has called India the “rape capital of the world.”

The persistence of harassment and crimes against women is a disheartening reality in India. The grim label given by Rahul Gandhi underscores the gravity of the crisis. In 2020, over 370,000 cases of violence against women were reported, with countless more likely hidden by victims’ fear or shame. This urgency signals a desperate need for a societal shift that values and protects women and girls.

Addressing sexual assault and other offenses against women is a necessity in India. Criminal psychologist and advocate Anuja Trehan Kapur points out that although rape is a non-bailable offense under Indian law, many of the accused are granted bail due to insufficient evidence. The fact that those in power, such as police officers, legislators, and attorneys, often shield accused rapists is deeply unsettling.

Warnings about safety in India have come from several countries, including the United Kingdom, the United States, France, and Switzerland. Recent attacks involving international tourists underscore India’s need to intensify efforts to protect women and modify the prevailing attitudes toward them. Rape affects both local women and international visitors, carrying devastating psychological, legal, and societal ramifications.

India’s alarmingly high rape rate is influenced by a patriarchal culture, lack of education on gender equality and consent, an ineffective legal system, the stigma and victim-blaming attached to survivors, and the influence of drugs and alcohol. These factors enable perpetrators to escape justice.

Dealing effectively with rape involves tackling these underlying issues and cultivating respect, empathy, and responsibility. It also requires providing ample support and safety for victims. Sensible preventative measures include vigilance, using caution in certain situations, and seeking help when feeling threatened or uneasy.

But above all, it must be emphasized that nobody deserves to be violated, regardless of their appearance, behavior, or location. The responsibility for rape lies solely with the perpetrator, not the victim.

The sexual assaults on foreign women in India during the early 2010s highlighted the urgency of enhancing safety for female travelers. Abhorrent incidents like the kidnapping and gang rape of a Danish woman in New Delhi and the sexual assault of an 18-year-old German teacher in Chennai reveal the need for robust protections for both indigenous and foreign women across India’s diverse landscape.

The rising tide of sexual assaults against female tourists in India has escalated safety concerns. Disturbing incidents, such as the probable rape of a British woman in Goa, assaults on Russian and American tourists, and violations of Japanese and German women by predatory guides and drivers, underline the necessity of safeguarding the rights and safety of all travelers. In the face of these recurring crimes, prioritizing the protection of all citizens, regardless of their origin, should be paramount for India.

But most of all, to deal effectively with this problem, the government, from Narendra Modi on down, needs to make prevention and punishment a priority and thus far, national leadership is missing in action.

Abdul Mussawer Safi is an author at various platforms such as Modern Diplomacy, Kashmir Watch, and Eurasia Review. He is pursuing a Bachelor's degree in International Relations from National Defense University. He has a profound interest in world politics, especially in the regional dynamics of South Asia. His academic strengths are critical and SWOT analysis.