1 March, 2024


Delhi Rape: Actions As Reactions

By Visakha Tillekeratne

Delhi gang rape victim dies. The culprits involved should be punished without any delay! – A Familiar Refrain

A world of trial and error

Yet another and another and another……………………and another.  Has the world learnt a lesson? How do you rate an offence as grave as rape? How does one rate one scenario against another? One woman’s  anguish and trauma? After the crime, all salient laws are amended, cases are fast tracked, special prosecutors are appointed, even the age of demarcating an adult is reconsidered, everyone is on the street, all politicians are giving statements, Manmohan Singh is at the airport, Sonia Gandhi speaks out, Shashi Tharoor is  giving his opinion on the naming of the law (what triviality! From the former Under Secretary General – Communications of the United Nations), even world bodies are giving statements during the funeral of the victim, at least a dozen different global petitions are signed and there are also huge arguments on privacy and safeguarding the name of the victim now dead. Sounds very familiar here in Sri Lanka as well.

After the horse has bolted the gate is fortified, after the train crash, safety  measures are considered (in Sri Lanka of course there are plenty of unprotected railway crossings even after the disasters), after the plane crash all air craft manufacturers and aviation bodies have done their work on safety enhancement, modernizing aviation technology etc.

ALL THESE UNTIL THE NEXT DISASTER!  A world that has advanced so much is still on trial and error mode!

Where is the root cause analysis, and the solutions to fundamental inequities?

Let us confine ourselves to this heinous crime in Delhi on that fateful day – 16th of December 2012.

The girl and her boy friend got into a private bus after going to see a movie in the evening after several rickshaws declined to drive them to the victim’s house. They were totally unaware that they got into a bus run by a gang of thugs/rapists. The outcome was they were drove around for nearly one hour, savagely attacking the couple and brutally gang raping and violating  the young woman her with an iron bar causing severe  internal damage  and later throwing them out unconscious and naked to die from the moving bus.

Root cause Analysis of the Incident

It is a well researched premise that gender-based violence has been identified as the product of learnt behavior in societies structured around dynamics of power and domination. As such, it can be changed, particularly through proper education of children, youth and adults at the community level

1.The profiles of the rapists reek of the inequities in social reform and bring to mind both the movie “ Slum Dog Millionnaire” and the recent production of a brilliant docudrama on the severe socio economic inequities within India done by a Sri Lankan no less, titled “Gandhi’s Children”. All the rapists excluding one were from a derelict slum and working in the informal sector. Dropping out of school and dysfunctional families seems to run through their profiles. (Too many generalizations cannot be done as the rich and famous too engage in such crimes maybe in more comfortable places). The driver and the cleaner operated a “school bus service”!

2. An ailing public transport system, which is not monitored for timing, route permits and suitability of staff manning the buses. In a country as highly populated as India, with at least 600 million women, a bus service dedicated to women should have been a reality. Maybe it is there in some places, but the victim certainly could not access one.

3. The attitude of the passerby who failed to come to their rescue after they were thrown out of the moving vehicle at the end of their terrible ordeal.

4. Police inefficiency as they had taken a long time to detect and attend to preliminaries of the crime. They completely ignored the injuries and mental trauma of the male survivor.

5. Public utilities such as city lighting and other safety measures. So has Delhi City been modernized and revamped? According to reports not very much.

6. The Tertiary Healthcare  System – emergency care given in the public hospital where she was admitted.

It is unclear to the outsider why the victim was taken to Singapore. Many people in the Asian region travel to expensive hospitals all around India. Is it that yet these Hospitals are not state of the art compared to Mount Elizabeth? Obviously there are no major state hospitals equipped to the task of attending to a patient whose insides are turned out.

7. The Education System: Dealing with School Dropouts, Life Skills Education, bridging the gap of socialization between the sexes. Education is not easily accessible to Indians especially at the tertiary and secondary level. So, a multitude of skills that can be imparted together with conventional education cannot be accessed by a large number of young people in India.

“Parivartan” – A Campaign for the Safety of Women in Delhi as early as 2005

Delhi has not become unsafe recently as is portrayed by the very tragic incident  of 16 December 2012. Parivartan which means change was a campaign which was started as far back as 2005 to make Delhi a safe city for women. What happened to Parivartan is the question in 2012 and Delhi and India still seem to be in the trial and error mode?

Let us see the process that Delhites went through in the course of Parivartan.

Extracted from the Parivartan Campaign document;

Incidence of sexual assaults and rape has increased over the last few years in Delhi at a higher rate than rest of the states in India. Other forms of gender based violence have not shown any major upward trend. There was an annual increase at the rate of 18 % in the rape cases in Delhi since 2001.In addition to this, there were three widely publicized instances of rape cases in moving vehicles on the roads of Delhi including rape of a Swiss diplomat during 2004-2005. The whole city was under the grip of fear. The national media dubbed Delhi as the “rape capital of India” THEN. Even international media based in Delhi endorsed the fear of people of “Delhi being an unsafe city for women”. The Delhi Police was under tremendous pressure to contain the increasing graph of sexual assault and rape cases in the capital city of India.

In June 2005, senior officers and experts were asked to study the extent and nature of the phenomenon of increasing gender based violence and to prepare a structured intervention for eliminating the menace and its root causes in a time bound manner. The time Schedule for the intervention was prepared.Defining the Problem:

On the basis of the findings of the study, the problem areas were defined as under:

  • The incidence of rape was increasing in Delhi at an alarming annual rate of 18% for the last four years.
  • In 2005, 29% of the total rape cases were being reported from North West district out of total 9 districts in Delhi.
  • It was also observed that more than 95% of sex-offenders were relatives/ neighbors / friends of the survivors/ victims. The rape by strangers though very less but were highly violent in nature.
  • The incidence of domestic violence, wife-battering, dowry deaths, child abuse, kidnapping and abduction were also prevalent in the community.
  • The male police officers were lacking required sensitivity to the women victims and their conduct towards them needed a lot of improvement.
  • Law Enforcement Agency did not have a positive perception among citizens, as victims were subject to secondary victimization at the police stations.
  • Most of victims were not aware of law and related provisions such as free legal aid, Women Help Lines, counseling centers, short-stay homes etc.
  • The public spaces such as roads, bus stands, parks; sub-ways, etc. were also perceived to be quite unsafe for women.
  • Women victims and prosecution witnesses were harassed by the offenders leading to acquittal.


As problem was quite complicated, developing the solution was equally difficult and challenging. One of the obvious option was to increase manpower and direct patrol vehicles towards hot spots. Another option was to publicize extensively in the media about the false perception of insecurity among women in the city as the fear was perceived rather than real. There were only 3 isolated cases of rape in moving vehicles in a mega city of over 15 million population and rapes by strangers were only 4-6 % of total rapes. More than 95% of rape cases were committed by boy-friends, neighbors or relatives.

Yet another option available was to motivate and conduct special training program for those police personnel who were deployed at field policing; and to penalize those who were not able to contain the crime in their respective area of responsibility. All these options or a combination.

 After a lot of consultation with professionals from both the agency and the community, it was decided to change the “method of operation”, “gender of field staff”, “mind-set of police force”, “place of reporting by victim”, “modes of communication with the community”, “style of functioning” etc. of policing. Hence the program was named as PARIVARTAN.

The Intervention Team:

In the beginning, 40 women police constables (WPCs) were deployed in the “Implementation Team” in 20 beats under supervision of an officer of the rank of Deputy Commissioner of Police designated as Nodal Officer. There were other teams with members comprised of police officers at different levels of organizational hierarchy, sociologists from Universities, professionals from different sections such as medicine, law, clinical psychology, management, media, IT and development communication. The program has now been extended to 40 beats in North West and Outer Districts.Intervention Strategy

  • Targeting both the potential as well as past offenders, targeting both the potential as well as past victims
  • Constructive engagement of civil society, intelligentsia & media.
  • Developing mechanisms for speedy support to victims.
  • De-constructing patriarchal mind-set and associated practices.
  • Ensuring safety of victim and prosecution witnesses.

     Activities under Parivartan

  •      Door-step policing by women police constables (WPCs) for identification and redressal of grievances of women within the community. Women police officers build confidence within women.
  • Four hundred eighty nine (489) intensive pantomime performances were conducted over a period of 35 months focusing on Rape and sexual assault (Hadsa), Dowry harassment (Matadin ki Kahani), Domestic violence against women (Ramkali Ki Kahani). Each of these performances is interactive and participatory in nature.
  • Workshops were conducted in schools in the Outer & North West districts with the help of an eminent psychologist, with an aim to highlight possible preventive measures that can be undertaken by children, especially adolescent girls, the teachers and the parents with regard to safety of women and children. The workshops also offered a confidential Helpline to the students regarding life skills, social skills and counseling on issues related to violence and sexual crime
YEAR 2005 2006 2007 2008 Total
Pantomime Shows 112 125 171 156 564
Awareness Movies 19 90 288 90 487
Women Safety Committee Meetings 03 120 78 32 233
Workshops In Educational Institutes 15 36 30 08 89
Male Sensitization Courses 05 15 12 06 38
Training Orientation Courses 03 06 09 03 21

“16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence” campaign was launched on 25th November,   2005. During the campaign painting competitions, declamation contests, self-defense training programs and other such activities were organized in schools and colleges.

Another important feature of PARIVARTAN is that within each beat a group of 20 women members of the community have also been trained to act as Community COUNSELLORS for the extension of the awareness campaign about safety of women and children.

The various media channels are used so as to consistently reinforce positively on the various interventions. The mobile van with audio-video and multimedia CD was launched

Where is Parivartan now? Big question after 2008!!

Though the right questions were asked about the multi causality of the problem, were these addressed in a meaningful manner?. The activities are mostly about meetings, awareness, trainings. Are these sustained yet? What about real investment into redressing the inequities stated above such as  upgrading transport and public utilities such as street lights,  addressing school drop outs with meaningful programs, improving the lives of slum communities, while engaging, in  the more cosmetic ones of training, awareness etc. So are we only functioning within the cycle of events, until the next major event/disaster or should they be addressed in the long term, while keeping or shedding many of the activities after evaluation?

This event occurred about 4 years after the Phase of Parivartan described above. It was also just 6 days after the end of 16 Days of activism against Gender based violence which falls on the 10th of December. Isn’t this an irony? Of course such problems cannot be sorted out in a day. But what happened 5 years before,  happens once again unless interventions address the causes


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Latest comments

  • 0

    Hello Big Madam, why don’t you go to Kahawatte or to Tangalle instead of New Delhi for your “Parivarthana”? We know you would not challenge Rajapaksa and his local goons. Lakvanitha boss did the same, because hubby is ambassador appointed by Rajapaksa. This is very much easy and comfortable and profitable too with foreign trips.

    • 0

      Hello Amaranth,

      Please do not write petty comments to an analysis that is done for every one to take note not only Delhi. I really do not want to publicise what we do, but a few of us may indeed be those few who went to Tangalle to the scene of murder and rape and wrote to relevant stakeholders. I do not want to talk about Kahawatte as it is risky for the people there. It would be better to get off your own comfortable seat and go to Kahawatte instead of being an armchair activist as it looks like. Also do not take this tone as you too sound violent. Most probably (I cannot say I am right a 100%) you are a male as you take a very superior tone. You give other reasonable and peaceful men a bad name. Please do not talk about challengng Rajapaksa.This is meant to be an article that diagnoses the root cause of social ills. It is very boring when you keep harping on “Rajapaksa”, who is also a product of a far from ideal civil society.

      • 0

        Yes, yes. It is better to avoid the root cause Rajapaksa regime that dismantled rule of law, politicized all police and State agencies, brought local thugs into Pradeshiya Sabhas and Nagara Sabhas and allowed them to do drug business, sexually abuse girls, rape women and even kill and instead talk big about Indian stuff.
        Tangalle you write letters to “Stakeholders” (typical project language) and is everything right now ?
        So if you keep silent Kahawatte people will be very safe ! Never heard of such theory before !!!
        Madam, all this big and serious analysis nothing to do about Sri Lankan poor women, are for Donors and Dollars we know. Never mind that, but say so, without trying to fool others.

  • 0

    Rape and its violent manifestations have been a reality throughout history. However, the incidence, frequency, environment, context and motives have taken uglier and reprehensible forms over the years.

    These events do not occur in isolation of other socio-economic and psychological contexts, as the writer has correctly identified.

    Hence, what needs more attention than venting one’s anger and sense of indignation on the perpetrators by suggesting the most heinous punishments (thereby behaving no differently from the criminals involved) is ascertaining what motivates these people to commit such crimes in the first place.

    Taking the social contexts (which cannot be easily changed) into consideration, these perpetrators should be interviewed at length, in a non-threatening environment, by socio-anthropologists and all relevant background and psychological contexts should be established.

    That way, the incidence of these types of crime can be reduced in future.

  • 0

    How many Sri Lankans are aware that a metal object was violently inserted into the vagina of the Delhi victim after the multiple rape ? Her uterus and other organs were damaged beyond repair. This was both a rape and an act of absolute beastliness. Is mankind about to lose its humanity in the 21st century or is it an expected manifestation of the ‘ Kali Yuga’ we are living in. Are even worse manifestations to be expected? Is the rape and killing of a four year old girl in Mandaitivu, also a manifestation of this beastliness, in Sri Lanka? Are we becoming so beastly that it would shame even the animals, who we consider below us on the evolutionary scale? Are we beginning to increasingly manifest that we are the worst element in the animal kingdom? There are no animal other than man which derive perverse pleasure in causing pain to others! The sublime in man is being increasingly overwhelmed by the profane, the vulgar, the venal and the barbaric.

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

  • 0

    Protect the women!

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