Is Rape in India Having Its Newtown Moment?

“Seven days of demonstrations peaked Sunday, as thousands of people joined women’s and students’ groups,” the New York Times reported, after “a 23-year-old medical student who boarded what she thought was a public bus on Dec. 16 was brutally raped. [The victim] suffered severe intestinal injuries after being attacked with an iron rod during the assault and was battling for her life, doctors said last week.”

The police responded with heavy-handed riot tactics and arrests, which have become de rigueur in not only India, but much of the Western world. From the Times:

Kulsoom Rashid, 27, rubbed her eyes and said she had been tear-gassed. … “Hundreds of rapists are running scot-free, and the entire Delhi police is standing here to stop people like me?” … After several recent, highly publicized rape cases, India has been struggling to come to grips with the scale of the vastly underreported problem. Even when rapes are reported, suspects are rarely found and arrested.

Pratap Bhanu Mehta, president of the Center for Policy Research in New Delhi, was quoted thusly:

“The consistent thing we have been seeing for the last couple of years is that people have come to believe that the state has become an instrument largely for the benefit and protection of a few — and mostly politicians. … That momentum is producing an open contempt of the state.”

The brutality of that incident may have brought weak enforcement of laws against rape in India to a tipping point. Just as Newtown may have done for gun violence in the United States. Not only do states that fail to protect their women and children deserve contempt, but their very legitimacy is called into question.