This month, a 23-year-old woman in Bahadurgah, India, says she was raped in her hospital bed at Brahm Shakti Sanjivani hospital, only a few hours after giving birth.
At first, she thought that the man who approached her bed in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), and then began touching her private parts, was a doctor who had come to examine her. However, when she realized she was being raped, she screamed—but, according to her account, no one came, and there were no doctors, nurses or staff on call at the hospital after hours.
“He put his hand on my mouth to muzzle me, then touched me inappropriately and sexually assaulted me,” she stated in her report to the local police. “He also checked my medical files, and drew the curtains closed. He assaulted me again. Then he walked out.”
Although a spokesperson for the hospital says an investigation is taking place into the lapse of security—no visitors are allowed into the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) after a certain time—as of this moment, no formal case of negligence has been registered against the hospital authorities.
“There are eight beds. Beds on either side of the alleged victim are occupied, but no one heard any noise,” the spokesperson commented.
After the woman alerted her husband—a sub-investigator with the Delhi police force—about the incident, local police in Bahaduragarh began to conduct raids, and eventually identified the alleged perpetrator through footage caught on CCTV cameras in the hospital. However, most rape survivors in India do not have as much luck within the system, which has been criticized as inefficient and prone to blaming the victim.
While India’s rape epidemic made global headlines in 2012, when a young woman was gang raped and brutally murdered on a moving bus in New Delhi, this rape culture—and practice of blaming or questioning the victim—has persisted. In a 2015 documentary about the incident titled India’s Daughter, which was subsequently banned by the Indian government, one of the alleged rapists of the Delhi woman—who, after her death, became widely known as “Nirbhaya,” meaning fearless in Hindi—blankly looks into the camera and says: “A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy.”
This is shortly followed by: “House work and housekeeping is for girls. Not roaming in discos and bars at night, doing wrong things, wearing wrong clothes. About 20 percent of girls are good.”
According to the most recent statistics from the National Crime Records Bureau, 93 women are raped in India every day—and reports of rapes have increased, not decreased, in recent years. While in many ways there is no reason that the country’s rape epidemic is any different than the rape epidemic that plagues many countries throughout the world, there are a few specific reasons its is exacerbated in India. First, India is a simultaneously heavily populated, and under-policed country, meaning that that while there are more criminals per capita, there are not enough police, and even fewer female police. While there was momentum after the incident in New Delhi to recruit more female police officers—in an effort to make rape survivors feel more at ease to report crimes—India still has significantly fewer female officers than most other Asian countries.
Second, if a rape is reported, and then investigated by the police, the victim is often blamed, and questioned about her testimony. Just last year, former Minister K.J. George was asked to step down when he dismissed a reported gang rape with two attackers as impossible because “gang rape means four or five people.” His replacement, Home Minister G. Parameshwara, responded to the case by saying, “We are investigating why the woman would come to Cubbon Park [the location where she was raped] at this hour.”
While local authorities in Bahadurgah have since found and arrested the alleged attacker in the hospital incident, India has a long way to go before it can realize justice for women.