Following the highly covered gang-rape of a young woman on a bus in New Delhi in 2012 (BBC, 29 December 2012), the issues of rape and violence against women (VAW) have increasingly come into the social and political spotlight in India. In recent years, social activists have staged a sustained number of riots and protests demanding justice for the victims of sexual violence and better protection of women and children in the country.
Besides rape, protests were also staged against other forms of violence against women including, but not limited to, harassment of women and girls, dowry deaths, and suicide due to cruelty by the husband or in-laws.
The latest wave of protests follows several incidents of sexual violence, most notably the rape-and-murder of an 8-year-old girl in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kathua district in mid-January of this year and the gang-rape of another minor in Uttar Pradesh’s Unnao district in mid-April (NDTV, 16 April 2018). Isolated protest events over the Kathua rape-and-murder case were reported as early as 18 January. As of 15 April, a wave of riots and protests has swept across India with students often being at the forefront of the demonstrations. In the time period between 18 January and 21 April, over 40% of anti-rape demonstrations were reported in Jammu and Kashmir. Demonstrations were doubly likely to turn violent in Jammu and Kashmir as well, relative to other Indian states.
Data from January 2016 to April 2018 show two other spikes in the numbers of anti-rape protests — though admittedly lower in comparison to the most recent spike this month. The first was during the week of 19 June 2017 in Odisha state against the gang-rape and murder of a woman in Dhenkanal district. The second spike was during the week of 17 July 2017 in Himachal Pradesh state over the rape and murder of a minor girl in Kotkhai area (see figure below).