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Has anything really changed for India's women?


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Stephanie Jenzer was Nahlah Ayed's producer on this story. She filed this blog post from New Delhi: 

A couple of nights ago, my colleagues and I were driving through the streets of New Delhi, trying to get a feel for the city after the sun sets. 

More than a few young women had been telling us about their self-imposed curfews, how they don't feel safe to go out past eight o'clock, especially if they have to take public transportation. They felt that way even before the brutal rape and murder of a 23-year-old student last month.

The leering, teasing and groping from men is disturbing enough during the day, they all seemed to agree, unthinkable to contemplate trying to cope with it at night too. What about counting on the police for protection? Forget about that as well, they told us.

Faced with such massive public mistrust as well as stinging criticism in the wake of the young woman's gang rape, authorities here are trying to win back confidence with attempts at good public relations.

When our crew asked the police if we could accompany them on a night patrol of city streets, not only was our request readily accepted, but our escort was a female officer. Among the demands of protesters in India has been to increase the numbers of women cops. Right now, only a tiny fraction of the force is female.

So, correspondent Nahlah Ayed and camera operator Jonathan Castell hopped in the cramped back of a New Delhi police vehicle while I followed in another car.  

We hadn't traveled further than a few kilometers when we hit one, then another and then yet another police checkpoint. In total we must have passed through more than a dozen sets of barricades in less than an hour. So many that our local fixer remarked he'd rarely seen as much police presence on the streets of New Delhi at night.

Early into our drive-along, as if on cue, the vehicle I was in got pulled over for an intense inspection. Not because the driver was speeding or navigating erratically, but because the cops had spotted me, with my blond hair obviously a foreigner, seated next to an Indian driver. Seemed it was reason enough to be suspicious and to take a closer look.

Perhaps demands for stricter policing are slowly coming into effect, but even if that's the case, many in New Delhi continue to question for how long.

The skepticism here is palpable. Just consider the statistics, numbers that have become oft repeated in the past month.

A woman is raped every 22 minutes in India.

In New Delhi alone, officials acknowledge that of the 635 rape cases brought to court last year, only one resulted in a conviction.

As very few rapes actually get reported, the situation for women is obviously a lot worse.

We kept hearing stories of some women who dared go to police to report molestations or rapes, only to face authorities who'd try to talk them out of it.   

So, those checkpoints and measures, such as warnings on bus shelters and promises of fast-track trials for suspected rapists -- are they mere Band-Aids or actual solutions?

Many here believe what really has to change is a deep-rooted mindset among some men, that it's okay to harass women just because nobody has ever told them it's not okay. That rape is a woman's fault, or that it's just the way things are in Indian society.

Well, maybe not anymore. Skeptical or not, certainly a generation is waking up. The protests fueled by anger and disgust in the aftermath of a young woman's sickening assault have led many to now find their voice.

For many women it just hasn't necessarily led them safely onto the streets of New Delhi after the sun goes down... at least not yet.


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