Gang rape shows woes in system 

THE brutal attack, gang rape and subsequent death of a 23-year-old Indian student heading home from a film with a male friend has forced the world to inhale sharply and think: how can this happen?

Reports suggest the perpetrators - six in total, one a juvenile - have admitted to wanting to teach her a lesson for being out at night with a man.

The country suffers ingrained poverty (most of the attackers of the trainee physiotherapist are believed to be from a slum), and its patriarchal society means women have fought long and hard for access to education and other rights.

But it seemed to me this kind of horror was more commonly associated with trouble hotspots like Cairo or Syria, rather than India, a country of colour, chaos and spirituality where tourists flock to in their droves.

Worse, it seems to have lifted the lid on an endemic and systematic problem.

Reports suggest a rape occurs every 20 minutes in India, and that there were 550 rapes reported in Delhi alone last year.

This attack has prompted community revolt in Indian communities both at home and abroad.

Perhaps it's the tipping point, as with other terrible cases that make us say, enough is enough; we won't take anymore.

Even the city's lawyers have taken a stand, refusing to represent any of the accused - or defend the indefensible.

This means the government will need to appoint them to the task.

Authorities are talking tough, with legislators threatening 30-year prison sentences and even chemical castration for rapists (I'm sure there'd be plenty of votes for both here).

Like our own Brodie's Law, introduced to stop workplace bullies in their tracks.

Or Skye's Law, targeting criminals leading police on high-speed car chases.

These perpetrators, though, are staring down a death sentence.

It's terrible though, isn't it, that it takes something like this to force societal change?

Should it take a loss of life to say that other women should not have been subjected to degrading and terrifying abuses?

We all know Australia is not immune to these kinds of abuse, that it happens even in our relatively lucky country.

We know there are plenty of problems with encouraging victims to come forward, to supporting them through often humiliating trials where their sexual history is called into question by highly paid and silver-tongued defence lawyers, their dress sense and personal grooming habits quizzed in front of Joe Public and his jury, who may decide their attackers' fate.

The rape and murder of Jill Meagher in Melbourne last year may have been our own tipping point in the fight for women's safety on the streets at night.

But let's not forget the others whose lives - while spared - have been ruined by crimes like this and who have not had the benefit of the support of thousands of strangers willing to stand up and fight for them.

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