Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

2 Countries, 2 Struggles for Justice

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

2 Countries, 2 Struggles for Justice

Article excerpt

Several high-profile cases may change social attitudes about rape and the handling of rape cases in China and India, two places where victims are often shamed and justice is elusive.

China and India are regularly compared -- as Asian giants with well over a billion people each, as fast-developing countries with high economic growth. What about in terms of rape?

In both countries recently, highly publicized gang rapes have dramatically raised public awareness of a hidden problem. Of course, rape is to some extent a hidden issue everywhere, even in societies with efficient legal systems and liberal attitudes toward women. But in China and India, as in other places where traditional notions may judge a raped woman as "ruined," there are especially powerful disincentives to reporting the crime, experts say.

Here are the painful stories. On Dec. 16, a 23-year-old student was gang-raped on a bus in New Delhi, the Indian capital, dying of her injuries two weeks later.

In China last week, the 17-year-old son of a popular singer and general in the People's Liberation Army was detained with four others in Beijing on allegations of gang-raping a woman, according to widespread reports carried by Xinhua, the state news agency, and other official media like Beijing News.

The son, Li Tianyi, also known as Li Guanfeng, had been in the news in 2011 after a violent altercation on a Beijing street landed him in a correctional facility for a year. (The South China Morning Post, based in Hong Kong, reported that his parents changed his name to Guanfeng after that case.) The five suspects were taken into custody in the early hours of Feb. 21 and are now in investigative detention in connection with the alleged rape, which was said to have taken place Feb. 17, according to the China News Service. The evening of the alleged attack they had been drinking alcohol and celebrating the birthday of one of the members of the group, the China News Service said, quoting "police officers familiar with the case." Mr. Li, a friend identified only as "Wei" and the three others used threats and violence to drag the woman from the bar to the Hubei Hotel, where she was raped, the China News Service said.

These are the individual, tragic tales. But how widespread are such crimes in the two countries? No one really knows, since the figures are highly unreliable, experts say.

In China, according to Zhang Rongli, a professor of law at China Women's University, citing statistics from the Ministry of Public Security, there were 24,495 "solved" rape cases in 2008. In 2009, the number rose slightly to 26,404, she said.

"Rape is a common crime," Ms. Zhang said. "But the rate is pretty much the same every year in China, without clear increases or decreases," she said, making her suspicious of the numbers. …

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