[Editors' Note: This article by Hana Hsin-Wei Cheng is the first article of the "Asian Series on Gender Justice" an initiative - by Delhi University team of New Socialist Initiative (NSI) - to bring together significant moments from the recent histories of struggle for gender equality and justice in various Asian countries.]
- Hana Hsin-Wei Cheng
- Hana Hsin-Wei Cheng
The brutal Delhi gang-rape case of a 23-year-old paramedical student has evoked pervasive anger, criticism and condemnation across India. Massive public protests have taken place not only in Delhi but all over the country, demanding justice for the victim as well as better security for women. Like in any other country, violence against women – rape, sexual assault/harassment, molestation, etc. – is not a new thing in India. Yet this is perhaps the very first time that India has witnessed such large-scale protests in wake of a rape case. It is also the first time that apart from activists and organizations that have been working on gender issues, such staggering numbers of people – most of them students and youths – have chosen to stand up and raise their voices over sexual violence against women.
Strong public pressure has also forced the Government of India to respond, although the responses are not enough. Fast track courts have been inaugurated to try cases of sexual offence meted out against women. A special task force has been set up under the Ministry of Home Affairs to monitor women’s safety in the national capital, while two other committees have been appointed to look into the incidents of rape and suggest adequate amendments to existing laws on violence against women. Now there is a widely shared hope that this particular Delhi incident could be a turning point for women’s rights in India, leading to legal/institutional reform on related issues and ultimately contributing towards comprehensive social change.
Taiwan had gone through similar experience about 15 years ago. In 1996, the rape and murder of a prominent feminist activist sparked widespread public outrage in Taiwan, and later brought about significant changes contributing towards the progress in women’s rights.
The Murder of Peng Wan-Ru: From A Heartbreaking Loss to An Inspiration for Change
Towards the end of 1996, Mrs. Peng Wan-Ru, a long-time activist, then the Director of the Women’s affair of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), who spent her whole live fighting for better future for women in Taiwan, was reported missing in Kaohsiung. She was last seen getting on a taxi the night before DPP’s national convention which she was supposed to attend, in the convention her proposal of 25% reservation for women was scheduled to be discussed. Three days later, she was found barbarically raped and murdered outside an abandoned warehouse, with more than 30 stab wounds on her body.
15 years have passed, and her murderer still remains at large.