A vigil for Jyoti Singh in Union Square Park

On January 15, 2013, a few hundred demonstrators attended a candlelight vigil in Union Square to honor the memory of Jyoti Singh who had been raped in Delhi, India on December 16, 2012, sparking a national (and then international) outcry for justice.

Jyoti, a 23-year-old physiotherapy student, died from her injuries on December 29.

Jyoti had boarded the bus with a male friend and “In a Friday interview with Indian TV station Zee News, the friend said they were both beaten by a group of males on the bus, while Jyoti was also gang-raped over the 2-1/2 hour nightmare.” (See reference article)

The rape has sparked a national movement demanding justice for the men who committed the sexual attack, but also for government action to address the general violence perpetrated against women in the country. “By some accounts, a woman is raped in India every 22 minutes. Statistics from India’s National Crime Records Bureau show that cases of rapes and assaults against women are on the rise.” (See reference article)

“Of the total number of cases that made to court, the overall rate of convictions stand at 26.4%, or 4,072 convictions while 11,351 acquittals were recorded. These included cases pending from previous years as well.

In 2010, 14,263 cases of rape were decided, with the accused being convicted in 3,788 cases, or 26.6%.” (See reference article)

Here is a link to “Legal Service India.com” from 2010 which elaborates further on rape laws in India and also provides statistics further down the page.

Here is a quote from legalservicesindia.com “Police statistics show more than 50000 rapes are reported every year[10]. In 1987 and 1991 number of cases reported were7767 and 9793 respectively. About 26% (11112) increase in number in the year 1992 – (NCRB). There is one rape in every 54 minutes[11].”

As the news of India’s public reaction to Jyoti’s rape spread around the world, other countries recognized their similar problem. In addition to showing support, they have demanded their governments address the problem more strictly as well. In America, for example, it is worth noting how this year, 2013, the Violence Against Women Act was not renewed. As was reported by The Nation how “despite an eleventh-hour effort by Vice President Joe Biden, House Republican leaders failed to advance the Senate’s 2012 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, a bill that would have extended domestic violence protections to 30 million LGBT individuals, undocumented immigrants and Native American women.” (See reference article)

“In 2012, the number of U-visas issued by the Department of Homeland Security hit its annual 10,000 limit a month before the end of the fiscal year—for the third year in a row. The Senate version of VAWA would have made up to 5,000 rollover visas from previous years available annually to undocumented women. The bill included additional safeguards for immigrants, and new provisions for Native American women and LGBT victims of sexual abuse as well.

But in the version of the bill that passed the House in May, Republicans stripped out the new protections for these three vulnerable groups, slamming them as politically driven. They also scaled back the law’s existing protections for women—for example, removing the chance for immigrants with U-visas to become eligible for permanent residency after their temporary visas expire. The House bill would also have required a stricter standard of proof for asylum, and would have broken with current confidentiality laws to allow the government to interview the abuser about the applicant.

Over the nearly two decades of its existence, VAWA has been renewed perfunctorily every five years, each time adding new protections to keep it up-to-date with changes in the population and the recommendations of law enforcement and advocates.” (See reference article)

A public effort has been underway to get the bill passed again.

All the above reasons only helped to galvanize the recent candlelight vigil to honor the memory of Jyoti Singh. Here is the demonstration…

The full crowd at the Union Square vigil.

The full crowd at the Union Square vigil.

A vigil attendee says a few words.

The crowd gathering for the vigil.

The crowd gathering for the vigil.

A demonstrator showing support for the Anti-Violence Project.

A demonstrator showing support for the Anti-Violence Project.

Another young lady gave her thoughts as well as I caught the end of this interview.

A banner belonging to one of the event's sponsors.

A banner belonging to one of the event’s sponsors.

The banner draped on the side of the stage. Sakhi organized the vigil.

The banner draped on the side of the stage. Sakhi organized the vigil.

Here another vigil attendee explains the significance of the event and her comfort in seeing support for the issue.

The crowd holds candles.

The crowd holds candles.

A close-up of an actual candle. For safety reasons the candles were actually battery powered lights.

A close-up of an actual candle. For safety reasons the candles were actually battery powered lights.

The demonstration begins.

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The comptroller was the first speaker.

The Comptroller

The Comptroller

Next a member of Sakhi, an Indian-American, and a 27-year-old victim of domestic violence read a poem to the crowd.

The reader of the poem.

The reader of the poem.

After the poem was read it was translated to English for the crowd.

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Next Chai Jindasurat came to the stage. He is the coordinator of the National Coalition of Anti-Violence programs at the New York City Anti-Violence Project. During his speech he discussed the problems facing LGBTQ communities and how it relates to the recent Gang Rape in India.

Chai Jindasurat

Chai Jindasurat

Next a woman named Sonia Munchi spoke. To quote the woman who introduced her to the stage: “[Sonia] is a New York City-based queer South Asian writer, researcher, and community activist. She’s worked in the intersections of gender-based violence, immigrant rights, and queer and transgenders for over 15 years and with organizations such as Manabi, Sahki, Saga, Asian women’s shelter, and the Audrey Lawrence project. She recently completed a PHD in Sociology, and gender studies, and is examining responses to domestic violence in southasian communities right her in New York City.” (You can find this quote in my ustream archives it is not in this highlight clip.)

Sonia Munchi

Sonia Munchi

The next person to speak was Sethu Nair. She is the Community Outreach Manager of Sakhi for South Asian Women.

Tiloma Jayasinghe

Sethu Nair

It was now time for a moment of silence for Jyoti Singh, and for other victims of rape, domestic abuse, and other forms of violence. The moment of silence was orchestrated around the dynamics of a musical instrument called a Dole.

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Next a survivor sang a prayer to the crowd. Prior to the prayer she told the crowd of her experiences, how it felt after she was raped, about how alone she felt afterward and how good it felt afterward to talk to others about it and to know that she, in fact, was not alone.

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Next the co-sponsors were named.

From the organization Connect, Sally MacNichol spoke next.

A representative of the Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer spoke next.

Following was a representative of the Association for India’s Development (AID).

Sunsara Taylor of the Movement to Stop Patriarchy spoke next.

To close the evening a poem was read with the musical accompaniment of a dole. Prior to reading the poem though the speaker tried to get the crowd moving a little as it was a cold night.

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Poem and dole

Poem and dole

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After the demonstration I conducted a short interview with photojournalist Jenna Pope. (@BatmanWI on twitter.)

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