Discourses of Online Misogyny

Indexing reporting and conversations about rape in online social media: India after the 2012 Delhi gang rape


New partners: CASS, Lancaster University and Fields of View, India (Left to right: Onkar Hoysala, Fields of View; Mark McGlashan, CASS; Sruthi Krishnan, Fields of View)

The reporting of incidents of rape of women by (typically groups of) men in India appear to be on the rise. A key incident leading to an increased number of reports occurred in Delhi in December 2012 where a woman and a male friend were kidnapped by a group of six men (including a male legal minor) driving what appeared to be an average passenger bus.

Once on board, the male victim was beaten unconscious and gagged by the attackers who then proceeded to violently rape the female victim which included using what was thought to be a rusted car wheel jack handle. So severe were the injuries this caused to her internal organs that she died only days later in a specialist organ transplant hospital in Singapore.

The attack occurred on December 16th; she passed away on December 29th.

All five adult attackers received a death sentence (one died as a result of injuries sustained from beatings by prison inmates) and the child minor received a three-year custodial sentence.

The attack was reported on internationally and led to a wave of protests throughout India which were instrumental in bringing about legal reform with relation to rape and some social changes with respect to securing ‘safe spaces’ for women, including women-only buses. Since the incident, Delhi has become known as the ‘rape capital’ of India and reported incidents are rising. The latest figures show that official reports of rape and sexual assault have risen across India from 16,373 cases in 2002 to 24,206 in 2011 (an increase of 67.6%).

Although an increased journalistic focus on the issue has led to a greater scrutiny of legal practices and public awareness of rape in India, there remain some significant issues. For instance, marital rape is not a criminal offence and the treatment of rape by India’s politicians is of particular concern, with several top officials making troubling and controversial public statements damaging any belief that the Indian government is taking what appear to be endemic cases of rape and sexual assault seriously. As recently as this month, rape has been described as ‘sometimes right, sometimes wrong’ by cabinet minister of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Babulal Gaur. Another BJP minister, Ramsevak Paikra, has suggested that incidents such as rapes and sexual assaults, rather than being deliberate, “happen accidentally”.

In the wake of these incidents, this research aims to examine a number of important and practical issues in relation to rape in India, including:

  • Legal understandings of acts of rape and sexual assault
  • Social attitudes and understandings in relation to rape and sexual assault
  • Media discourses in relation to rape and sexual assaultS

CASS partnering with Fields of View, India

In order to investigate the social impact of increased reporting about rape in India since the Delhi gang rape incident, as well as the social influence of controversial statements from institutionally influential individuals, CASS are teaming up Fields of View based in India. Fields of view are a research outfit aimed at studying complex social phenomena (e.g. city planning, infrastructure development) and developing intuitive ways to collaborate and engage with the public.

The project will take twitter data and chart the changes over time regarding conversations and reporting of rape in India. The collaborative effort will implement analytical methods developed at CASS to analyse the data which will be interpreted into visual and interactive digital outputs by Fields of View.