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Rape protests continue at Indian Consulate in Toronto

Posted by Guest Contributor / January 7, 2013

Rape Protest Toronto Indian EmbassyAt first, the crowd gathered in front of 365 Bloor Sr. E. is fairly quiet. Holding their hand-painted signs, they hang back near the building's façade and speak quietly to one another in Hindi.

Brows are furrowed and eyes are deep and serious, but once in a while, a small ray of excitement will light up someone's face, sometimes in the form of a smile.

This group of about 50 is gathered outside of the Indian consulate in Toronto on a Saturday afternoon. They are here to speak out against widespread sex crimes and violence against women in India, where it's been widely reported that a rape occurs every 20 minutes.

Rape Protest Toronto Indian EmbassyTheir protest, of course, was spurred by the death of a 23-year old woman in Delhi on Dec. 29. Two weeks prior to her death, she was brutally raped on a bus by six men after leaving a movie theatre with a friend. They used an iron bar to assault her, as well as their own bodies.

After the rapes, she was thrown from the bus to lie naked in the street. She laid there for an entire hour before police finally arrived to help her. Members of the South Asian Indian community in Toronto felt they couldn't sit in silence following the woman's death, so they took to the streets outside the consulate.

They also wrote a petition calling for police to be trained to handle sexual assaults, for rape kits in hospitals, and for fast-track courts to handle the backlog of rape and sexual assault cases.

Rape Protest Toronto Indian EmbassyThey're only 50 out of the 484,655 or so people of East Indian descent living in Toronto. But Meeta Roy, one of the rally's organizers, says even a small group can make a significant difference.

"I know these [protests] are small steps, but every one is a change."

Many in the crowd Roy organized are first-time activists. For them, enough is enough, and once they overcome their shyness, they make their anger heard up and down the sidewalks of the Bloor St. E. and Sherbourne St. area.

"Men can stop rape. Men can stop rape," They chant, slowly but loudly.

"If you want to have sex, ask, listen, respect." It sounds like a call for attention to be paid, but there's something more to it--it also sounds like a warning.

Rape Protest Toronto Indian EmbassyThere is discomfort in the strong male voices when it comes to the words "rape" and "sex." Those words are a bit quieter. But after the first few rounds of chants, the words learn their own purpose, and the chants flow easily into the crisp January air.

Shreya Roy was one of them. She's a 23-year-old med student.

Roy has been involved with anti-VAW work in the past, and she says her community is making her proud with their ever-growing refusal to accept crimes against women.

"It's heartwarming that they're being so active.

"To see my elders saying the word 'sex' in public...this is really, it's leaps and bounds for me."

Rape Protest Toronto Indian EmbassyThis is Aruna Dutta's first protest. She says she's standing out in the cold to call for justice for women everywhere.

"There are many countries where women are suffering this problem. In India, it came to light.

"It is ignored in every country. This is not a game, it is a crime against them. That is why I'm standing here."

Parveen Gill was one of two organizers of Thursday's protest. She says if members of the community living all over the world rise up in protest, the Indian government can't help but take notice.

"On one hand it is a land of spirituality and on the other we see those kinds of heinous crimes on the street," she says. "I see a kind of paradox."

"For me, what matters is safety. If the world is watching and India's growth is only economic growth, there should be some social progress."

Writing and photos by Sarah Ratchford

Discussion

17 Comments

Me / January 7, 2013 at 10:44 am
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So, protest in India if they're so concerned. It won't do any good here.
Rajeev / January 7, 2013 at 11:52 am
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It is a problem in all countries. The protest was to make people aware about this issue all over the world.
Kim / January 7, 2013 at 12:01 pm
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This is a really shocking story. I am so proud of these women standing up against injustice. Even though this happened in India I believe the message is very relevant in Toronto. Meeta is very brave for doing this.
Rob / January 7, 2013 at 12:12 pm
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I'm actually proud of the action which is happening as a result of this crime. I think it speaks a lot about Indian values. I know India tends to get lumped in with the rest of the "crowd" over there, but it really is the most progressive of the bunch (again, not talking about the crime, but the reaction). If this rape had happened in Pakistan, Iran, or any other Muslim-dominated country in the region, I'm fairly certain we wouldn't see such (deserved) outrage.
GD / January 7, 2013 at 12:14 pm
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I didn't know Torontonians were protesting. Thanks for this story. This is encouraging and I hope Delhi is watching! India should be ashamed of itself for letting this brutality against women go on for so long completely unchecked. Their police and justice systems are rotten to the core.
MR / January 7, 2013 at 01:00 pm
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It’s nice to see lots of kids in the protest especially the young ones. There is hope for rape free future.
Bobby replying to a comment from Me / January 7, 2013 at 02:34 pm
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This is such a hateful and disgusting attitude that this person has displayed. Only when someone close to this person suffers like this little girl has suffered will it make sense. What does he/she mean by will not do any good here. What good or bad are people looking for? We live in the same global village where mindsets remain patriarchal and misogynistic even today. Case in point the south east Asian community especially the Punjabi and the Muslim communities display this attitude. This is so shameful. proves merely living in the west doesn't change medieval attitudes.
Me replying to a comment from Bobby / January 7, 2013 at 03:53 pm
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It's not hateful. It's the truth. People are always protesting HERE about what is going on in their home countries. Maybe they should be THERE protesting if they're so bloody concerned. No one here can or will do anything about it so protesting may make them feel all empowered and self righteous but it won't do a damn thing about the actual issue.
PJane replying to a comment from Me / January 7, 2013 at 04:32 pm
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By protesting at the Indian consulate they are, in effect, protesting in India.
hop replying to a comment from Me / January 7, 2013 at 04:49 pm
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You are aware that an eerily similar case is ongoing in nearby Ohio right?
Ryan replying to a comment from Me / January 7, 2013 at 06:00 pm
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I understand what you're getting at here. I once subscribed to a similar viewpoint a long time ago. But really.. Is their protesting hurting or disrupting anyone over here? No. But I'll tell you what it is doing, it's helping to bring attention to the cause. Someone going to the Indian consulate will see this, there is also a good likely-hood that when they return to India, they will tell their family & friends about it, then word spreads over there. Eventually enough people over there may hear about this, then start to gain confidence as they know they have the support of the outside world, that may inspire them to step up and have their voice heard in India, where something can be done about this.
Me / January 7, 2013 at 06:01 pm
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We can't get people to act civilized in Toronto, so how exactly are we supposed to impose it on other countries/cultures/etc?
booger / January 7, 2013 at 06:17 pm
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Obvious troll is obvious.
Cameron / January 7, 2013 at 09:17 pm
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I Am all for the anti rape protest but it is disgusting to force children to hold up a sign in the cold for something they are not capable of understanding . Reminds me of the kids in the westboro baptist church.
MR replying to a comment from Cameron / January 7, 2013 at 10:58 pm
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Cameron - it was nothing like westboro baptist church. I was there. These kids are standing in for what their parents believe in. It's never too early to get involve in causes. It was nice to see kids from elementary school, middle schools, high school and university participating in the rally along with their parents. If you want a rape free culture, you have to start teaching kids early.
nk replying to a comment from Cameron / January 8, 2013 at 01:57 am
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None of the kids looked like they were forced to do anything. They were an actilve part of the protest. A twelve yr old even composed and read a poem that brought people to tears. These children make thier parents and their (adopted) country proud.
bm / January 8, 2013 at 08:02 am
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I would be interested in participating in any protests or actions related to this crime. If you have any information regarding who to contact please help me out. Thank you

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