Ensler hails India's 'upheaval' a year after fatal gang-rape

Ensler hails India's 'upheaval' a year after fatal gang-rape

MUMBAI - India's newfound focus on violence against women has proved "catalytic" in the global struggle for gender equality, leading activist and playwright Eve Ensler said Sunday.

In India for the one-year anniversary of a fatal gang-rape that shocked the country, American Ensler, best known for her play "The Vagina Monologues", said the ongoing "upheaval" in India's attitudes to women was unmatched across the world.

"I think there is something so enormous about what's happening in India. It really does feel like 'ba-boom', it's like this unearthing of stories and secrets and lies that have been buried," Ensler told AFP at a literary event in Mumbai.

"I can't think of a place in the world where it's happening like that," added the feminist, who founded the "One Billion Rising" global campaign for an end to violence and greater gender equality.

On December 16 last year, a 23-year-old physiotherapy student in New Delhi was on her way home from the cinema when she was gang-raped by a pack of men on a bus, sparking an outpouring of anger over the treatment of Indian women.

The student died two weeks later of her injuries, and in September four men were sentenced to death over the gang-rape.

A new law passed in the wake of the incident toughened sentences for rape, while the issue of sexual harassment has become the focus of widespread media attention.

The editor of India's leading investigative magazine, Tehelka, was arrested last weekend and faces a possible rape charge after a complaint from a junior colleague.

Ensler said the alleged incident was "a betrayal on so many levels".

"That (magazine) had One Billion Rising on the cover last year, and to think that there is such a bifurcation of what people are saying they believe and how people act - that's very disturbing."

But she said the fact the woman felt she could come forward and complain "is an absolute indication that the climate has changed".

Indians were at the forefront of the first One Billion Rising protests in February this year, held across 200 countries to take a stand for the estimated one billion women in the world who will be raped or beaten in their lifetimes.

"I feel like what happened in India was very catalytic to the whole experience," Ensler said.

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