Men, women and the cities

Men, women and the cities

ISLAMABAD - It happened around dusk, the time when the cities of South Asia - Lahore and Delhi and Mumbai and Karachi - exhale collectively and let millions out into the streets to begin their slow crawl home.

The victim was a photojournalist who had been taking pictures of an abandoned factory in Mumbai. For protection, perhaps, she had a male colleague accompany her. It was not enough.

As news reports would decry soon afterwards, the 23-year-old was brutally raped by a gang of five men and her escort beaten. India, which has hardly recovered from the gang rape of a bus passenger in Delhi barely a year ago, was once again stunned by this latest act of gender violence.

Spurred into action by media coverage and denunciations by activists and political parties across the board, Mumbai police authorities had, by Sunday, arrested five suspects, each of whom, if found guilty, is expected to face the maximum 20-year sexual violence penalty passed into law by the Indian legislature a few months ago.

The victim is said to be recovering from her injuries. In a statement to the media, she said: "Rape is not the end of life. I want the strictest punishment for the accused, and to return to duty as soon as possible."

Her brave remarks were praised by activists and political figures across India.

The victim of the gruesome Delhi gang rape, they may have remembered, had died from her injuries and never been able to make such a statement.

Across the border in Pakistan, rape often is the end of life, with many victims choosing to commit suicide or suffer in silence rather than press charges. If social taboos do not destroy their chances of survival, other factors will ensure their persecution.

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