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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Nirbhaya : “an isolated rebellion or a social revolution?" : analyzing the role of media and legislation on violence against women in India Ghai, Tanya


India witnessed one of its most gruesome gang rapes, of a 23-year-old woman in Delhi on 16th December 2012, which ignited angry protests around the country as well as across the world. The barbarity of the sexual assault shook the conscience of the nation. Because the victim fought fearlessly for her life till the end, she was called Nirbhaya, the ‘fearless one’ in Hindi. The protests in turn, sparked a global media frenzy, drawing attention to sexual violence in India and exposing patriarchal attitudes prevalent in its culture. The Nirbhaya case is still being addressed in the mainstream press, a decade later, underlining the importance of the case in the discussion of sexual assault and women's security. In this thesis, I explore the issue of violence against women in India through the lens of the Nirbhaya rape case. The literature reviewed unveils India’s patriarchal structures and stigmatization of rape, as well as how its victims are treated. Further, I investigate if Nirbhaya’s case brought about significant change in Indian society, through a media content analysis of two renowned English newspapers using three time periods: before, immediately after, and five years after the rape case. The results indicate that Nirbhaya’s upheaval positively changed the media narrative regarding sexual violence to some extent. This is followed by a critical analysis of the Criminal Law Amendment (2013), a legal reform outcome of the case. The analysis helps uncover that a pattern of continued increase in violent crimes against women to this day can be attributed to state negligence, in addition to a lack of sufficient implementation of the amendment and similar laws.

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