As controversy  rages in India over the ban on the documentary ‘India’s Daughter’, on Thursday an anti-terrorism court in Abbotabad convicted a head of a seminary and his two accomplices for the rape of a first-year student in a moving car, sentencing the two accused to 14 years, and the co-accused – the driver, to 10 years imprisonment. A day later in North-East Indian province of Nagaland, an enraged mob overpowered the police to break into prison to drag out an alleged rapist, who was subsequently lynched to death. Three separate parts of the subcontinent, three separate events, one issue: the appalling state of women's rights in the region.

Contrary to the condescending finger pointed by the West at the India, and by extension, at the subcontinent, sexual violence and suppression of women is a global problem, with countries such as the United States having shockingly high sexual assault statistics. Whenever groups have been ‘otherized’ and considered inferior, there has been oppression; Nazi Germany and the Jews, the USA and the slave trade and the extensive colonial history is a brutal reminder of this. The struggle for women rights has tried to break these pre-conceived notions and has increasingly demonstrated the female’s mastery of realms previously considered the male’s domain. Yet, for the women of the subcontinent, matters are not so simple. Here exists not only a gender imbalance, but a cultural and class patchwork of barriers and categorizations which a woman has to fight.  Cultural norms, disguised under innocent terms such as ‘protection’ and ‘honour’ have delegated women to the rank of property, bought and sold with dowry, married off to settle feuds and jealously guarded under the watchful guard of their owners; fathers and husbands. Into the mix is added a class structure, which imposes iron-clad discrimination, and the end of the day you will find a Dalit widow to be the least valuable person in the subcontinent, lowest of the low. Considering the fact that sex is a taboo and family honour the highest regard, sexual violence becomes a festering wound, spreading rapidly away from the eyes of the public, behind closed doors.

These shocking accounts might not be easy to digest, but they are a good thing. Finally the society is being forced to confront the issue of women's rights, to discuss it and debate it. The rage that pushed the mob in Nagaland to lynch is a by-product of this publicity. Already the tide is changing. The rage that is rippling through the land needs to be channelled in the right direction, towards achieving change. The Punjab Assembly recently approved a bill mandating harsher punishments for child marriages as India reforms its rape law. Only by confronting the issue can we build a narrative. A rapist relies on the woman’s silence, as a society, we need to scream the truth from the rooftops.