NEW DELHI — Preeti Singh worries each time her 20-year-old daughter has a late night at the hospital where she's a medical student. If her daughter has to stay late, Singh tells her to wait for daylight to come home.
I was brought up with the fear that once it's dark you should be at home, says Singh, a 43-year-old kindergarten teacher in Bangalore, India's technology hub. I can't shake that fear.
Across India, women tell similar stories. Now there is hope for change.
For decades, women have had little choice but to walk away when groped in a crowded bus or train, or to simply cringe as someone tosses an obscene comment their way. Even if they haven't experienced explicit sexual abuse themselves, they live with the fear that it could happen to them or a loved one.
After the Dec. 16 attack in New Delhi, which resulted in the woman's death, hundreds of thousands of Indians — both men and women — poured onto the streets of cities across the country, holding candlelight vigils and rallies demanding that authorities take tougher action to create a safe environment for women.
The outrage sparked by the heinous attack has given women at least a measure of hope that the country of 1.2 billion people will see meaningful improvement.
The harassment and violence faced daily by millions of Indian women is a deeply entrenched part of a culture that values men over women.
The mistreatment starts early — with sex-selective abortions and even female infanticides that have wildly skewed India's gender ratio. India's 2011 census showed that the country had 914 girls under age 6 for every 1,000 boys.