Protest in India grew as the news that the young victim of a gang rape this month had died spread. The 23-year-old medical student was raped and viciously attacked by six men for nearly two hours on December 16 while she was riding a bus with a male friend. Both victims were severely beaten with an iron bar and eventually stripped naked and thrown from the moving bus.
The abuse of women in India is shocking. It has been reported that 572 rapes were recorded in New Delhi in 2011, and rape cases increased seven times in the past 40 years. However, those are just the tip of the iceberg.
A recent report by the New York Times cited a 2010 survey on Indian women's safety in public places, pointing out that more than one third of the women questioned in New Delhi had suffered sexual harassment in the previous year, but less than 1 percent had reported it to police.
Over the past few weeks, violence against women in India received prominent attention worldwide, most of which dwelt on the root causes of the problem. The street protests in New Delhi also offer a lesson to China.
Six decades ago, China and India maintained a similar development level, but there has been a widening gap after China explored reform and opening-up. Analysts hold that India is about a decade behind China in economic development and three decades behind in social development.
However, as the world's biggest democratic country, India is seen in the West as having great potential due to its superior system. But an inefficient and unequal democracy is unlikely to be able to mobilize this potential.
The Indian government is criticized for having reacted slowly and India's law enforcement system is considered sloppy. Rape cases in India have a conviction rate of as low as 26 percent even when they reach court. Moreover, the traditional social culture that devalues women should be condemned.
The Indian democratic system seemingly can't solve these problems but provides legitimacy for them. India's democracy is now manipulated by a small number of elite and interest groups. This easily ignites massive grass-roots protests like the current ones and the anti-corruption rallies in August.
Democracy should ensure effective public participation in national politics and supervision of the government. Efficient democracy means more than electoral politics.