How Delhi gang rape 'has changed my city'

Indian activists holds a placard during a protest against the gang rape and murder in Delhi There are growing calls for change in India after the gang-rape and death of a student in Delhi a month ago

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It is one month since a 23-year-old physiotherapy student was brutally gang-raped and killed in the Indian capital, Delhi. The attack caught public attention and caused worldwide outrage. BBC Hindi's Parul Agrawal reflects on changes she has seen in the capital since then.

As a woman journalist who has travelled almost every road in this city, one difference in public attitude that I can already feel everywhere is the way people have got used to words like "rape" and "sex" in their daily conversations.

The demand for change has become much louder.

Discussions that were once limited to television debates, feminist groups and a small bunch of socially aware citizens are now clearly hot topics on the streets.

Almost every day now I hear rickshaw pullers, auto-taxi drivers, roadside vendors and small shop owners talking about sex and rape and other previously taboo issues that used only to be discussed in the confines of their homes or among trusted friends.

If there is a silver lining in the dark cloud caused by last month's gang rape it is that this issue is also being debated with much more candour and openness.

More than a story

I believe that at least here in the capital, the rape incident is now more than just a story.

An Indian municipal worker sweeps a road as a placard, demanding death penalty for rapists, is placed on a sidewalk in New Delhi, India. It is not always a pleasant experience for women on the streets of Delhi

Not long after the night of the incident, I was surprised by my taxi driver, who suddenly started a conversation about it.

I thought he would be more interested in knowing details of what was happening in the case. But the conversation turned out to be about how the attitudes of some people remained horribly wrong.

"Drivers, bus cleaners and auto-drivers seem to have little respect for women," he reflected.

"They usually spend 20 hours of their day on the roads abusing women and being bossy to them at home. There should be classes organised for them to be taught how to respect women and make them sensitive towards society."

What struck me is that he made little or no effort to omit words and phrases like "rape", "sexual frustration" or "sexual violence" in his conversations with a woman.

In my years of living in Delhi, I cannot remember a time when walking through bustling markets like Karol Bagh or Sarojini Nagar was a more pleasant experience.

Jokes and cat-calls by masses of men on the roads were always laced with sexual innuendo, whether they were directed at naked mannequins or women buyers.

And they made me feel uncomfortable. But a visit to one of these markets last week actually surprised me.

At a local tea stall in Karol Bagh set up close to women's clothing shops, a group of men were discussing the case and details of the girls' family.

As I stood by the shop, I was surprised that none of them made any attempt to replace or be ambiguous about words like "rape" and "sex" in front of me.

While legal and police reforms in relation to rape cases will no doubt be a long and painful process, perhaps the most important changes have already taken place.

The fact that people are now talking about the treatment of women and other taboo topics is both profound and long overdue.

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