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India rape case: Will protests finally spark change?

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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 in how women are treated, though most realize any change is likely to come slowly.

"These protests have at least given women the confidence to talk about sexual violence," says Singh, the kindergarten teacher in Bangalore. "For too long, women have been made to feel guilty for these things."

Like every woman in India, Singh has her own rules for her daughter's safety. "We make sure she messages us when she reaches (the hospital) and when she leaves for home," she says.

Women who were willing to talk about an unwelcome touch or a crude remark they'd experienced said they had learned to ignore it. Most said they convinced themselves to shrug off these routine assaults and humiliations to avoid angering their attackers, or for fear of bringing shame upon themselves and their families.

"What can you do? You have to work, you have to commute," says Yasmin Talat, a 20-year-old graduate student and career counselor in Allahabad whose parents do not allow her to go out alone after 7 p.m.

"Sometimes I do get angry and say something," she says, "but I'm also scared. You never know what could anger these men."

Aparna Dasa, a 35-year-old saleswoman at a Gauhati department store, said whenever she gets into a crowded bus men try to hold her hand as she grasps the overhead support bar. "They try and touch at every opportunity."

"When I'm on a crowded bus and someone says something bad to me, in my heart I want to give him a tight slap, but I've learned to ignore it," says Gogia, the New Delhi receptionist. "What's the use? All the blame always comes back to the woman.

"We stay silent from a sense of shame," she adds, "or are made to stay silent."

The harassment and violence faced daily by millions of Indian women is a deeply entrenched part of a culture that values men over women.

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