Lest we forget the brave soul
Lest we forget the brave soul who was brutally raped and left to die on the streets of Delhi on this very day, exactly one year ago. Thousands came out on the streets to protest, not only in Delhi but throughout India. “NO MORE” they said, they had had enough. The brutality of the attack was something very few could fathom. The girl’s injuries were so severe that even the doctors were shocked. Young, old, men, women – everyone came out. Police tried to stop the protests, they went on. Political parties tried to earn brownie points by showing up – they were booed off. People were angry. “Hang the rapists” signs read. Today, exactly one year has passed since the brutal incident but have things really changed? Women still feel afraid to go out at night in Delhi. Do they feel safer than they did a year back? Not really. What major changes have taken place over the last year? Have any of the government’s promises come to fruition?
- Fast track courts not proving to be fast enough – Since Dec 16, more cases have been reported which has meant that there is still huge backlog of cases and it just gets worse everyday. The six special fast track courts set up in January had only been able to clear off 400 cases till November whereas more than 1,100 cases are still pending. Clearly there is an immediate need to add more fast track courts and the manpower to ensure proper functioning.
The real way to bring down violence and crimes against women is education, awareness and gender sensitivity. Majority of incidents of assault and rape are committed by a person known to the victim. The societal mindset needs to change and that will only happen with proper upbringing. So the question becomes how does one achieve that. We do that by creating teachers who can educate others about gender sensitivity and in the process create more such teachers.
- Making gender sensitivity & sex education classes compulsory for ALL MEN & BOYS – Let’s not kid ourselves and be hypocritical. We’re growing at an alarming rate and population is the root cause for all our problems. Do not tell yourself “it’s not in our culture”. Rape isn’t in our culture either! These classes/ sessions/ seminars must be given to
- Schools & colleges – students must undergo these seminars/ classes – For a lot of young kids going through their formative years, it’s a case of not having proper guidance and not knowing what is acceptable and what is not. Same is the case for boys entering college from an all boy’s schools.
- Teachers – Teachers have the biggest impact on young minds and how can you teach something that you yourself don’t understand. Moreover, children absorb what they see at home & at school.
- Employees ( both pvt. & govt. institutions ) – There are countless cases of sexual harassment at the workplace which quite often lead to rape.
Seperate classes/ seminars for women to make them realize that they do have help and people that they can call/ reach out to for help. One of the biggest things crippling our society from within is undue pressure put on women thus making them feel ‘responsible in some way’ and resulting in ‘victim mentality’. This also brings us to our second point 2. Helplines – creation of helplines THAT ACTUALLY WORK! and are not there just for show! Helplines also need to offer support at multiple levels – i) Before the attack: Annonymous calling option where the female can report even if she suspects someone – not just wait for something to happen before it can be reported. We’ve heard first hand accounts where the person on the other end told the caller “madam, abhi kuch hua nahi na, jab kuch ho tab hame phone karna”. So many cases can potentially be stopped at the stalking stage if action is taken ii) During an attack: Immediate help ( this is where a special women safety task force can be used ) – In case someone is in trouble, a number they can dial/sms which would result in forces being deployed to that spot ( via GPS tracking ) in quick time ( a few minutes at best ) – It would also be best to have this personnel in plain clothes spread throughout the city – this way not only would they be able to help out in need but also be able to report in case someone is trying to use the law to extort or blackmail someone. iii) After the attack: Preventing harassment of the already traumatized – In case of rape/ domestic violence or any other crime against a woman, organizations ( appointed by govt./ pvt org working with the govt ) send their representatives to ensure all the procedures are handled by them – FIR is registered, the victim is not harassed further and crime is reported ( with all medical & criminal procedures followed to ensure valuable evidence isn’t lost). 3. Making basic self defense training compulsory for all educational institutions – I am not saying this because it’s a part of our business but because it actually works. Contrary to popular belief, self defense is not about being a hero and beating up people, but defending yourself and your loved ones at all cost and escaping from that situation. Basic self-defense techniques can be learnt by anyone, respective of their size, age or fitness levels and can actually be used in a real life situation. The techniques can help you protect yourself and escape in almost all situations especially when there’s only one attacker. Govt must also ensure that there are constant quality checks so that quality is maintained and it’s not just an eyewash and that these services are provided to institutions at a nominal cost. Anyone falling short of the required parameters, be it a training institute or individual trainers be dropped from the list immediately without prior intimation or warning. Most of the above mentioned points are beyond our control and the actions need to be taken by the government. But I believe there is still so much that we can do as a society (ourselves) in order to bring about change in the mindset with regards to women safety and gender equality. Contrary to popular belief, and unlike the Dec 16 incident, most sexual offenses are committed by a person known to the victim. Therefore, as a society we must be on the look out for warning signals and act before its too late. Just being proactive and careful will go a long way in preventing numerous such incidents. Here are the things that we as ordinary citizens can do –
- Removing the social stigma attached with sexual assault victims (stop harassing the traumatized) – Fear of becoming a social outcast, or looked down upon as promiscuous are one of the major reasons why women don’t report crimes against them. This in turn becomes a major incentive for the perpetrators to continue committing such heinous acts.This is one of the major reasons why crimes against women continue to rise at an alarming rate. Society blames the victim and puts at her fault. Let me make this very clear for you – UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES, EVER, CAN IT BE THE VICTIM’S FAULT. So stop blaming the victim who is already under tremendous physical and emotional pressure. There is nothing such as ‘asking for it’! There is no reason why anyone should be subjected to such savage behaviour – there is no justification for such an action. Regardless of what kind of clothes a woman wears, whether she’s dressed in a burqa, a mini skirt, bikini or even nothing at all, it does not give you the right to go and molest her or rape her. I have seen Naga sadhus/ babas roam around naked on the streets, yet I don’t hear anyone raising any protests about that nor do I see people going up to them in an attempt to molest. I’ve even heard this excuse – “I’m a guy and she’s tempting me, why would she dress like this if she didn’t want it” ( whatever this ‘it’ is) – My answer to this is “I’m a guy and I won’t go and molest somebody just because it’s tempting to do so.” Not just me, there are millions of guys like me who would do the same. Most guys I know would do the same, yet a few assholes give all of us a bad name. We are human beings not animals!
- Creating a support system for the victims – It is imperative for the victims of sexual assault to have a support system to fall back on. We must understand that they’re already undergoing psychological and emotional turmoil and complete support must be offered by family, friends and people around to help them recover, move on and lead a normal life in the future. This would not only speed up the recovery process but may also deter the victim from taking a drastic step such as suicide. According to suicide.org, nearly 33% of rape victims have suicidal thoughts and about 13% of the victims attempt to end their life.
- Reporting crimes – As simple as it sounds, reporting crimes will actually go a long way in reducing the no. of attacks. Only a very small percentage of crimes are actually reported. Moreover, very rarely do sexual offenders commit a major offense such as rape as their first offense. Most offenders start out in their teens, with something smaller such as inappropriate touching, progress to molestation – build their confidence from there and then move on bigger crimes. If an offender is reported in the early stages, it is more likely that he might get treatment, be put into counseling, or serve jail time ( thereby putting a consequence to the action ). A lot of attackers bank on the fact that their crime will never come out in the open and thus reporting crimes also proves to be a strong deterrent.
- Creating an environment of mutual respect at home – Young Children learn what they see. There is a direct relation between how a boy will treat women once he grows up, and, how he sees his dad/ other male members in the family treating the female members of the household. If a young boy grows up in a household where the women are only meant for cooking, cleaning & looking after their husband & children, he’s much more likely to have that perception of women once he grows up. It is imperative that there be mutual respect and equality among household members, male & female members alike. For eg: I’ve seen a lot of households where the mother eats her food after the male members have eaten and I completely disapprove of it – even if she is making the rotis (chappatis), there is no reason why everyone should wait 15-20 minutes for the rotis, yet not have the patience to wait for 10 minutes, while she eats herself. The reason I’ve given this particular example is because I distinctly remember an incident when I was in school. A had visited a friend’s house for lunch. We finished eating lunch and his mother sat down to eat. Just as she was about to start eating, his younger brother ( around 9 years old ), came and proudly announces, “mom, you wait. First I will have and then you can have.” This is not the young 9-yr-old’s fault but just the environment he’s grown up in where he thinks it is somehow wrong for his mother to eat with him. Not only the men, women also have a major role in ensuring a child his brought up with sound values. Do not hesitate to talk to your child about issues surrounding gender equality, sex and puberty. It may seem uncomfortable but you’ll be glad you had the talk. It is better for him to hear from a trusted source than half-truths and myths from the internet and friends ( who’re as confused as him ).
- Spreading awareness – Do not hesitate to spread the message of gender sensitivity & equality.
- Not tolerating indecent behaviour of any kind – Just because it’s happening to someone else, you should NOT be ok with it. Put yourself in their position – what if it was your sister, mother, wife, girlfriend, friend – wouldn’t you feel aggrieved and disgusted if people just sat around and did nothing to prevent harassment/ eve teasing – then why it is acceptable to you if someone harasses a stranger in a public place and you just watch. Speak up – that might be enough to scare off the guy. Every attacker is afraid of a mob backlash yet prey on the fact that strangers rarely help out.
But it’s not all bad. Asaram Bapu & his son are in jail, Tarun Tejpal is in police custody, justice Ganguly is facing the heat after having been accused of sexual harassment. These are powerful people in the society and they might have gotten away with it had it not been for the December 16 incident. It was almost unthinkable for a God-man to be treated as a normal citizen, let alone be shunted from city to city like a criminal (that he is). I feel this is a direct result of people’s anger towards sexual offenders & media pressure. Over the past year, people have become more aware of the struggles women face in society in everyday life. More & more cases are being reported by women. The social stigma surrounding rape & sexual assault/ harassment victims is coming down, albeit very slowly. Gender sensitivity has increased – I would like to think children growing up today are more aware as to understanding the difference between acceptable & unacceptable behavior towards women. But these are just a few steps in a marathon that is to be run. Nevertheless, it’s a step in the right direction. Yet, there’s still a long way to go………………….. lest we forget the brave soul! ————– Written by: Divyu Gupta – ENDZONE Feel free to share this & comment below!