Your daughters will be safe with our sons.
I wanted to say this to you.
Especially because my country is now being hailed as “No Country for Women”
According to the latest data released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), India recorded 88 rape cases every day in 2019. Two days after daughter’s day, yet another girl was brutalized and killed in my country.
According to the NCRB report, maximum rape cases are reported from Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. Nearly 6,000 rape cases were reported in Rajasthan, followed by 3,065 cases in Uttar Pradesh in 2019. About 10,000 of the reported victims were children.
The rape vulnerability of a girl or woman has increased up to 44 percent in the last 10 years, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data shows. According to the NCRB data, during the period 2010-2019, a total of 3,13,289 cases were reported across India.
These are documented and reported cases. Many rapes and assaults are not reported by women or their relatives fearing the stigma of being ostracized by society.
But justice is unlikely: Of the tens of thousands of rape cases reported in India annually, only a handful result in prosecutions, according to NCRB. Stringent punishment given to the Nibhaya rape accused and the national outrage against them has done nothing to stop or even reduce the rape count. Rape has become a pandemic in India.
What is going wrong in spite of all the efforts taken by media in speaking against all those crimes?
There is still a major fraction of the patriarchal society which includes both men and women who shift the blame towards women. They say that women are asking for rape, by coming out in the streets at night. By wearing short dresses. They say that men can’t control their sexual desire which is aroused when they see a woman with a short dress or body-hugging attire. According to them, the onus of staying safe is on women.
They do not have answers when babies as young as 8 months and women as old as 85 are assaulted.
While most admit that the problem is a culture of misogyny, aggressiveness, and normalized sexual abuse towards women, the discourse is still centered around women.
To even begin an attempt to alter this, we need a robust conversation around men, which has to begin at home and then in schools.
My boys have seen my spouse sharing chores at home. They have been nurtured in an environment where they see two friends and partners steering the life ahead, paddling together through storms, sharing tears and laughter. They have been taught that cooking, cleaning, and washing are life skills, and not a gender assigned role.
They have been taught that it’s wrong to talk disparagingly about women, feel up girls surreptitiously, make lewd remarks, and leer at them. At the same time, they have also been warned against being too naïve so that they are not trapped by lies and falsification. They are trained to be Good Men but not susceptible and foolish.
Gender sensitization classes should be mandatory in middle and high schools. Violence against women is so deeply rooted in India, that this sensitization should be prioritized as much as basic reading and writing skills. Girls must be encouraged to be strong, vocal, and intolerant of transgressions, however small. They should also be advised against exploiting the very same rules to gain unfair privilege and to seek revenge against men.
Workplaces must crackdown on everyone who makes sexualized jokes. Sexually offensive banter should not be taken lightly, because it leads to desensitization, which starts casually and eventually normalizes sexual violence. Social networking sites should not allow posting of such jokes and memes.
Most importantly, politicians, religious leaders, and role models need to stop blaming women for their choice of dress or working hours.
Apart from fast-track courts for rape trials, the government must set up a special unit that recruits and trains officers specifically to deal with sexual offenses.
Most women don’t report rape fearing the uncomfortable questions which they are expected to answer in court. If the system guarantees protection of anonymity, it will help victims feel confident in coming forward to seek justice.
Predators must know that justice is swift and fair. India’s approach to curbing sexual aggression must steer clear of diminishing women, and root out reckless patriarchal attitudes instead.
Parents, teach gender equity and equality. Our children are our only hope in bringing the change that we all desperately want to see. An egalitarian society that gives a sense of security to all, irrespective of their gender, beliefs, and status.