This story is part of World Pulse’s Campaign to End Violence Against Women. These testimonies, along with hundreds of others, were delivered to the fifty-seventh session of the Commission on the Status of Women.
World Pulse believes that women's stories, recommendations, and collective rising leadership can—and will—bring an end to gender-based violence. The EVAW Campaign elicits powerful content from women on the ground, strengthens their confidence as vocal grassroots leaders, and ensures that influencers and powerful institutions hear their stories.
INDIA: War Against Rape
Unless this is done, the character assassination of women will continue to happen. In India, less than 205 women are active participants in politics—a fact that has put the country in 105th position in the world. This is unlikely to improve much unless the political parties care to become gender-sensitive.
Police must own responsibility as well. The record of Indian police is appalling when it comes to acts against gender-based violence. They refuse to register cases against rapists; they delay arrests allowing defendants to escape; and they fail to perform proper investigations. The proof of the utter failure of our police departments lies in the fact that of the 5,337 rape cases in the last decade, in 3,860 cases, the culprits were either acquitted or discharged by courts for lack of 'proper' evidence.
In all likeliness, this sordid scenario will not change until the police force gets truly serious, owns responsibility for its failure, and plugs the holes that exist within its system, including its causal attitude toward rape. According to a recent study by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India, every 40 minutes a girl or woman is raped in India. Now, considering that India is neither a failed state nor in a war, these statistics indicate that the whole society has collectively failed to create a safe environment for its women to live in.
The reasons are not hard to guess: Every time a girl is raped or sexually violated, instead of feeling like a victim, she feels like the one who has committed a crime herself. Because, we, the people of India, see rape as a moral fall out. We consider a rape victim as someone who has become ‘unholy’ and has brought disgrace to herself and to those around her. We, therefore, declare her a fallen woman and stigmatize her forever.
This is why rape victims do not speak against their ordeal as often as they should. If this continues to happen, rapes will remain common and women will continue to suffer in silence— even if the culprits of the Delhi gang rape are punished.
Finally, we must also take responsibility for not demanding a zero-impunity policy against rape and sexual violence. As common citizens, we have the right to justice. If we don’t claim that right now, if we stay quiet every time a rapist or a molester walks free, we are not only failing to stand up for ourselves, but also continuing to endanger women.
Brutal and ghastly though it was, the gang rape of Delhi has given us a chance to stop the barbarism that has gone on for so long in India. This is our moment of reckoning: Not only do we have a great deal of public awareness on violence against women, but we also have the attention of the entire global community. Millions of people across the world have heard of the gang rape and are waiting to see what efforts we make to end rape overall.
We can seize this opportunity to reform our laws, our behavior, and above all our hearts and minds. We can seize this opportunity to root out gender-based violence from our society. And in doing so, we’ll be sending a message to those who are fighting the same battle in other regions that it is indeed possible to transform a dangerous society into a safe and livable place for all women, for generations to come.
Or, we can talk in rhetoric, dodge our responsibility, blame each other, and go down in history as a nation that had an opportunity to free itself of sexual violence but didn’t care enough to grab it.