It’s been one month since a 23-year-old student was gang-raped in a bus in Delhi by six men, one of them a juvenile. Rape cases are not uncommon in the country; the National Crime Records Bureau says rape is the fastest growing crime in the country. The December 16 incident shook India to the core and there were protests against the government and the police. After the gruesome incident, Hindustan Times had put forward five demands to make Delhi, and the country, safe for women. But unfortunately, after one month, when we did a reality check on Wednesday, we were shocked to find that not much has changed on the ground despite the promises made by the government to the public.
But even in such a gloomy scenario, there are some ‘positives’ that we should not forget and going forward, we need to build on those for the safety of women: first, the media coverage of cases of sexual violence has seen an upward trend and this sustained pressure on the authorities must continue. Second, the support the victim got from the public and the courage she showed even when she was struggling for survival, have encouraged more women to come out and report cases of sexual assaults.
But to change the scenario, we need to gender sensitise the population. We often blame the manner in which the police behave with rape victims. But we forget that they come from the same patriarchal society which discriminates against women and have never been gender sensitised. To change this situation, gender sensitisation programmes must be started when children are young. Along with gender-sensitive curriculum, we also need to break gender stereotyping that happens at every stage of a child’s life, starting with the family, in India. For example, even in top-end schools, girl students are often not allowed to play a particular sport since it’s considered a ‘boy’s sport’. Such subtle discrimination goes a long way in shaping mindsets and if these are not tackled now, we cannot expect to usher in a social order where gender will not determine your safety and dignity.