Recently Hindustan Times launched a campaign --- Let’s Talk About Rape --- which aims to start a conversation about sexual violence. In the first edition, eight prominent personalities from different fields wrote open letters. In the second edition, eight ordinary Indians carry the conversation forward. The response from the readers’ has been wide-ranging and vociferous: While one demanded that rapists should be castrated, another – a proud mother of a 12-year-old girl --- sent us a short poem on girls and the challenges they face since birth in this country. In one of the articles in the series, a child psychiatrist explained that stereotypical gender roles that assign certain duties and ideal behaviour to people impact the way men treat women. When children are exposed to an imbalanced power system from almost the day they were born, a sense of invincibility makes them believe people will excuse their deplorable behaviour with the common refrain: “Boys will be boys”. A principal of a reputed school made another valid point: “Children are not born violent, or aggressive or disrespectful of women. They learn to be so from grown-ups and other sources”.
Read: Let’s Talk About Rape
Over the years, official data show that more and more young people are taking to heinous crimes such as rape. Rape was the third most prevalent crime among juveniles in 2015 after theft and trespassing or burglary, says the National Crime Records Bureau. In 2015, more than 41,000 juveniles were apprehended across the country, 1,841 on rape-related charges. One thousand and six hundred and eighty cases of rape were registered under juveniles in India; 119 in Delhi under Section 376. Minors were booked in 88 cases of gang rape --- four in Delhi. Moreover, as one of our columnists noted, notions of honour are central to the discourse on rape. The rape of a daughter, sister or wife is a source of dishonour to males within the family structure. This deters the reporting of rape to the police, reinforced by a belief in the impunity of perpetrators, the fear of retaliation, and humiliation by the police through physical and verbal abuse.
Violence against women will not decrease unless there is a thrust on having a gender-neutral approach towards policies and programmes. This is because investing in men is also a way of ensuring women’s empowerment, because a gender sensitive father, brother or spouse will positively impact women’s lives. After all, we all live in the same family, same community and we are interrelated and interdependent