In this violent city that shaped me, I never imagined such a rising. I never imagined the gusts of change that swept down Rajpath last winter, or that nearly all of Delhi would stand with those of us who endure sexual harassment and assault to say: Enough. Governments are now reminded that they exist so we may have our peace, our freedom, our flourishing.
An opinion poll in this newspaper shows a stark reality: Two-thirds of Delhi women voting still feel unsafe in the Capital. But the poll also shows that most of us believe things can and should be different: 88% of voters are more likely to cast their ballots for a politician who commits to concrete action to stop violence against women and 93% view it as an election priority.
Today, as Delhi choose its government for the next five years, the people are demanding real commitments beyond the sloganeering to “protect daughters” and piecemeal party manifestos.
In the last few days, 50 prominent voices for change have launched a concrete plan, which, if implemented, could radically change our city. The Delhi Elections Womanifesto is a common minimum programme that requires any party elected to act on an achievable six-point plan within one year.
Top of the list: Challenging the sexual entitlement which drives 70-80% of rapists. This can only be done through long-term, government-led public education programmes. Making our laws count also needs a radical plan. Each ministry and agency must re-design and budget for infrastructure, personnel and training to end violence against women, starting with the police. Faster courts are key. At least 30 judges per million of the population will have to be appointed in the next year. Finally, Delhi must offer greater care to survivors with 24-hour, one-stop crisis centres in each police district and radically improved transport and street infrastructure.
Over the weekend, Sheila Dikshit committed to “work tirelessly” to implement the Womanifesto within her first year of office should she win. Leaders of Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP have publicly stated that it’s a “great idea” and they “endorse it”. Harsh Vardhan has told this newspaper that he supports it too. It is now up to us to hold them accountable to that commitment. Delhi was the epicentre of a movement that sent ripples to the rest of India and the world. Now, as Delhi goes to the polls, voters from Bawana to Mehrauli are demanding the Womanifesto be the common minimum programme regardless of who takes office. Who wouldn’t be for reducing attacks on women?
Let’s make Delhi’s election a turning point for women’s freedom. Over to you.
(Karuna Nundy is a Supreme Court advocate).