When the system fails, a power will riseUpdated: Dec 15, 2019 19:50 IST
It is December 16 and none of us can forget that fateful day. It has been seven years since the Delhi gang-rape incident, but even after all these years, the mother, who lost her daughter to a heinous crime, is patiently but determinedly fighting against the system and awaiting justice.
After the recent Hyderabad incident, the larger public is losing its patience. I wonder if people are losing their trust too, in the system. Otherwise, why would so many of them publicly rejoice the encounter of the four suspects? From 2012 until now, the number of rape cases has only been on the rise. As a feminist, I fear that rape cases — from Jisha in Kerala to Unnao, Kathua and now, the latest tragedy in Hyderabad — are just becoming mere statistics discussed inside close rooms and used by politicians to blame each other or to win votes.
As a mother, I do want to convince myself that there is a better tomorrow in store. I am holding and hanging on to hope, which jolts me from the numbness – the numbness one feels after hearing/reading the reporting of so many gruesome cases, the well-meaning protests that follow, yet little seems to change. So, I consciously went looking for some positive development in this space.
Nirbhaya may not have deterred the spurt in rape and mass rape cases. But no one can deny that the ‘Nirbhaya Movement’ initiated very important gender conversations in the country. Rape is no longer seen as a personal misfortune. It is now seen as a sociopolitical issue plaguing the country. We recollect how the collective agitations by people led to setting up of a committee immediately after the incident. This committee suggested amendments to criminal law to sternly deal with sexual assault cases. Nirbhaya Act came into existence.
A Nirbhaya fund worth ₹10 billion was set up to support initiatives by the government and NGOs working towards protecting the dignity and ensuring the safety of women in India. A recent report indicates that only a very small percentage of this amount has been put to use. Under this scheme, the Central government proposed the establishment of One-Stop Centres in the country.
In fact, we visited a One-Stop Centre last week. I was excited to know something like this exists. The place acts as a temporary shelter to provide integrated support and assistance under one roof to women victims. It also guides and helps victims to file complaints. It is a basic facility, however well kept and maintained. There is only one resource, a centre manager, who is single-handedly managing the place. We can wait for her to receive further support from the government or we, as a society, can step up, crowdsource and help make it functional and effective. We can make this a community initiative. The centre in Gurugram is in Civil Lines.
While the government’s silence on this issue is becoming deafening, it is important for us as a civil society to step up and see what we can do. We cannot remove ourselves from the equation, step out and keep pointing fingers at the government.
As quoted in Rape: The First Sourcebook for Women, “our ultimate goal is to eliminate rape and that goal cannot be achieved without a revolutionary transformation of our society”.
For that to happen, it has to start from each one of us. We will keep reminding the government of its job. Meanwhile, we will also get organised into functional blocks, whose demands the government cannot ignore.
Let us consciously bring awareness and stop victim-blaming. Let us redefine masculinity and bring together a small group of people from the locality we live in and work on making our area safe and secure for all. Do not tolerate rape jokes or glorification of violence against women, be it in personal conversations, media or social media. We should raise our voice against it, be sensitive and talk about it to our children, helpers and with whomever we can. This conversation must reach all corners of society. When the system fails, a power will rise.
An advocate of women’s rights, Neela Kaushik started a Facebook community called Gurgaon Moms to create a local support network for mothers in the city. Today, it has more than 25,000 members