The gang-rape of a 23-year-old student in a moving bus on the night of December 16 in the capital city of Delhi has triggered anger, outrage and shock amongst every citizen this country.
The National Crime Records Bureau records 572 rapes reported from Delhi for the year 2011. This year 635 rapes had already been reported as of December 15, 2012, Rape is not a problem that afflicts Delhi alone. In recent months, we have seen a rising crime graph against women being reported from virtually every corner of the country including Haryana, Kerala and Bangalore.
Each time a rape is reported, civil society reacts with anger and outrage, which unfortunately dies down and is forgotten, until the next time. The question to ask: what is the inflexion point? At what stage do we say collectively and in one voice: Enough.
Many solutions have been offered in the light of this particular gang-rape and in the past. Some of these include:
1. The setting up of fast track courts (as in Rajasthan recently) to ensure speedy trials.
2. The imposition of maximum, exemplary sentence.
3. The immediate clearing of all pending cases involving crimes against women.
4. Immediate training and sensitisation of police force to crimes against women, including domestic violence, molestation and sexual assault.
5. The immediate passage of pending bills that seek to protect women, including the Protection of Women Against Sexual Harassment at the Workplace Bill 2012 and the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2012
6. Consultations with the Ministry of Human Resources to see how best to address the issue of sensitising boys through the school curriculum.
7. National-level, open consultations involving civil society and other stake-holders on how best to tackle the growing misogyny and hostility against women as well as rising crimes against them.
8. Ensuring safe public transport for all citizens by installing CCTVs and conducting due diligence of employees including bus drivers, cleaners etc.
Despite having so many women in positions of political leadership, a survey by TrustLaw found India to be ranked as the worst country in the world for women. At a time when women are increasingly claiming their rightful share of half the sky and asserting their autonomy and independence, the rising crimes against them are conducted with absolute impunity by criminals who have no fear of the law.
We are writing to you in the hope that you will direct government and judiciary to take special note of the escalation of gender violence and work together on a priority basis to implement the measures detailed above.
Lack of gender justice, lack of fear of the law, police and judicial apathy, failure of governance and shrinking public spaces is a matter of grave concern, not just for women but for every citizen of this country.