Following the spine-chilling and horrific gangrape and brutalisation of a 23-year-old in the national capital on Sunday, when Tehelka asked how the rapes could be stopped, there was only one refrain: attitude to women must change; the legal process of dealing with the crime must speed up; and men must be educated and ‘sensitised’ about women’s issues. Twenty personalities — lawyers, activists, writers, filmmakers – suggest some real solutions. ‘Attitudes to women and recognition of their full range of rights should be linked to recruitment, promotion’ Karuna Nundy, advocate, Supreme Court of India
There’s so much outrage this time, and outrage can change things. But the conviction of these rapists is clearly not enough, sexual violence runs deep in Delhi and unless we deal with the source, it’ll continue to pour forth. Here are some changes I’d like to see. • Attitudes to women in the criminal justice system. Attitudes to women and recognition of their full range of rights should be linked to recruitment, promotion. The system should recognise and reward good police officer, a good magistrate, a good prosecutor by their attitudes to Dalit women, to lesbians, to sexually active women wearing skimpy clothing. Also penalise actors in the criminal justice system for the opposite, i.e. discriminatory behaviour. So when a policeman or woman, a prosecutor or a judge is recruited, their attitudes need to be part of the interview. • Masculinity: Equality training in various spheres should be included in schools — what kind of citizens are we looking to produce? Showing children early on that people of other gender, other castes, religions are equal needs to be central to our education system. We’ve been thinking of the Dalit boy sitting in corner of classroom, who sees a cartoon that’s discriminatory. Think also of the girl who only sees Maharani Laxmibai and Sarojini Naidu in her history books. Teach women they are equal, and they are more likely to be treated that way. We need self defence classes in school for girls. And to teach boys that girls are equal. Boys should also be given empathy training to show them what it’s like to be a girl. Anger management courses have been proven to work. • Allowing women to sue for money damages and injunctions in civil cases would help to go along with criminal cases. We need civil damages for victims of crime in India, it’s an easier forum for her to navigate, also on principle, she should be compensated for the psychological and material damage she is caused as well as have the perpetrator punished. • Reform criminal justice system: The low conviction rate for rape — some figures show only 27 percent convictions — is also why rapists are not that scared and victims reluctant to go to court. Police reforms have been waiting to be implemented since the 1980s — police in Delhi need better investigation methods, find the right guy, ways to preserve evidence. We don’t have proper witness protections programmes, or the best prosecutors — though the victim’s lawyer being allowed to be present now helps somewhat. • Some of the important changes — like quicker trials enabled by more judges and courtrooms are reforms the whole criminal justice system needs. Also you have to have to be able to complain effectively if your prosecutor is not competent or has been bribed.
‘What we need to do, and urgently, is two-pronged: systemic social change and legal reform’ Mihira Sood, advocate
Rape exists because of a patriarchal, misogynistic culture that condones it, whether tacitly or explicitly, and because of widespread lawlessness that encourages it. What we need to do, and urgently, is two-pronged: systemic social change and legal reform. We must educate people, starting at the school level, about respect for women, for personal spaces and for the rule of law. We need to introspect, all of us, on how we contribute to the objectification of women, from the popular culture we consume to the way we bring...
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