Changing society key to preventing rape, activists say

Published On February 1, 2013 | By | News
The violent incident of gang rape in Delhi has created uproar all across India and its South Asian neighbors. Photo Courtesy, Facebook.

The violent incident of gang rape in Delhi has created uproar all across India and its South Asian neighbors. Photo Courtesy, Facebook.

By Shumu Haque

Efforts to stop rapes on women in India and around the globe will not bear any result unless the mentality of average people is changed, a social worker told Humber News on Thursday.

“Even though legislation in India may be very strong, the mindset of people has not changed,” said  Kripa Shekhar, the executive director of the South Asian Women’s Centre in Toronto,

Although women are moving forward there, they are still viewed as less of a human being then the men, she said.

“The hypocrisy around the way in which the men view women who are raped is unbelievable. Even though they [the men involved in such cases] are the perpetrators of the crime, yet they also act as the moral gatekeepers [in many instances]” said Shekhar.

As India was recovering from the trauma of a brutal gang rape in the streets of Delhi on December 16, 2012 and trying to come up with ways to stop such violence against its women, a four-year-old girl was being raped and drowned by two young men in Dabwali, a town in India’s Haryana state as recently as Jan. 26., according to the Times newspaper of India.

And that is only one of the numerous such incidents happening in India and all across the globe every day.

According to a BBC report from January 30, India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has pledged swift justice and support for rape victims in his country.

After the incident of the violent gang rape  of a young paramedic student from Delhi in a moving bus, where she was brutally raped and beaten by six men including the driver, a three-member panel chaired by former chief justice Jagdish Sharan Verma was created to recommend ways to ensure swift justice and help victims of sexual crimes during the time of their crisis.

Some of its recommendations included broadening the definition of sexual assault, trying such cases with specially designated courts, preferably with women judges, harsher sentence for the criminals and more accountability from the law-enforcers.

While all these incidents of rapes and sexual assaults are happening on the other side of the globe, according to reports from Canadian Women’s Foundation and Statisics Canada, a significant number of Canadian women also suffer from sexual violence.

According to a report from Statistics Canada, 427,000 women over the age of 15 reporting incidents of sexual assaults in 2004. Since only 10% of sexual assaults are reported to police, the actual number could be much higher.

According to another report from statistics Canada from 1993, half of all women in Canada have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence against them since the age of 16.

“Every day, women are being raped all over the world, they are raped during the war time, they are raped during the time of peace,” said Shekhar,

The only way to “remove the evil” is to create a process to change the psychology of people, especially that of men, she said.

The movement all across India following the Delhi rape case has allowed for global awareness that lead to similar movements in neighboring Bangladesh.

Supriti Dhar is a journalist and social activist who works from Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh.

Dhar and her friends are creating a nationwide movement to create awareness about rape and sexual harassment.

“Once a rape is already committed, talking about it does not really undo the trauma to the victim. While we can work to assure that the rapists are brought to justice, the most important thing is to create the social awareness that will prevent such incidents from happening,” said Dhar.

“When someone rapes me, it should be considered no differently then any other form of physical assault.  If someone rapes me, the insult and the shame belong to the perpetrator. As a victim, there should be no shame in it for me.” – Supriti Dhar, journalist and activist from Bangladesh.

Following the incident of violent rape in Delhi in December, 2012 and numerous simultaneous incidents of rape and violence against women in Bangladesh (including a January 26 incident that saw an exact replay of the Delhi rape case as an 18-year-old garments worker was raped inside a moving bus in Manikganj, on the outskirts of Dhaka, while she was returning home from work) , there were a number of protests, processions and human chains happening all across the country.

Dhar took part in many of those events.

“But all these protests seemed ineffective, as the prevention of such incidents is more important and these protests were not always very successful in talking about that aspect of the problem,” said Dhar.

With this realization, Dhar and her friends are working to create a platform consisting of social activists as well as common people that will start simultaneously in every district of the country starting from Feb. 8, and will eventually come together under a united front in Dhaka.

“We not only want to talk to the community in general. Gradually, we would like to get inside every school, college, Universities as well as talk to families in each and every neighborhood,” said Dhar.

“Often it’s the raped woman and her family’s honor that comes at stake. This should not happen and everybody has to understand this,” she said.

Unless society starts to treat the crime of rape as a form of violence against women, the notion of shame related to rape and its victims will always be there, said Dhar.

“When someone rapes me, it should be considered no differently then any other form of physical assault.  If someone rapes me, the insult and the shame belong to the perpetrator. As a victim, there should be no shame in it for me,” said Dhar.

*Information used for the infograph taken from both Statistics Canada and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

An infographic on sexual assault cases reported around the world. Infographic by Julia Alexander

An infographic on sexual assault cases reported around the world. Infographic by Julia Alexander

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