Sunday, March 10, 2013

War against rape: we must first own responsibility

Something extraordinary happened today: the police re-arrested Bitty Mohanty, a rapist who was convicted 6 years ago but had run away. I call this extraordinary because it shows the administration is ready to take rapes seriously. The question is, can solo action like this make India safe for women? As my answer to this question, I share here my Op-ed that was recently published in Huffington Post..
It has been more than two months since the December 16 gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman in New Delhi. Since then well over a million people -- men and women, young and old -- have taken to the streets to condemn the rape and demand justice.

They have marched in silence, holding placards with messages like "Death to the Rapists," "Save Our Women," and "End Rape Now." The protests have taken place in almost every city: Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, and Kolkata. Even small towns like Lucknow, Ahmedabad, and Pune have been a part of the action. In my own city of Hyderabad in the south of India, women have for the very first time taken part in a midnight march to claim their rights to be out on the street at any time. In Bangalore, men marched on the streets wearing skirts -- their way of showing that a woman's choice of clothing does not cause a man to rape.

Photo courtesy: One India

Every day, I see photos of protest marches on my Facebook feed, and Twitter users have generated well over a million tweets with hashtags like "delhigangrape" and "braveheart" -- the name the media gave to the anonymous rape victim.

As yet another Indian woman who has experienced molestation and sexual harassment early in her life, I have found these developments both sad and electrifying. Sad because a woman was tortured and murdered, but also sad because this was probably the 5,000th time I heard of a woman in India being raped. Statistics from the National Crime Record Bureau of India show that since 1953 there has been an 873 percent rise of rape cases in India. In 2012 alone, we have seen horrific rape cases involving four-year-old baby girls and 80-year-old women. But never, ever have I seen a group of even 100 people come together to protest these acts.