The rapists will hang, and justice will have been done in the Nirbhaya case. But does it put an end to all crimes against women? No. Then let’s look forward and see what can be done to prevent rape.
What police and courts can do
1) Ensure FIRs are filed immediately when rape cases are reported
2) Police must be sensitised to handle rape victims with dignity
3) Collection of evidence, especially medical examination, must be done in a sensitive manner. It must also be done without delay to ensure the evidence is strong. Time delays could cause medical results to be less than accurate.
4) Ensure the perpetrator is nabbed and that the case file is strongly backed by evidence
5) Justice should be delivered speedily, without dragging out cases for long years.
These ensure that reporting of rapes itself does not become a hindrance. As more rapes are reported and justice is delivered in the cases, it acts as a deterrent.
As the percentage of conviction is not high, people are emboldened to commit further crimes against women because they think they can get away with it
What society can do
1) Give women more independence and help them claim public spaces. As more women are seen in public, uninhibited, it becomes the accepted normal. Thus, a woman’s place in society or in public places is not questioned.
2) Society must discourage the stereotyping of gender roles, which in effect keeps women off the public sphere and therefore leads to crimes against those that do inhabit public spaces.
3) Encourage a change in attitude towards independent women. When questions are asked (like in the Nirbhaya case) such as why was the woman out in public at night, one legitimises violence against them by putting the onus of keeping herself safe, on the woman
4) Campaign with school managements to make sex education compulsory. Encourage healthy discussions and remove the stigma around sex. Create awareness among the young about the right to make decisions about one’s own body without coercion or peer pressure, and convey the need for respect and consent in all sexual encounters, apart from impressing upon students the need to protect themselves from pregnancies and sexually-transmitted diseases.
5) Community gatherings must ensure more awareness is created on the need for equality and respect among the sexes.
Society plays a huge role in shaping the consciousness of people. Community approval and disapproval matter in the Indian context. Therefore the duties of a community in rape prevention are paramount. It starts with according women respect and equality in thought, word and deed.
What family can do
1) Introduce to children the concept of safe touch and unsafe touch. Children must be taught to say No if they recognise a bad touch and to move away from the perpetrators as quickly as possible and look for help if they find themselves in such situations.
2) Parents must spend time with children to look for unusual behaviour or quietness and sensitively bring out any instances of abuse that the child may have faced.
3) Ensure that the family is a supportive space where a possible victim of rape or sexual abuse does not feel uncomfortable in speaking to a family member in confidence. If a child has been touched in a manner that made him/her uncomfortable, s/he needs to feel confident to tell a family member about it.
4) Girls and boys must be brought up as equals, and shared activities must be promoted without discriminating on the basis of gender. This helps both sexes develop a sense of respect about the other and sees the mingling of sexes as normal. This prevents boys from thinking they are superior to girls and that they can exercise their physical power to get their way.
5) Remove the stigma associated with a person’s body having been violated; encourage the victim to seek justice and not be bogged down by the associated difficulties of reporting it to the police and making court appearances and dealing with insensitive defence lawyers.
It all starts with the family. Just like charity begins at home, sensitivity to others (whether the others are of a different sex, religion, community, class, culture or language) and good social behaviour is something families have a responsibility in nurturing.
What government can do
1) Make sex education compulsory in all schools, government and private. Ensure there are awareness programmes and sensitisation for those left out of the education system too.
2) Ensure all schools, colleges and workplaces of all kinds (from factories to hospitals to corporate offices) have Visakha committees and that sexual harassment is proactively discouraged through discussions and workshops.
3) Create wide-spread awareness campaigns on women’s equality, respect for women, and most importantly on what is consent and how sex without consent is rape, which is punishable by law.
4) Empower ‘house-wives’ by paying women for domestic work. By doing this, women are no longer prevented from reporting rape and abuse at the hands of their family members, whom they may depend on for financial sustenance. Perpetrators in a large number of reported cases of rape have been family members or persons known to the victim.
5) Start prevention programmes by offering medical therapy to people to volunteer if they find themselves drawn to children or have uncontrollable sexual urges that they feel may push them to commit a crime. Programmes in countries like Germany and Columbia successfully offer voluntary therapy. This helps prevent a crime, rather than having to deal with the aftermath of one.
Government has a large role to play but in a country like India where it’s a struggle to ensure that even basic needs of its population are met, some of these guidelines may take generations to implement.
But the government must take positive steps in this direction, as it is to the benefit of the nation and its economy.
Imagine the boost to the economy and the country’s image as a modern nation if most women were active contributors to the workforce in a country that has as young a population as India.