NEW DELHI: Thousands of survivors of sexual abuse in India, who have formed a first-of-its-kind collective to seek justice and provide support to others, travelled from across the country to participate in a dignity march here on Friday to demand an end to such violence.
The survivors, both women and children, who have faced some form of abuse in their life, travelled 10,000 km connecting 200 districts in 24 states starting from Mumbai on December 20.
One of them was 56-year-old Bhanwari Devi, gang-raped and brutalised over 25 years ago. Bhanwari Devi, who is still awaiting justice, asserted that she would continue to fight for it.
The National Network of Survivors, the first-ever pan-India network to mobilise and orient more than 25,000 survivors and their family members across 25 states and 250 districts of India was launched at Ramlila Maidan during the culmination of the march.
A fierce Bhanwari Devi said, "I will not be silenced. I will continue to fight till my last breath until I get justice. The Vishaka guidelines were formulated to curb workplace harassment after Bhanwari Devi's case. Ashif-Shaikh, Convenor, Rashtriya Garima Abhiyan, Dignity March said when the march was started, their objective was to encourage children and women to speak out about their experiences of sexual violence without shame and put an end to the widespread culture of victim-shaming.
"It is also unfortunate that while there is huge anger against rapes, millions of victims, primarily children are trapped in commercial sexual exploitation and community-based prostitution. Society says this because they have paid money, it is not rape. But it is a case of serial rape and a heinous crime," he told reporters.
After interacting with 25,000 survivors, 2,000 stakeholders, 200 policymakers and 2,000 lawyers from across the nation, the 'Dignity March' has presented a vision document 'Safer India for Women and Children' comprising key recommendations to prevent sexual violence against women and children, he added.
Recalling her horror, Mamta from Ujjain said on the pretext of providing a job, she was trafficked and raped. "They assured me a job and took me to an isolated place. I was confined in a room for four days where they raped me. A third person arrived and had a word with the other two. "Later I was taken to another place. They left me at a house and got my signature on a blank paper," she said.
When I objected, they told me I was purchased for Rs two lakh. They confined me there for around six months. When I returned home, my husband had left me, she added. It was then that she decided to approach the police and file a complaint.
"For four days, no official at the police station was ready to hear me. Then I approached the sub-district magistrate after which police registered my complaint. A medical examination was conducted after four days," she added.