On Sunday, reports emerged of a viral video that depicted two girls being molested by a group of young men in Rampur, Uttar Pradesh. Police investigation revealed the video had been shot on May 22 and police acted not on the basis of victim complaints but by taking suo motu notice of the video. The main accused was in custody on the same day the police noticed the video. Seen one way, then, this was an awful incident that revealed that, when so inclined, initial action, at least, can be swift. Seen another way, it is a reminder of how far we need to go to address gender violence in India.
First, however, the role of technology must be recognised. While the video no doubt made is easy for the cops to act, its circulation also ensures re-victimisation of the women. For no one is this more consequential than for victims of sexual violence, whose trauma is disseminated online. It is time the state starts formulating strategies to take down such material, as well as providing support for victims.
Second, UP’s new CM Yogi Adityanath made news upon his appointment for starting anti-Romeo squads ostensibly aimed at preventing harassment of women in public spaces. These squads caused more mayhem than good and hardly seem to have acted as a deterrent to public acts of gender violence. Also not a deterrent? Capital punishment for rapists. Death hardly makes a dent on the everyday violence women face. That is because gender violence is a product of patriarchy and an exercise of power.
So what is the solution? No country has successfully cracked this though some have moved towards a more equal society. However, India is unlikely to get there as long as it refuses to address the issues with structural changes. The recommendations of the Justice Verma committee, for instance, were cherry-picked for implementation, when they were not completely ignored, of course. The Centre must take that seriously and include gender studies, and sensitisation mandatory in curricula across the country.