Four months after the brutal Delhi gang rape, the city awoke to news of a horrific attack on a five year old girl. Did anything change after the December gang rape?
"We humans are totally fickle-minded, we crib today and we forget tomorrow" is sentiment I expressed when writing about the brutal gang rape and murder of a 23 year old student in Delhi in December. What actually happened in last four months?! Delhi was awash with huge protests, a handful of existing laws were tightened in the immediate aftermath as a response to the enormous public outcry, the opposition party tried taking advantage of the situation and use it to their political advantage, the protests made international headlines, debates were held, women's security was discussed, people like me wrote articles about the possibility of the dawn of a new era of public perception of women and public education was put under the microscope.
And yet, barely a week passes by in India in which a rape is not reported, which could be attributed to one of two things (or both): an increase in rates of sexual crimes or wider reporting by the media thereof. The latter could certainly play a big part in influencing policy but introducing new laws and strenghtening existing ones, though critical, is only one piece of the puzzle. At the community level, big change in the form of attitudinal and behavioural shifts is also achievable and, arguably, more effective and there are currently numerous activists working at the grassroots level to instigate a shift in public mentality.
But change takes time and this becomes poignantly clear with each brutal case of sexual violence that the media reports. Last week, a five year old girl was left to die in a locked room after being raped and tortured, allegedly by her neighbour. Manoj Sah, the main accused, allegedly abducted the girl and raped her in his house repeatedly before leaving her to die in a room on the groundfloor of the same building. The girl is now struggling with her life at the hospital.
In the wake of this horrific attack, Delhi is once again witnessing an eruption of outrage from the Indian public. The anger is directed at the the government and its officials who have repeatedly failed to keep its citizens out of danger and provide a safe comfort zone. People have again taken to the street to protest current laws relating to rape and sexual violence. The question is how long they will be able to stay on street. Do we have to be reminded again and again of such horrible acts to in order to stay vocal? There is a need for strong regulation - laws themselves are not enough and monitoring is key.
Defence tactics, such as underwear that emits shocks to anyone trying to rape or assault the wearer of said underwear, are undoubtedly useful but are also a band-aid solution to a much more deep-seeded problem and still place the onus upon potential victims to stop rape occurring. It is widely accepted that a shift in mentality is needed and a number of organisations both locally and internationally have been implementing highly specific education programs designed to address abusive attitudes and promote gender equality. Many argue that female feticide and infanticide as well as dowry-related violence continue tip the gender equality scales in favour of males, which can in turn reinforce archaic ideas of the role and subjugation of women in society, ideologies which may also have an impact on the frequency of sexual violence. In this regard, there are many community-level campaigns working to flip the switch on female feticide, infanticide and dowry-related violence such as the noted 50 Million Missing Campaign.
Crimes like the attack on the five year old girl bring us to one question: what has changed and what is still missing? Prime Minister Singh mentioned today in his statement the need to work collectively to root out this sort of depravity from our society. I will again write my statement from my last article: we all have to become the change by devoting our time to teach the illiterate and the ignorant. There are many un- or undereducated youth who might not even think that their actions have devastating consequences. We don't need to sit by and wait for the government to act, we can also get involved. Take an opportunity to educate someone who perhaps is not aware of the effect of his behaviour on others. This is the first positive step that is within our reach that might bring change into place.
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter: Martin Luther King Jr
Author: Ajay Pal Singh Chabba/ RESET editorial