What women want

Dec 31, 2012, 08:36 IST | Soma Das & Surekha S

India is on boil after the demise of the gutsy 23-year-old medical student from Delhi. It's people have hit the streets in silent protest demanding justice. Accountability and action, not words, are the need of the hour, believe some of Mumbai's experts across its legal, social and cultural spectrum

Rahul da Cunha, theatre person
It’s simply awful; it’s a wake-up call for everybody to take rape seriously as a criminal offence. There is a need to increase the number of policemen patrolling the city as well as educate people, from villages to towns, to respect women and that it is wrong to mistreat women. The government must take concrete steps to prevent such incidents in the future; there should be stringent measures taken against rapists so that they understand there are massive implications to rape. Above everything, there is a need to educate the policemen themselves.

Suhail Shariff, criminal lawyer
Now since the girl has died, the men who raped her will be tried for rape and murder. They can be given death penalty. But in only rape cases, death penalty is not an option. To bring such an amendment in the law is a long process. First, a bill would need to be proposed in the Lok Sabha, then it will have to be passed to become an act. It will be implemented to become a law. I feel, the law should be amended soon. There should be difference between a rape and a brutal gang rape, it needs to be categorised, and capital punishment should be given for gang rapes and such brutal cases.

Madhusree Dutta, Majlis, founder and executive director
At such times of crisis, there is often a knee-jerk response that must be law passed. But one law will not solve the problem. I am disgusted and appalled by the talk about death penalty for rapes or crimes of sexual harassment. It is akin to behaving like the rapists themselves. In such cases, very few will eventually be punished as no one wants the criminal to die unless in particularly grave cases. It is sad that in cities, it is becoming impossible for women to do anything. In October last year, Keenan Santos (24) and Reuben Fernandes (29) were stabbed for trying to protect a woman friend from harassment in Amboli. It was no less a grave crime.

A law passed in a hurry will not serve any purpose. It’s not just about punishing the culprits but about preventing such incidents from happening in the future. It’s not a legal but a social problem. There needs to be greater awareness. Sex education must be included in schools. Indians are also sexually repressed, and that needs to change; prostitution should be legalised and dance bars should be allowed to operate.

Sarla Bijapurkar, social scientist
What people need now is assurance from the people in power that this will not be let off easily. The matter will not be allowed to die down. Also, there is a need for men to reconsider their attitudes. While the focus is now on the woman and her fight, it needs to shift to men, and the need for a change in their attitude. India is a changing society and men need to accept that. With changing scenarios for women, men feel threatened and hence they take such actions to exert their control.

Even in these protests, do men feel as strongly as women? Only a handful of men from educated and urban sectors would have joined these protests. Many men in rural areas and perhaps, the men of the Khap panchayats are not following it up. Men in police stations who file such complaints need to be sensitised.

Through documentaries, films, day-to-day discussions, serials, public service ads on TV a change in the mindset can be brought about. Women who are harassed should fight back; they must raise their voice.

Hasina Khan, women’s rights activist
I attended the protest at Shivaji Park, it was a silent protest with slogans and messages demanding justice for the Delhi rape victim. Rape laws need to change. There are different kinds of sexual assault. They need to be factored in the law. The current law is very limited, it needs to be broadened to include other forms of assault. Capital punishment isn’t the solution, but fast-tracking cases is needed. Secondly, gender sensitisation is a must. Every place where a woman works, should have sexual harassment laws. There is no sexual harassment policy even for women cops at police stations. Accountability and an effective state machinery is needed. Sensitisation in colleges is also needed. The syllabus, our movies, and media still portray the woman as weak with violent, arrogant males as heroes. This patriarchal thinking needs to change.

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