As India transitions from being a peripheral participant to a prominent leader in the global stage, it is crucial that the nation addresses the most important social issue that it now faces: Equality for its women, ensuring their personal safety and a comprehensive framework to reduce sexual assault throughout the country.
Several reasons have surfaced for why sexual violence is so widely prevalent in India. Domestic violence and low status for women are commonly cited explanations. In many cities, the ratio of women to police officers is so large that evidence gathering and the right equipment and training to deal with sexual violence is simply not there. However, some of the other reasons surrounding this problem seem to have little logic to them. A common explanation is to blame the poor victims for the supposedly provocative clothing they wear. This statement tells us how disconnected we are and the moral corrosion that has become so widespread.
Stigmatizing a rape victim or asking them to compromise after being victimized are not solutions. While getting more female police officers in the system will help victims to be able to come out in the open and talk about their plight, a lot more at the ground level needs to be done to solve this problem. Our judicial and punitive systems need to be sharpened to deliver a strong blow to the perpetrators of this heinous crime.
I strongly believe that engendering respect for Indian women is at the very core of solving this problem. Women are not objects to be ogled at or made fun of. Yet this is a common sight in many big cities in India. Only grass roots education starting with children in school as well as family members in the villages and cities is the most effective way to counter this problem. Solving this issue will take time and patience. Every Indian (male and female) loves their mother and is very protective of their sisters. They want great education and good jobs for their female family members. Why then do we fail as a nation in extending that feeling of protection to all women, who are a part of our national family?
We need to build a society which protects its women, accords them great respect and equality and ensures that their rights are identical to their male counterparts. Equally important is preserving every woman’s right to freedom of expression.
I know it’s impossible for any one person on a stand-alone basis to alter the very fabric of society. This is why I have started YASA, an organization based in New York City. This not-for-profit organization will be distinctly dedicated to influencing attitudes and actions, if needed be even one person at a time. I would like this issue to become so ingrained into the fabric of our society that it can teach the next generation from a very early stage to respect our women and celebrate their freedom rather than taking advantage of any perceived weaknesses.
I have in my website outlined a program to combat this form of cancer and urge you to join me in this noble fight and help me take the battle to the streets of India to help every woman gain her freedom of expression and most importantly her personal safety.
Founder, YASA NYC