Sexual assault, rape, and acts of disruptive behavior against women are all events of human rights violations which continue to infect the world. In the face of men and boys being victims of gender-based violence, women and girls around the world are shattered by sexual violence in moments of tranquility and conflict. According to the Times of India, on average, over 88 rape cases were reported across India every day in 2020, totaling 28,046 such incidents during the year. The reported incidents took in their fold over 28,000 victims as per official statistics of National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) which witnessed an upsurge during pandemic-induced lockdowns.
There have been horrific reports of sexual violations against women in the past 2 years, especially against minority groups – Dalit and Muslim women – who are targeted for rape. The Dalits are identified as “sex objects” by the upper caste’s men. When the conviction rates are discussed, only 10% of 40 rape cases involving Dalit girls and women in Haryana were charged. According to Equality Now and the Swabhiman Society, these cases included murder after rape or victims were under the age of six years. Equality Now reported rape case of a law student who was brutalized and tortured by a group of men from a “dominant” group. The young lady was raped and afterwards burnt to death by the very group. The group also threatened family of the young lady to not report the incident.
Indian unofficial village councils or Khap Panchayats play an important role in undermining the fair trial of rape cases across India. According to safe estimates, 60% of the reported rape cases do not complete due course of trial as the survivors are pressurized to accept a “compromise settlement” outside the legal system. These processes are supported by the Panchayats by coercing women to abandon their quest for justice. MAVA India states that perpetrators, usually belonging to higher social class, maintained a flawed mindset against women denying them of personal and professional growth. In addition, they also use aggression to deal with women based on the prevailing social norms, images of masculinity in Indian society and the notion that powerful men are the real men.
The United Nations (UN) Women, collated statistics of Indian NCRB, released a report on prevailing crimes against women and rape culture in India. The report highlighted 89,546 cases of cruelty by husband, relatives, friends etc.; more than 21,000 rape cases; above 11,000 cases of sexual harassment in addition to 5,650 dowry harassment cases in 2009. The report also gave statistics of a survey conducted vis-à-vis assault against women and found that 39% of Indian population think it is justifiable for a man to beat his spouse. It was also mentioned that despite of having legislation and laws to cope up with these crimes, India has failed to implement them or modify them according to prevailing conditions.
The economic dimension to growing rape culture in India couple with other heinous crimes against women is also an evolving crisis on its way. Not only do these incidents leave a permanent negative mark on the victim’s mental health and well-being but also create a social barrier which is impossible to cross. Studies carried out on this aspect show that Indian women lose an average of five paid-work days for each incident of intimate partner violence. This results in an average decrease of 25% less salary with each resulting incident. Research also suggests violence against women and girls (VAWG) widens the disparity bracket for victims cutting down their income at least 60% as compared to other women.
What Needs To Be Done
The acculturation process of men versus women is not the same. Traditionally, expectations towards men is for them to be providers, while women are expected to be nurturers, active mothers, and faithfully attend to house chores. This puts women in a secondary, submissive position, time and again, as lower income earners or with no income at all. It is this key position in the power dynamics of control that subscribes to the male ego. Dreadfully, this dependency makes women more vulnerable to such incidents – in case of India, two-third of population (68.8%) live under poverty since they are totally dependent on a male to financially support them even if they are in an uncomfortable position.
To possibly see a decrease in violence against women, specifically sexual violence, is critical for enhancing the livelihood and eudemonia of women globally. Rape and sexual assault reflect an unhealthy sense of power from men, including those of cultural and social norms in our societies and other communities. India for example has a remarkable blend of cultures between Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Jains, Sikhs and various tribal populations in India.
It may be prudent for India’s government to immediately embark on scaling up strategies to improve its citizens’ participation to stop sexual offenses, this can be done by first showing support to initiatives to break the stigma on discussions of sexual violations, such as Priya Shakti who uses comic book series to narrate the challenges that women experience. Enhancing support to awareness campaigns while simultaneously developing a social mobilization campaign as part and parcel of gearing up to the program acceleration mode.
1. Call out Indian men of various cultural groups, to an open dialogue on issues of sexual violation, ‘‘this includes schools, public and private, religious organizations, traditional and cultural institutions ( initiation schools included)
2. Put in place resources to monitor, evaluate and report sexual violations activities while protecting human rights of every Indian women and offer treatment strategy for those already affected by it.
3. Engage the religious sites, traditional leaders, healers and school owners for educating, training and demoting rape culture.
Women have been subjected to sexual violations for far too long, shifting the minds of men from a fixed to a growth mindset is the right step in the right direction, and it needs to be initiated by leaders these me look up to. Men of India need to create spaces for themselves to go to in times of chaos in their lives, speak up regarding challenges they have and offer advice on how to deal or manage anger, the addiction to control and power. No amount of apologies can dismiss the impact being violated sexually has on the victims. It is a scar they have to carry for the rest of their lives. It destroys their self-esteem, confidence, and enthusiasm for life. It’s time!