Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a special man. It is not just that he happens to lead the largest democracy on planet, or that he recently won his position in a landslide victory that brought 814.5 million people to the polls, 23.1 million of those people being youth (yes… formidable numbers indeed!) but it is the enigma that draws one’s attention to him immediately because with him grows the notion of the ‘Great Indian Dream.’
I watched, with millions of citizens in my country and around the world as he descended upon the United States of America earlier this year. I was both curious and eager to see what he would have to say to an international audience.
India is at the cusp of its potential.
We have committed to the narrative to all those who are willing to listen that India is ready to play the role of a global game changer in the market place for sustainable development and an emerging performer in the new world order.
During Modi’s trip to New York, an Avaaz representative asked his opinions on women and ensuring safety initiatives against gender based violence in India. Amidst, the seamlessly escapist answer to the issue, his response was an extraneous one. I found myself thinking out loud:
‘But Mr.Modi, why do you choose to avoid addressing the glaring sexual brutality and violence that is consistently faced by women in India!’
The Violence Continues
Incidents of violence against women continue to occur, be it, at Kanpur Zoo, VIBGYOR School Bangalore, Jadavpur University Kolkata and perhaps much closer to home…in a bus I took last month.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau of India, a crime against a woman is committed every three minutes. In 2012 the nation was shocked into advertence when a young woman was horrendously raped and assaulted in Delhi, 2012. In the light of the incident, the Justice Verma Committee was appointed by the Government of India to examine the laws pertaining to rape in India. In its wisdom, some of the numerous crucial recommendations were:
- To include marital rape as a crime since in the current Indian Law, marriage excuses perpetrators.
- Broaden the definition of sexual assault to include the many kinds of violations including verbal assault.
- Appropriate sex education and gender sensitization for schools and adults alike.
- Recognize that ‘sexual assault’ is atrociously present and even protected by the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act.
The report placed considerable responsibility on the government of India for infrastructure, law enforcement sensitization, safe-space facilities for women and victim conscious trial proceedings. Many of these proposals are yet to be implemented.
It is crucial that the Modi Government represents the concerns of 614.4 million others of my sex. As the promises of tangible trade and investment flow, commitment with equal profuse to a safer country for women should be just as significant.
A Civil Society United
An amazing collective on the issue of gender based violence continues to build, which is evolving activism as we know it in India. Transformative leadership amongst citizens, especially women, has united rights based organisations, individuals from all classes of society, youth, professionals, and experts within social justice structures to track any new changes in law and policy. This contribution is hugely beneficial to better understand the progressive solutions and whether they have sustainable impact. Special attention and support is critical in the rural areas of the nation, where women are marginalized and work in extremely insecure conditions. The government must acknowledge this and act on recommendations from civil society. The collaboration needs to be consistent, and with credit to the diverse movements of people all over the nation, there is an assertive demand for change and justice.
The responsibility of altering the narrative of India’s ‘rape culture’ is a shared one, that requires a necessity to introspect and legislate with acknowledgement that we have a key societal challenge to overcome. I would like to hope that in this case at least, my Prime Minister’s actions will mirror his statements. In his parting words at Madison Square Garden, Mr. Modi left us with:
“May the force be with you.”
My litany to him will be “And also with you!!”