Gender-based violence around the world is not uncommon, even in the modern age. In India in particular, cases of violence or abuse against women have lately begun galvanizing the public and pushing law enforcement into action.
This past month, three men in Mumbai were arrested for stabbing a woman in public view. The woman, Riya Gautam, was a 21-year-old aspiring flight attendant who had known her attacker previously but had begun to ignore and distance herself from him. Bothered by her indifference, the attacker, Adil Banne Khan, stalked Gautam, followed her into a shop when she tried to escape him, and then stabbed her multiple times. Gautam died of her injuries the next day. A CCTV recording of the incident aided police in finding the accused and his associates, arresting them, and charging Khan with murder. According to police records, Khan had allegedly assaulted Gautam on a crowded bus in March, and Gautam had filed a complaint against Khan in April, but he had fled to Gujarat once police raided his home.
In the past, prominent cases of gender-based violence have stirred up politics and the justice system in India. The 2012 Delhi Gang Rape, as it has become known, raised international awareness due to the brutality of the crime and the frequency with which similar crimes had been ignored. A young physiotherapy intern named Jyoti Singh, nicknamed Nirbhaya or “fearless” by the public, was gang-raped and tortured on a bus by six men, including one juvenile. She later died of her injuries. The tragic incident spurred public protests, international reactions, new legislation, and even a Nirbhaya Fund established by the government.
However, the increased publicity and public awareness of gender-based violence has come nowhere near solving the problem in its entirety. Only recently, on May 5th, were the appeals of the guilty party of the 2012 Delhi Gang Rape finally rejected, and their death sentences upheld. Furthermore, between 2005 and 2014, 2.24 million crimes against women were reported in India. In 2014, just two years after the world heard about Jyoti Singh’s case, the cases of reported gender-based violence in India increased by 9%. Many other cases, of course, remain unreported, a reflection of the social attitudes toward women and the deep instillment of patriarchal values.
Continuous awareness and justice for these cases of violence are important, but so are other movements that directly tackle the issue of gender equality overall. Organizations like Women in Security, Conflict Management and Peace (WISCOMP), established by the Dalai Lama’s fund, have worked to establish gender equality, coexistence, and nonviolence in South Asia. Research and reports have been conducted by various institutes and agencies to analyze the role of men and boys in violence, as well as the influence of traditional caste systems and poverty in specific regions.
India and the rest of the world need to do more in order to combat and eradicate gender-based violence. Although legal justice for women such as Riya Gautam and Jyoti Singh thankfully is becoming more common in India, true justice would mean no gender-based violence and no deaths of innocent women in the first place.
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