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Siddharth Chatterjee: A 3-Tiered Strategy to Stop Violence Against India’s Women and Girls

November 1, 2012

First, it is important to increase reporting of rape and assault. Across the world, rape is a generally underreported crime; this is all the more true in India. It is essential that women and children be educated on their rights on reporting of a violent act against them through an active social media campaign. Prosecution and strict legal action are likely to provide an important deterrent.

Second, it is absolutely vital that law enforcers are trained to react swiftly and with sensitivity to women and children who have been harassed, assaulted or raped. Sensitivity training and knowledge of the rights of women and children are another vital need and must be made mandatory for all law enforcement agencies.

Third, punishments need to be exemplary and widely covered in the media. There has to be a “shock and awe” campaign of zero tolerance of sex offenders and those who kill and violate women and children. Fast track courts should be established to ensure that the law is surgical and unrelenting in pursuing and ensuring that such offenders face the full force of justice, regardless of their rank and station.

Finally, a nationwide campaign is needed to reignite India’s core values and traditions that respect and nurture women and children. This can only be borne out of consensus in society. Awareness amongst men of the scope of this issue is critical. Men who turn a blind eye to such brutal acts in their own neighbourhoods, communities and families are just as culpable as those that perpetrate these acts. Action from courts and police will not suffice if the community remains defiantly opposed to change.

Siddharth Chatterjee is Chief Diplomat and Head of Strategic Partnerships & International Relations at the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).  The above is an excerpt from his article “Are Women Not Part of Our Being?” He tweets at @sidchat1. For more on him and his other writings click here.

16 Comments leave one →
  1. November 1, 2012 7:19 am

    We welcome your precious efforts!

    • November 2, 2012 5:47 am

      Thanks Girendra ji and I hope all men in India raise their voice against this insidious and tragic malice that has cursed our country.

  2. November 2, 2012 1:20 am

    Loved this post and agree with the first three. Not sure about reigniting traditional values that respect and nurture women and children – because these come with ‘conditions apply’. Traditionally rapes have been seen as the natural consequence for women who not follow tradition, like women who divorce, fall in love, travel alone etc.

    • November 2, 2012 5:38 am

      Thank you. When I talk about reigniting traditional values, I am talking about an India where the women and the child is treated with respect, with dignity and honoured. Indian Army battalions have battle cries which emphasizes our Godesses, such as , ” Durge Bhavani Ki Jai” and our homes are adorned with their images. It is mind boggling to read daily reports of sexual and gender violence in India. Our prosperity as a Nation state is not a measure of our GDP or percentage of economic growth, but defined by our human development and development of our human capital. Otherwise we are in an inexorable ethical and moral decline. I admire Rita Banerji’s efforts of fearlessly putting the spot light on this unfolding tragedy in India. Civil society is our great hope of reigniting those values.

    • November 7, 2012 5:34 am

      I agree with the Indian home-maker here on ‘tradition.’ It is always open to interpretation by different groups depending on how it suits them. FGM kills millions of little girls in Africa. That’s why law and order and human rights have to be socially recognized and upheld independently of religion and culture — that’s how I see it.

  3. November 2, 2012 2:02 pm

    This made a lot of sense! And as you said all goddess worshipping is in vain in a place where women are not treated with respect and honour! i follow you on twitter now! Would love to hear more of your views on this!

  4. Jane K permalink
    November 4, 2012 6:28 pm

    And what do you suggest regarding the use of sex-selection abortion? Do you support actions that will prevent an abortion being performed which is based solely on the baby being female? Or the abandonment or other manners of infanticide of female neonates?

    • November 7, 2012 5:32 am

      Jane, Almost all sex-selective abortions in India are forced. If women refuse to undergo these abortions they are battered, abused, and forced. If they don’t have the abortions they and their new born girls can get killed. That’s why India formed a law against sex-selective abortions — because it really is a form of system violence against girls and women. But like with all the other laws against dowry murders, infanticide, etc. this law is also not implemented. This is violence due to lawlessness and lack of government and political accountability. That’s at the campaign we are pushing for legal and political accountability — like it should be for all democracies. If law and order don’t work, and the police and courts are as good as non-existent, people in any democracy, even in the west, will take to willful and systemic violence towards groups they are prejudiced towards, as history repeatedly shows.

  5. Shilpi Mukherjee permalink
    November 4, 2012 8:21 pm

    Completely agree with these..Considering the rise in the huge number of cases, educationists can come up with a particular method of teaching that lays stress on the “respect women” philosophy , that must not be difficult to enforce or very expensive.. Also fast track courts should be established , which allows the guilty to be punished within the time that it is fresh in the minds of the people.. I wonder why the government doesn’t do any of them.. also specially designed under cover agents could be used to find out the potential criminals, and punish them before the commit the act

  6. November 5, 2012 1:36 am

    Hi Siddharth, thank you for this article. I agree with you. However, i think that your point about men is too far down the list. The priority should be to symaltaniously empower men in the women’s empowerment process, not as perpetrators, but as a positive force and resource.

    Why? The biggest risk to our common goal of ending violence against women is that men are not currently part of the popular solutions, despite being at the root of the problem. Not all men are violent or perpetrators. But all men can be part of the solution, yet our research shows that fewer than 5% of all organisations that share this goal engage men in any formal manner.

    If men are not empowered, then:
    1. We are not tackling this problem at its root – we continue to treat the symptoms; an inefficient model by anyone’s books.
    2. We are not mobilising 50% of the grass roots community as a resource for women’s empowerment. A wasted opportunity.

    If we do empwoer men, can we accelerate progress to women’s equality by a factor of four? We have a model backed by circumstantial evidence that indicates a woman could experience 50% less violence and a doubling of women’s empowerment resources if men are empowered, (based on a theoretical model and 3 years of field work).

    I founded and continue to run Equal Community Foundation ( We believe that women and girls in India will continue to face violence until men are engaged as part of the popular solution to women’s empowerment. Our mission is to develop, prove and scale programmes that empower men to empower women. Comments welcome


  7. November 5, 2012 6:15 am

    Also Siddarth, please would you consider contributing to a piece of formal academic research we are conducting at ECF? The study is asking experienced professionals the question: “What practical strategies would you employ to ensure that every man in India has the opportunity to study and practice gender equitable behavior?”. I can send you more details if you would consider this?!?
    Best, Will

  8. emery permalink
    November 6, 2012 10:47 pm

    one thing that has always been missing from this discussion is the role of religious leaders. as it stands right now they are a major part of the problem because many of them say these practices are ok. but if they could be convinced to stand against such practices it would go a long way towards solving this problem. this goes for all religious leaders weather they are Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Cristian, or Buddhist.

  9. November 7, 2012 4:25 am

    Will, Shilpi and Jane, thank you for your comments and all very helpful. Jane any form of sex selective abortion is wrong and the Government has legislated laws banning this. What remains at the heart of the matter is a change of mind set. Till such time women are seen by their own communities and families as a liability I am afraid no law will be strong enough to prevent it. Punishments for breaking the law must be terrifying, but an equally important initiative of changing mind sets has to be put in place. Remember China and the ‘foot binding story’ and how that horrifying practice was stopped. And Shilpi as I said this is something that the Government and law enforcement cannot do on their own. The strongest force of positive change is India’s vibrant and highly talented civil society. Awareness needs to start at homes, in communities and schools. What lies at the heart of this is affirmative action. And Will yes, you are absolutely right, and I am happy to contribute to your study.

  10. Dipasri Konar permalink
    November 7, 2012 5:05 pm

    Indian core values and traditions teach society that the sum total of a woman before marriage is her hymen and after, her ability to beget sons. To reignite this tradition is equivalent to igniting our own pyres. The concept of womanhood and its value in Indian society is beautifully penned down in the song ” aurat ne janam diya mardon ko” by Sahir Ludhianvi.
    Please spare us the burden of deitification. It sounds like the muslim bigots who want to fool us by claiming that a piece of clothing can make a woman divine. We do not want to live by the unreasonable code of morality imposed upon us by men to control us. On earth we want to live as fellow humans with equal rights. The only thing we want from men who think otherwise is that-
    ” if you refuse to walk to walk beside us, GET OUT OF OUR WAY”.

  11. Anna permalink
    April 3, 2013 6:57 pm

    Very well said “Siddharth Chatterjee”. Keep up the good work. I have been seeing your other articles on gender, women’s rights, police reforms etc.

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