Last Sunday, thousands of protestors throughout India marched through the streets to demand an end to the rising sexual violence against women and children within the country. The recent nationwide protests held throughout New Delhi, Mumbai, and several other cities had been incited by the gang-rape and brutal murder of an 8-year-old girl, Asifa Bano, who had been murdered inside a temple in the Jammu area of the Indian controlled portion of Kashmir.
“Punish the guilty” was the unified chant on Sunday according to India’s NDTV, where protestors heavily criticised both the Indian police for slow and corrupt investigations and the government for shielding rapists. Asifa Bano’s case has received mass attention as lawyers tired to prevent state police from filing a charge file last week. One of the accused was also a police officer. Protestors have also expressed anger and disgust at India’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), who organised rallies in defence of the accused. Asifa Bano was from the Bakerwal Muslim community, whereas the accused are Hindu. The BJP have received major criticism in the past few months, just as in June last year when a BJP legislator had been accused of raping a 16-year-old girl in the Unnao district of Utter Pradesh. According to Times Now, Indian singer and producer, Vishal Dadlani joined the Sunday protests and stated, “As long as there are people in power who protect rapists, this will never stop.” Furthermore, Alijazeera News report that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has promised justice for victims, but many critics are condemning his promise as “too little, too late.”
The combined ongoing lack of action by police and government support for accusers shows that an obscured rape-culture has embodied itself into the Indian justice system. Despite tougher laws enacted in 2013, India’s justice system is failing its women and children, as it does not enforce its laws and policies to protect victims of sexual violence. India should consider the creation of a fast-track court system dedicated to dealing with the immense number of rape cases, and should also provide training for workers within the justice system to ensure that they understand the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2013 and the rights of sexual violence survivors. Furthermore, amending legislation is insufficient, and the Indian government should also gather and evaluate data on sexual and gender-based violence in order to obtain a cohesive perspective on the progress being made and what more needs to be done.
Despite the enactment of the Criminal Law (Amendment Act) in 2013, violent and sexual crimes against women have been on the rise in India. In 2012, thousands of protestors demanded for stricter rape laws due to the gang-rape and death of a young women in New Delhi. Legislators acted quickly due to the widespread protests by doubling the prison terms for rapists to 20 years and criminalising the voyeurism, stalking, and trafficking of women. Despite the amended laws, the National Crime Records Bureau data for 2016 showed that the rape of children in India has increased by 82 percent compared with 2015.
India has made efforts to fight against the violent and sexual crimes against its women and children. However, as stated above, amending legislation is not enough. On top of that, a change of mindset needs to occur within India’s justice and government systems. Rather than protecting the accused, Indian lawmakers and enforcers need to uphold the amended laws and seek justice for the victims and survivors of sexual violence.
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