What EXACTLY Are We Fighting For?

By Joanna Shruti Sundharam:

The brutal gangrape of the 23-year-old girl on December 16th has sparked off several protests in the capital and major cities across the country. The government had been turning a deaf ear towards several important issues like the safety of women, low conviction rates, outdated laws and incompetent officials. The tragic incident woke up the entire nation from a deep slumber. There is collective fire in the youth who have come out in thousands to show their support towards the rape survivor and protest against these issues. India Gate in Delhi was the epicentre of the protest, but due to pressure from the government it had to be shifted to Jantar Mantar road. Although the protests have received flak as they turned violent on several occasions, police vehicles were damaged and most recently the death of Constable Tomar due to a cardiac arrest supposedly caused because he was beaten by a blunt object by some protestors, the end is nowhere near.

Due to these incidents, the central issue is being overlooked. The protest is a peaceful ‘people’s protest’, with no political agenda and hence there is no central leadership. Several issues are being protested against at the same time, hence for the benefit of those who would like to know, here is list of the demands of the protestors. The list is by no means exhaustive, rather it gives a general idea of what we want and what is it that we are fighting for.

JUSTICE FOR WOMEN NOW! Not in a few days, weeks or months. Right NOW!

- Cases of crime against women, like rape, molestation etc. must be taken immediately to fast-track courts and prosecution must be time-bound. Proper procedures and protocols must be put in place to protect the victim from further indignities at the hands of lawyers etc, prevent witness harassment etc.

- The investigation undertaken by the police should be time bound. Strict action must be taken against the police officials if they fail to investigate the matter within the stipulated time.

- The victim, the family of the victim and also the witnesses involved in the cases must be given proper police protection.

- FIRs of all cases like rape, sexual assault, molestation, and crimes against women should be registered without any delay and victim-harassment. Protocols should be set as to how details must be taken to prevent any gender bias and harassment by the police officers. Officials who fail to abide by protocols must be punished severely.

- Presence of female police officers in each police station so that rape survivors or their families can share their story in a sensitized environment.

- Public places and public transport must be made safer for women. Eve teasing and leching etc. should be dealt with severely.

- Gender-just laws should be passed by the parliament. The bills on sexual assault and sexual harassment in the workplace must not be passed in their present form. The judicial commission must take on board the experience and representations of women, students and concerned individuals who have the experience of working on the issue of violence against women.

- Capital punishment for the perpetrators in brutal cases like that of the gangrape on December 16th, swift and severe punishment for eve teasers, molesters etc.

- Officials in public positions who indulge in victim-blaming must be made to resign. The Delhi Police Commissioner must step down.

- Police brutalities towards peaceful protestors must also be stopped immediately. The anti-social elements that indulge in violent activities must be targeted separately and removed from the protest.

Apart from these key demands there are several more like public hanging of the men responsible for the gangrape of the 23-year old, chemical and physical castration of sex offenders, resignation of the chief minister, prime minister etc. which are not supported fully by all sections of the protestors. In my personal opinion, the death penalty will not lead to more convictions or end rape and will not bring about gender-just laws. Statistics show that in cases which end with the death sentence take thrice as long as other cases. It may give us a moment of satisfaction but in the long run we need stricter laws, better officials to implement these laws and a judiciary which can take tough action against those who break the laws.

The Indian democracy has three pillars- the Legislative, Executive, and Judiciary. The job of the Legislative pillar is to frame appropriate laws, the Executive frames policies and procedures to implement the laws and also takes actions to promote welfare of the citizens and Judiciary ensures that the laws of the land are implemented whenever wrongdoing is reported. So until the three pillars are cleaned from the rust they have accumulated over the years, we the youth will continue to protest as this is what we are fighting for!

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