On January 30, 2018, an 8-month-old baby was raped by her 28-year-old married cousin in Delhi. The Delhi Commission of Women (DCW) Chairperson Swati Maliwal immediately went to the hospital where she heard the horrific cries of the 8-month-old who went through three hours of surgery. The incident shook the DCW chief who decided not to go home and has been working from her office ever since. On February 13, she started the Rape Roko Movement to demand immediate action against the growing rape epidemic in this country.
Swati Maliwal made news for the first time when people saw her being brutally beaten by policemen during the 2012 Nirbhaya protests. She’s been working for years on the ground on women-related and community issues. In July 2015, she took the position of the chairperson of DCW and turned around the institution from a parking lot for politicians into a place where women come to find justice. Her tireless work can be gauged by the fact that in just the last year, DCW handled 12,000 cases related to women.
According to the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), crimes against Indian children has risen by 300% since 2009. The crimes include the marriage of minor girls, kidnapping and abduction, selling of minors for prostitution, and sexual violence. In Delhi alone, six women and three children are raped daily. No wonder Delhi has the dubious sobriquet of “Rape Capital”. The situation is dire.
The Rape Roko Movement demands swift adjudication for child rape cases and the strictest punishments for rape convicts within six months. To achieve this, fast track courts must be established where cases must be heard on a daily basis.
The movement demands the hiring of 66,000 police personnel which has been requested by the Delhi Police for the last 10 years. Along with this, the digitisation of the police infrastructure to aid transparency is extremely necessary.
The demands also include setting up of state-of-the-art forensic labs and strengthening the prosecution departments to deal with rape cases effectively. The ₹3,000 crores, lying unused for the last five years in Nirbhaya fund, should be utilised for the funding of the above demands.
The Rape Roko Movement is already gathering immense support on the ground as well as online since its initiation on February 13. Singer Caralisa Montero is creating the anthem and has gathered the support of renowned artists like Shankar Mahadevan, Luke Kenny, Anushka Manchanda, Mahalaxmi Iyer, Farhan Akhtar. The anthem will be released on March 8, which is the International Women’s Day.
On March 8, the movement will come together at 9.30 AM at Connaught Place in Delhi to raise the demands with the Indian government. As of now, more than 1.25 lakh letters have been addressed to the Prime Minister of India. The letter to the PM can be sent online on www.raperoko.org/letter-to-pm. Many individuals have sent personal letters with stories of their own assault, and many others have expressed fear for their child’s safety.
It is high time for the national and state governments to make this issue a priority. The statistics are extremely dire; the safety of our children is the responsibility of every member of the society. The obligation to demand a safe and secure nation for our most vulnerable citizens is on all us. Come join Rape Roko.
If you are a survivor, parent or guardian who wants to seek help for child sexual abuse, or know someone who might, you can dial 1098 for CHILDLINE (a 24-hour national helpline) or email them at email@example.com. You can also call NGO Arpan on their helpline 091-98190-86444, for counselling support.