Do We Need Public Service Announcements About Sexual Abuse And Rape?

IJMEditor’s Note: This post is a part of #ViolenceNoMore, a campaign by International Justice Mission and Youth Ki Awaaz to fight against daily violence faced by marginalised communities. Speak out against systemic violence by publishing a story here.

One (wo)man’s rape culture is another man’s political agenda

In April 2018, India was awakened to the reports of a charge sheet being filed in a part of the country most people knew nothing about. Suddenly, Jammu was thrown into the limelight for its proximity to a small village where a heinous crime shocked the nation. The people of India were catapulted into a panic-driven, emotional frenzy of candlelight marches and national debates about the sorry state of affairs we had found ourselves in.

The charge sheet outlined the unimaginable horrors a child had to endure at the hands of men, some of whom had been commissioned to protect and serve this country.

Protest march against Kathua rape case

She was not only raped and sedated but brutally murdered in the woods, after being held captive and gang-raped by eight men for several days. Her distraught parents who had been looking for her for days had even circled the temple where she was being held captive but decided not to look for her there. They assumed that the temple being a holy place could not possibly be the location of their missing eight-year-old daughter.  

In the aftermath of this crime, India was in pain. Pained by the suffering of a child, by the trauma of her family, and pained by the support given to the rapists by politicians and right-wing nationalists. This is just one example of an incident that has seared itself into the minds of conscious Indians. Perhaps it was the age of the victim and the professional positions of the perpetrators that made this particular crime stand out from the rest. Perhaps it was India awakening from a deep slumber.

As we battled the scorching summer heat in April, many Indians began questioning where our country went wrong and how we failed to protect our women and children. Over the last couple of years, gangrape has (unfortunately) become a household word in India, and more recently, the Metoo movement has found its way to our country, shining a bright light on the injustices that women have to face in professional spaces throughout our nation. As a result, women have been exposing men in power and narrating their harrowing accounts of abuse at the hands of men who worked alongside them.

In the wake of these confessions, our Government, our lawmakers are silent. They watch from their privileged seats of honour as women are debased and disrespected, silently hoping that this phase of women’s empowerment will quickly move on like a grey cloud on a sunny day. As a country, we are adept at gaslighting serious problems; believing that if we ignore something long enough, it will cease to exist. But, you cannot hide the truth, it exists in the minds of survivors, in the voices of the wronged, in the echoes left behind by the women who are fighting for justice. The truth is recorded and cannot be washed away no matter how successfully you ignore it.

Consider These Statistics:

  • In 2016, India recorded 106 rapes a day (That’s 42340 women raped in one year)
  • 116 were girls in the age-group of 0 to 12 years
  • In 94.6% of cases, offenders were known to the rape victims including neighbours, family members, relatives, husband/live-in partner, employer/co-worker etc.
  • Across India, one in four rape trials leads to a conviction
  • In February 2016, a woman within hours of giving birth by C-section was raped in a hospital near New Delhi.
  • In 2015, the Government of India banned a documentary about the brutal gangrape of a young woman in the nation’s capital

In a country where the nation’s politicians condition people to blame the victim; where coercing your wife into sex is legal; where religious texts glorify rape; where women are systematically weakened by sexist traditions and societal pressures, should we be shocked by 42340 rapes in one year? They are simply a representation of an infected society and a broken system.

Since this has clearly become such a massive thorn in India’s social condition, why aren’t we developing government sanctioned awareness programmes to tackle this festering social issue?

Isn’t It Time For Social Awareness?

Our health ministry will spend crores of their budget on no smoking ads and public service announcements, and disturbing interruptions at movie theatres and on TV screens. The question I’d like to ask today is, why don’t we have PSAs about sexual abuse and rape? Why not interrupt movies on the big screen and small screen to warn Indian men of the penalties and punishments associated with these heinous crimes? Let’s go one step further, why not make ads with graphic images of what rape does to the insides of a woman’s body, just as we subject our audiences to graphic images of the after-effects of tobacco?

Smoking is an individual choice, and yet we are so empowered to stop people and so concerned about the harmful effects of this habit. Why then are we not equally concerned about the safety, health, and security of the women in our country? Why don’t we want to teach men to take responsibility for their actions?

Why can’t we have billboards and short films and advertisements and flyers about how not to rape a woman or why not to rape a woman?

Eight months ago, throngs of people in Jammu were protesting and trying to deter the police from filing a complaint against a group of rapists who tortured a young child. Is this the new norm?

What has become evident is that India is leaving behind a legacy, a legacy of how it treats its women and children and how it protects and supports its rapists. We are a proud country, one that has used our subjugation at the hands of the British for a few centuries as an excuse for everything from being economically backward to being religiously polarised. Today, whom are we going to blame for our increasing crime rates and the sickening popularity of gang raping? And when is our government going to find a voice against it?

What policy reforms do you think would help eliminate instances of daily violence and improve access to justice in India? Send us your suggestions and we’ll take a manifesto to the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. Let’s spark the change together!

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