Violence against women: IMC meet highlights issues  

Mumbai: The IMC Chamber of Commerce and Industry organised an event on Thursday at Churchgate, wherein eminent personalities from different professions suggested plans to mitigate violence against women.

Ten leading speakers raised serious concerns over the rising cases of violence against women in the country. IMC President Ashish Vaid was one of the speakers and he raised a point

over how in India people worship deities in the female form — goddess Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati, but still there are increased cases of violence reported against women.

Furthermore, he mentioned the Western influence, lesser percentage of women taking secondary education, movies, wrong content available on the internet easily and breakdown of family values as some of the causes for violence against women.

Analysing these points Vaid said, “To mitigate violence against women, our social fabric should be strong, instead of blaming others for influencing us. Maturity is needed to accept what is right and disregard the rest.

Moreover, focus is needed to provide equal opportunities to women at work and social media. Secondary education should provide subjects like moral science and counselling for both young girls and boys. Besides these, movies depicting violence against women and wrong content on internet need to be censored.” 

Similarly, Preeti Mehta, President of the Rotary Club of Bombay and a qualified solicitor from Mumbai and England, stressed on the subject of providing sex education in schools. She spoke about the importance of sex education as an awareness tool to fight violence against women.

“It is a responsibility to educate the youth with the power of knowledge to protect them from sexual abuse. Moreover, sex education programmes need the collaboration of psychological experts who can address behavioural delinquencies and help to find an effective way to transcript the need for sexual responsibilities.”

Speaking on the process of criminal trial, Mehta said that handling the cases of violence against women with care is essential along with preserving the evidence. Having a well-integrated team of prosecutors, experts, judges and fast-track courts will ensure higher conviction rates and fairness in the prosecution of perpetrators. 

Nirupama Subramanian, Resident Editor of the Indian Express, raised her concerns over the violence against women that is widespread in different countries.

She pointed out that in some countries this problem is treated as a public health issue, because it entails much in terms of health costs — depression, societal feelings, legal cost, law enforcement and social cost among all.

While speaking on the power of social media to mitigate violence against women, Ashish Bhasin, president of the Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI) stated,

"We are completely underestimating the power of social media. We are not realising how much it could influence or make a difference in our lives." Further taking the reference of recent Disha rape case of Hyderabad and the alleged encounter of the rapists done by the police, Bhasin stressed that the encounter was conducted only because of the power of social media.

The way the social media had created pressure on the system across the nation, called out for such an action. Bhasin said "People have doubts on real media or the traditional media because they feel it is inclined towards one party, but at the same time we are so influenced by WhatsApp and the tweets, which is people have shifted their focus on social media platforms.

Therefore, I recommend a centralised platform of Twitter should be created. For instance, five different city police should be associated so that if a woman in a particular city puts out a message saying "I am in distress" it can immediately be addressed."

Further pointing out that violence happens only because the first signs of it are neglected and due to which people get encouraged like if a girl is eve-teased outside her college the first sign is ignoring it.

Taking the example of New York's Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who successfully cleared out the crime in the city, also mentioned in his book 'Leadership,' Bhasin said,

"The Mayor successfully managed to remove crime by first attacking the most visible crime on every street corner. It's like our children --if we let them get away with something which is wrong, they will be encouraged and do it more often.

So right from the beginning when a guy whistling at women, outside her college, which is not yet violence or which is not severe he dared over is addressed publicly with a strong reaction, it will discourage the man.

It is important that in such cases, a woman or any other in public should take his photograph and put it on social media on the centralised twitter handle-- through the powerful tool mobile phone, which every individual carries in their pocket, one can see its results.

"He further suggested that social groups like Rotary clubs, if collaborated with these social media platforms, the club has volunteers' in every city and state across India can help in taking action against such people successfully.

There will be a revolution in just 30 seconds only because of social media platforms like Twitter or Facebook or any other social media. Because "name and shame" is very necessary to stop or curb violence against women.

D Sivanandan, former Director General Police (DGP) of Maharashtra, stressed more on the importance of critical thinking and how it can help to mitigate the violence against women.

Talking about the BBC report, published on November 7 this year, he said, the report mentions that over 32,559 cases of rape were reported in India. According to these figures, there are almost 90 rape cases registered on a daily basis, which raises an alarm, he said.

The former DGP pointed out, in 2012 after the Nirbhaya rape case, the culprits were punished with hanged till death judgment, however, they are yet to be hanged. While the accused still live despite their heinous crime, its consequence was seen in the Hyderabad's Disha's rape case, wherein the accused were killed in an encounter.

"Whenever there is an agitation, there is a fast judgment," Sivanandan said. Taking examples of last few rape cases which touched people's chords he spoke on legal remedies -- the police, the prosecutors, judges, forensic, all these need to be strengthened.

He also said that ever since the prosecution has been bifurcated from the Police, the conviction ratio/ rate has slid down to eight percent from 38 percent. Even in the rape cases, the conviction rate is as a low as 27 percent, while in 97 per cent of cases the victims know their rapists. Justification for low conviction can be made only in three percent cases, where rapists are unknown and they are violent ones --like in the recent Hyderabad rape case.

Therefore, instead of spending on other wanted and unwanted things, we should focus our finances on strengthening our judicial system. "Since lakhs of cases are pending in the courts, its disposal will take another 300 hundred years. In the infamous case of rash-driving of Bollywood actor Salman Khan, how many years did it take to prove that the car was driven by a driver? It took 20 years, so how do we tackle the long list of pending cases is mentioned by Justice T.S Thakur, retired chief justice of India who questioned if the courts can work more? As per the study, the Supreme Court works only 193 days a year.

Can we curtail the British era timetable and hire more judges, holidays can be reduced along with providing all amenities to the judges so that they can work on the pendency of cases, suggested Sivanandan. Another thing is fast-tracking all court matters, Sivanandan stated, "I don't mind fast-tracking all court but the conviction or acquittal in the case should not be after 20 years.

The alleged accused man or victim has spent 20 years in jail. Since no one can give them back the years spent in jail. Therefore, fast-tracking does not mean just the fast-track court, but all courts have to be fast-tracked and it can be done by making it compulsory for lawyers to attend the court hearings and the adjournments have to come down. Also in every week or every ten days, the particular case has to be closed by the particular bench of the court."

He also mentioned that during his posting, he had recruited maximum female constables. He also spoke about multiple women safety applications that are not helping. Therefore, one single app should be developed to get the best result of action against the accused.

Wide legal publicity should be given on subjects like acid attack, rape and stern action taken against the accused. Moreover, a one-stop centre should be set up, which could help women in every possible way. Besides this, the parliamentary meeting and home affairs should take human safety on a mission mode.

Nandini Dias, Chief Executive Officer of India Lodestar UM spoke about the complicated infrastructure wherein it becomes difficult for a women to gather the courage to reach out to the authorities.

"A single place should be setup so that many problems are heard and resolved at that single place itself. Women should not be made to run from pillar to post, trying to tell people what happened to her.

If the problems are reported and resolved under a single roof, many victims will come forward and report their agony of harassment. Moreover, it will also enable us to build a pressure on system should, in taking quick action."

Taking reference of Mumbai's Aruna Shanbaug rape case, wherein the accused roamed scot-free for 30 years, Nandini asserted, this would not have been the case had the government set up a one stop centre.

She also stressed on creating greater awareness over what is wrong and right. Referring to a survey about women, wherein they were asked if your husband beats you, surprisingly 67 per cent of the respondents asserted, but the astonishing part was that they further justified their partner's act.

This is where the awareness is needed to distinguish, what is okay and what is not. Nandini also mentioned about the ripping off the ancient cultural practices and the need for educating the youth over subjects like what is right and what is wrong, to both the genders equally.

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