DESPITE numerous initiatives and projects to ‘empower’ women, the number of cases of violence against women that are reported are disturbingly high. Women’s safety and security situation has taken an endemic turn and was violent in May. According to an Odhikar report, as New Age reported on Saturday, at least 77 women were raped in May and six of the victims were killed. A total of 295 incidents of rape occurred in the first five months of 2017 and 22 women were victims of violence related to dowry. Of them, 11 were killed and one committed suicide. Except for the much publicised cases, the conviction rate is alarmingly low in cases related to gender violence. It is unimaginable that less than 2 per cent of rape cases filed in the past five years have ended in conviction. According to police data, 18,668 rape cases were filed in the past five years and there were only 22 convictions. Even a cursory inspection of this scenario suggests that behind the rhetoric of women’s empowerment, there remains a reality in which the government and all concerned failed to ensure women’s safety and lacked political commitment.
It is of urgent need that the government and other authorities responsible for preventing sexual violence should abandon their superficial approach and take a deeper look at the cause of the problem and identify the link between aggression and state apparatuses of social and political power. Different human rights groups have repeatedly drawn connection between the low conviction rate and increasing number of such crimes. In the face of series of cases of violent attack on women by men in political power, civil society organisations demanded a change in the political culture that is dependent on, and encourages, male aggression. The most recent case of the Banani rape is illustrative of this point in which financially and politically influential perpetrators abused the legal system to aim for impunity. Social scientists and researchers working on gender-based violence observed a relationship between everyday gender inequality and moment of heightened violence. The government’s much celebrated campaign for women’s empowerment, therefore, continues to remain an empty rhetoric and does very little to make a change in the current scenario for foundational changes in society.
While the government should address the wider problem of patriarchal insincerity and masculine political culture infesting the system, the women’s rights organisations and civil society bodies must also leave their foreign-funded routine activities that are more performative and oriented towards producing project output than preventing male violence against women. To take the government to task and to bring perpetrators of gender violence to justice, there is no alternative to historically situated women’s movement.
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