It is a week of emphatic speeches, from President Obama on America’s future, Prime Minister David Cameron on Europe’s future, and Justice VS Verma on India’s future.
Make no mistake, some of the suggestions from the report are as bold as its conclusions are damning. Condemning the apathy of those who passed by the gangrape victim that prompted the commission, the inaction of police and government, and the snail’s pace of the judiciary, Justice Verma didn’t hold back.
More than 80,000 suggestions were made to the commission, and basic conclusions such as removing laws protecting army personnel, stopping dowry, and developing a new medical protocol for rape are essential. Effectively implementing existing laws should be the commitment of every politician, public safety official and member of the judiciary must become an immediate culture change across the country.
There is no blame of women in what I have seen of the report so far. Plenty of men like to do so because no man wants to admit he can’t control his own mind from recognising the difference between right and wrong. Rape isn’t a question of libido, it’s an abuse of power and a crime of violence. Those guilty of the crime need to get back in control of their heads, and society needs to act when they don’t.
“Why not ensure the root cause is prevented? Have a safe environment so that such incidents don’t take place,” said Justice Verma. “The committee hopes that the concern shown by the government will not wane with the passage of time.”
Now it is for people to ensure politicians do not back off. Rarely do political parties fight elections on principle. Sure, they claim they do, but really there are mere talking points and suggestions to appeal to their base of supporters, while watering them down enough to attract others.
Overhauling and modernising the policing and judicial efficiency on rape cases now must be a fight of principle. Either a politician works to make India better, or they don’t get elected. Make it a “red-line” issue.
Yes, there will be nuances within the report that will require financial investment, education, legislative tweaks and other adjustments. But the changes must be minor, and the commitment major.
Every time a woman or any individual is raped – and it is impressive to see Justice Verma acknowledge “men, bisexuals and transgenders” – we have to ask why. When the frequency of rape and gangrape is so high, that question becomes more urgent.
Any politician, at any level of state, can easily commit to working to bring about the recommendations of Justice Verma. There can be little or no hesitation on any of the key points of the Justice Verma Report. Tackling trafficking of children, addressing violence against women in conflict areas, significantly reducing the length of time cases take to get through courts – these are basic but incredibly important changes. They will make a difference, if politicians commit to them.
There has been plenty of talk about rape and violence against women since the outrage of the attack against and subsequent death of a 23-year-old student. If those seeking elected office can’t commit to making India a safer and more mature country, if they can’t sign a pledge to see this report made a reality, then they have little business earning votes.
Politicians can argue after other issues, but on violence against women, they must act as one. And wider society must hold leaders to that higher standard, as well as meeting that standard itself.