Act now to prevent violence against women
According to the crime database of the Home Ministry, crime against women rose steadily by a total of 50% since 2005. Women all over the country are facing incredible violence in all social strata. This is the time to act.
- President of India
PETITION TO THE PRESIDENT OF INDIA
Honourable President of India:
Drawing inspiration from the life and works of Swami Vivekananda, we petition you to enable people of India prevent violence against women in our country. In this petition, we have outlined our suggested principles.
Swami Vivekananda regarded “neglect of the masses” and “neglect of women” as the two causes for the “downfall of India."
The barbaric gang rape of a 23-year old woman in New Delhi on December 16, 2012, and her subsequent death have shocked India and people of Indian origin worldwide. According to the crime database of the Home Ministry, crime against women rose steadily by a total of 50% since 2005 while others have fallen. In an otherwise developing Indian economy, this stands embarrassingly odd against the developed world.
In the light of these developments, we remember the words of Swami Vivekananda, whose birth anniversary falls this year and you have been a champion of his actions. In spirit, we ask: what would Vivekananda do about it had he been here with us today?
We believe that he would ask India to wake up to restore the honour of her women, and ask the leaders missionaries to combat violence against women (VAW) as one of their priorities. With that faith (this is a belief, not vision), more than 750 of us from all over the world have committed ourselves to seek and find ways to reverse this embarrassing trend. We trust your commitment to this cause and offer you our preliminary analysis and recommendations as a part of various solutions that you may find to be appropriate.
As the chair of the Implementation Committee for celebrating 150th birth anniversary of Vivekananda, we also trust you to lead India toward that mission. Sir Winston Churchill said ’’A politician has next election in mind, but a statesman has next generation in mind.’’ We believe that you have that vision. We therefore entreat you to start the process of change that will make India an exceptional nation in the world. We the undersigned, humbly and sincerely request you
• To call for a national dialogue to strengthen legislations relating to sexual violence and enforcement thereof,
• To launch a nationwide campaign to reform the public education program making gender sensitization and sex education compulsory, and
• To call for a society-wide dialogue involving religious and social leaders to initiate a societal change for accepting women’s autonomy and women’s freedom.
To facilitate those national dialogues we provide below a list of recommendations we earnestly request your urgent consideration. We feel that in India, the causes of VAW are deeply entrenched in our collective psyche, and pervade the political, judicial, social, and religious institutions. We call for a significant increase in women’s participation in legislative bodies, judiciary, police force, healthcare, education, and media.
1. Revise rape laws – Sections 375 and 376 of the Indian Penal Code – for better enforcement and to meet international standards to ensure:
a. Marital rape as a criminal offence
b. All laws pertaining to sexual harassment and rape should be gender neutral
c. No clauses should give full and uncontrolled powers to judges undermining the effectiveness of the punishment
d. The minimum sentence for child abuse by family members should be no less than 14 years.
e. Suspend all national and state lawmakers who are facing prosecution for crimes against women.
2. Ensure strict implementation of law & order
a. Revamp the current procedures at the police stations to ensure immediate registration of FIR for all sexual offences
b. Ensure fast track judicial procedures for all crimes against women
c. Implement immediate changes in Police training programs to ensure gender sensitivity
d. Increase the number of women in the police force not only for patrolling but also as first responders in VAW related incidents
e. Impose zero tolerance for police misconducts and interference of political parties in police procedures
3. Encourage the Indian Judicial Body To:
a. Set exemplary punishments for a heinous crime involving rape and to ask the lawmakers to enact legislation with urgency so that juveniles can be tried as "adults" in "rarest of rare" cases.
b. Suspend all national and state lawmakers who are facing prosecution for crimes against women.
4. Ensure Safer Mobility of Women by
a. Urging the corporate sector to ensure safety for its female employees, especially when working late hours
b. Implementing Vishakha Guidelines against sexual harassment at workplace
c. Making it obligatory for all transport operators to carry ID badges and to undergo proper background checks in hiring and granting of licenses
d. Defining a major investment program for upgrading the transport infrastructure in India
e. Operating more female-only transportation and enforcement of rules, e.g., no male passenger, especially at night
5. Use modern technology to detect, prevent and treat VAW and, in particular:
a. Use modern technology, especially video surveillance, in all public places for detection and prevention of all law infractions;
b. Modernize the police information system to receive and process surveillance data for rapid reaction;
c. Install “panic” buttons in all public places to ensure speedy police intervention;
d. Create 911 style emergency response infrastructures at all levels;
e. Create a mobile service to report, by text, voice and video, the safety conditions in a particular location and integrate with GIS database to map crime zones. The information should be available on the internet;
f. Register all perpetrators of VAW in a public registry, accessible over the web containing the current and past addresses of the offender, and the nature of the felony;
g. Make criminal data available to the public immediately upon conviction.
6. Address the issue of “missing women” by taking measures including:
a. Outlaw gender screening and impose heavy penalty on the clinics and practitioners who do them and take other necessary measures to prevent female foeticide.
b. Make maltreatment of girls a punishable offence.
c. Prevent the widespread trafficking of women by strict law enforcement and exemplary punishment.
d. Enforce the anti-dowry act at all levels of the society and impose maximum punishment in dowry deaths.
7. Ensure a fair and respectful representation of women in media by:
a. Launching public awareness campaigns and other interventions on mass media to promote respect for women and to combat violence against women.
b. Define specific policies to ensure a full and fair representation of women in all public media.
c. Empower the Indian Censor Board to censor negative representation of women in films, television programs and advertisements.
8. Incorporate gender equality in educational curriculum at all levels and take effective measures to promote:
a. Free and compulsory education for all.
b. Co-educational schools and conduct feasibility studies on making such schools mandatory.
c. Sex-Education as part of the curriculum no later than grade VI and make it mandatory at the secondary level.
d. A parity of teachers of BOTH genders in ALL schools.
e. Art of self-defense compulsory both for girls and boys.
f. Immediate action if a child is sexually abused on the school premises or in the school bus.
9. Ensure economic empowerment of women by:
a. Allotting at least 10% of the total budget for funding for combating VAW at all levels of the government.
b. Creating and run one women’s centre for each Panchayat and municipality.
c. Appointing magistrates dedicated to deal with VAW (criminal offences) at the block or sub-division level to fast track justice
d. Supporting NGOs to empower and counsel women, including rape victims.
e. Investing in child care centers to support the working mothers.
f. Extending property inheritance rights to women.
10. Promote women’s autonomy in religion and society by:
a. Forming a national council comprising of the heads or representatives of major religions and religious organizations to discuss ways to improve women’s lives;
b. Calling for a National Dialogue to Build a Consensus of all Stakeholders to follow a set of moral codes to promote respect for women;
c. Emulate UN’s “Safe and Friendly Cities for All” program for different parts of India as a joint initiative involving local municipalities, women’s groups, child and youth advocates;
d. Encourage religious and social organizations to prevent VAW through economic incentives (grants, tax reliefs);
e. Discourage strongly the activities of ‘Khap Panchayats’ transgressing laws, such as “honor killings.”
f. Create government programs to incentivize female offspring and prevent child marriages through long-term financial planning and education/healthcare benefits.
11. Promote counseling and rehabilitation for VAW victims by
a. Supporting screening programmes at the levels of Primary Health Care Centers for early detection of VAW and required help;
b. Arranging for shelter based interventions following violence;
c. Establishing and ensuring guidelines and principles for counseling and rehabilitation both for the client and the care giver;
d. Including spirituality training in recovery process from VAW;
e. Establishing telephone hotlines for women and men for all forms of violence;
f. Establishing Rape Crisis Intervention Centers outside the nation’s capital and ensure the availability of local female police force to coordinate activities when responding to sexual violence.
12. Promote Sensititvity and Respect for Women among Political Institutions by
a. Asking all national and state lawmakers who are facing prosecution for crimes against women to resign.
b. Extending the women’s reservation bill to other parts of the political spectra.
c. Ensuring greater women participation in the political structure, including panchayats and municipalities, and greater participation of youth in the electoral process.
d. Urging legislative, judiciary and law and order renounce their unholy nexus and serve only as the “eyes and ears” of the law-abiding citizens. The honest media should participate in lending voice and sight to the social movement.
e. Seeking partnership between the government, the academia and national and international organizations like us.
To sum up our petition we reiterate our commitment to support you in building a new India toward fulfilling Swami Vivekanada’s mission of empowering women, which India aspiring for a distinctive place in the world cannot afford to neglect any more.
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