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RapeRoko - Join the fight or risk being reduced to a statistic

Story is written by Vijaya Nadar

It is more than five years since the brutal Nirbhaya/Jyoti rape incident in a public transport in Delhi, caused extreme outrage amongst Indians back home and abroad, but her helpless parents still continue to await justice. In April this year, yet another rape, this time of a innocent eight year old girl Asifa, from Kathua, Jammu seized international attention.

The rape case helped the chief of the Delhi Commission of Women (DCW) Swati Maliwal, press for an ordinance, an amendment to the Criminal Law, awarding death sentence to rapists of children under the age of 12. Ms Maliwal had gone on an indefinite hunger strike on April 13, which ended 10 days later, when this all important ordinance was passed.

This indefinite hunger strike had followed just a month after her RapeRoko movement, which started on January 31 ended on March 8, International Women's Day, following the rape of a eight month old infant in Delhi.

During this movement, she went on a quiet satyagraha, where she has decided not to return home from work, catching some sleep in the office itself during work. She was not aware of what kind of impact this would have, but "I wanted to do this, to stay focused on the task at hand, to demand three important things - to ensure that the perpetrators of these heinous crimes on children, are given the death sentence, that a fast track court is appointed to deal with these cases and that the cases are disposed of within six months of the crime".

The situation in Delhi, which has over the years become the rape capital of the world, has deteriorated so much, because the entire machinery in place to protect the women and children, is in a state of near collapse, whether it is the police, judiciary or the various government departments dealing with the matter. The crimes against women and children, between 2012 and 2014 alone stood at 31,446 with only 150 convictions.

DCW was a toothless Tiger, where women politicians were shunted, by the ruling party of the day. The last commissioner of DCW, before Swati, Barkha Singh, who held the position for nine years, solved only one case in those nine years, never disturbing the police for statistics. "When I was appointed, I read the act, and was amazed at the powers at my disposal, I could summon the police commissioner and threaten to arrest him, who was delaying giving me rape figures, for fear of it causing public outrage. Since then, in one year alone, we have overseen 11,696 cases, attended to 316 lakh distress calls on the 181 helpline, conducted 7500 grass roots visit, attended 5500 court cases, counselled 1869 sexual assault victims and have made 55 recommendations for women's safety to the government. We are the only women's commission office in the entire country who operate on Saturdays, and if required on Sundays too. "We are very much part of the system, but believe in shaking it up, stepping on a lot of male egoes in the process. And if I am ever sent to jail for the effort, be sure that I will have a report ready on prison reforms, besides ensuring the welfare of the 600 odd women prisoners in Tihar jail", says Ms Maliwal.


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