police, more judges, more training, chair and tables, protocols — and lay this out before the finance ministry. We need to prevent violence before it happens — pilot studies in schools, also hearts and minds campaigns targeting men and boys, so that they grow up knowing deep within themselves that women are equal.
Women who have been raped need real support, not pity. The Central government needs to work with state governments to scale-up assistance to rape victims by opening 24-hour crisis and support centres, and legal aid should be made available to ensure that no rapist walks free because his victim lacked the resources to see the case through.
And we must put women in power. Women must be represented in every decision-making body in the country, and men who have committed sexual crimes must be disqualified from public office. The casual misogyny we see in the Lok Sabha must be stamped out and women’s voices heard so their wisdom and leadership can help us solve this crisis.
Of course, if we are serious about cutting out this cancer, we must focus on where it’s ugliest — the police. It cannot be that the people we entrust with our safety laugh in our faces when we report our loved ones missing, as happened to the father of one of the girls strung up last month. The hard-won law of 2013, allowing police officers to be prosecuted if they fail to follow fair criminal procedure, needs to be used, and often.
We must tackle discrimination against women in every way it manifests itself. We cannot ignore the caste divisions that drive so many of these attacks and we must work to root out institutionalised violence against “lower-caste”women, making sure that neither caste nor gender are a barrier to land rights or employment, which have proved important to transform the fortunes of women in society all over the world. Finally, we must recognise that our Central and state governments exist to guarantee our freedoms, to lead towards ending the violence that chips away at the essence of our country. It is not only our children hanging from trees, it is something of ourselves.
The writer is an advocate in the Supreme Court