Two thousand one hundred and fifty five. To some, that's just a number, but those numbers represent the registered rape cases just in the state of New Delhi, India in 2016. In the month of January 2017, there were more than 140 rapes and over 200 molestation cases in Delhi, according to a 2017 Hindustan Times article. With 90% of rape cases estimated to go unreported, the actual numbers are probably far worse.
When I made the decision to venture to Delhi for an internship, I was bombarded with concern from friends and family. They told me to never walk the streets alone. They told me to be home before seven because it's not safe for girls to walk the streets after that time. They said to make sure if I were to go out past seven, I had strong men who would protect me in the case of danger. It felt like words of caution overtook what were supposed to be words of encouragement.
The "see something, say something" courtesy extends across the US, but in India, women are shamed for having their bodies violated against their will.
Little did I know that I was entering what is known as the rape capital of India.
The first headline I saw when I arrived in Delhi went something like this:" 8 Month-Old dies After Being Thrown Out of an Auto by her Mother's Rapists." As in many such cases, the media focused extensively on the victim's story but to date there is no closure on who these men are and whether or not they are jailed.
The justice system is broken, which is why, more often than not, crimes against women are under-reported. Since a large majority (98%) of victims know their abuser, women fear retaliation and public humiliation.
"One reason why rape and sexual assault cases go unreported is because the perpetrators are closely related to the victims," Sarah Mathews, the Managing Trustee of Sankalp Women's Support Alliance, which rehabilitates rape victims and offers them free legal support, told the Asia Times. "Rape cases often drag on for months and years, due to which the victims lose their faith and confidence."
The Delhi police's lack of commitment to women's-crime case is continuing a steady trend. Of the 4,165 molestation cases reported in 2016, 1,166 (28.3% of) women didn't get justice, according to an Indian Express article.
When it comes to the point that there needs to be a "women only" section on the Delhi metro, it should be evident that there is a problem at hand. Why is there a place where women can be relatively assured that men don't pose a threat to them? Can't these men just... not pose a threat?
Why is there a place [ladies' compartment] where women can be relatively assured that men don't pose a threat to them? Can't these men just... not pose a threat?
The first time I rode in the Delhi metro, I opted out of sitting in the women's only section because I thought that it wasn't as bad as people made it out to be.
I was wrong.
I observed some men who surrounded me. When I would turn to talk to my mom or move over to make room for the people next to me, I felt their eyes follow every inch of my movement. I felt powerless for the first time in my life and that's a feeling that no woman should ever experience.
We cannot prevent misogyny and objectification of women unless the underlying problem is addressed.
I would notice some, not all, men stationed at the chaat stands at every street corner. Their eyes fixed on a woman as she walked by. There doesn't need to be any physical contact for a woman to feel violated.
My paraplegic grandfather has an aide who is a man and a woman nurse who help him with his daily activities. They have been working together for over three years. Recently, this man attempted to sexually assault her. The nurse cried, feeling violated and helpless in a situation no one saw coming. The aide was thrown out of the house and left jobless, but the nurse didn't want to report it because of the legal trouble and humiliation she would have to face. She swallowed her sorrows and continued work after a few days of recovery despite my grandmother's plea to act otherwise.
Sadly, scenarios like this are so commonplace that the gravity of sexual assault has been downplayed. In the US, women are supported, even encouraged, to report sexual assault cases. The "see something, say something" courtesy extends across the country, but in India, women are shamed for having their bodies violated against their will.
There is still a predator on the streets, one who will continue his life, find another job, and go home to his wife and children at night, but there is still a broken woman whose body has been violated, whose sense of self-worth has been tarnished—something that can take a lifetime to restore.
This is a situation that has been normalised but it cannot be tolerated any longer. And we need to start with education.
It dumbfounds me that it has to take this long for India to realise that its so-called "Indian values" are being broken daily because the Indian education system neglects sex education.
The sex education curriculum is disregarded in most school across India, with detractors claiming that it would encourage "promiscuous behaviour" among children and that this education is against "Indian values," according to a 2016 One India article. However, with the growing rate of sexual abuse cases, this education is nothing short of necessary.
Sex should no longer be a taboo subject to talk about. This education will help children be informed about sexually transmitted diseases, contraception, and sexual harassment. It dumbfounds me that it has to take this long for India to realise that its so-called "Indian values" are being broken daily because the Indian education system neglects this education.
States like Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Kerala and Maharashtra have banned courses on sexual education, according to the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) and that's truly disheartening.
Women and children deserve better.
These states are turning a blind eye on the issue that single-handedly is ruining this country's values.
Sunitha Krishnan, founder of the Prajwala, an anti-trafficking organisation which works to prevent women and children from entering prostitution, has rescued and rehabilitated more than 10,000 rape victims.
Krishnan is pushing for a database that includes personal details of convicted sex offenders, including their residential address, fingerprint, DNA samples, and identity card information, according to a 2016 India Today article.
If New Delhi wants to lose its reputation as the "crime capital" of India, the government should tackle issues like gang rape and sex-trafficking head on.
The government is hesitant to undertake this initiative because it would cost nearly ₹200 crore (around $2 billion). "It [an agency] is very essential for prompt action," Krishnan told India Today. "As of now, what is happening is when I am sitting in Hyderabad; I get a video from Kashmir or Haryana. The local police say they do not have jurisdiction to act on it, but ICCCC (Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Committee) can immediately lodge an FIR (First Information Report), investigate, and take action against the offender."
Issues like sex trafficking and gang rape should be taken far more seriously by the government since these sad realities are becoming the building blocks of New Delhi's reputation.