Protesters carried a huge pink sandal to protest against crimes

A sea of pink swept through the roads of Mangalore on Thursday, as hundreds of students and citizens of the city marched to raise their voices against repeated instances of violence against women. Apart from banners and placards, a huge pink sandal made its debut during the silent march.

“The sandal reminds us women that the only weapon we have against sexual assault and other forms of violence is the sandal beneath our feet. It is also a reminder – a sandal against the face of society – for not having done enough to stop violence against women,” said Vidya Dinker, from the Forum against Atrocities on Women which is organising the protest.

At a gathering at Mangalore Ladies’ Club here, student speakers Mariam from Roshni Nilaya College and Pramila from St. Agnes College, paid tribute to the 23-year-old physiotherapy student who died after being brutally gang-raped by a group of men and thrown out of a moving bus in Delhi recently.

“I cannot go out at night with freedom unless my brother accompanies or I have a knife tucked in my purdah. Why can’t I enjoy my freedom?” asked Ms. Mariam.

However, both students expressed anguish at the reaction of society to the incident – from insensitive statements by political and religious leaders to the apathy shown by commuters in Delhi for hours when the physiotherapist and her male companion were thrown naked onto the road.

Former Regional Director of World Health Organisation Derek Lobo said: “It is we who are parties in sex determination, dowry, female infanticide, child marriage, employing girl children as domestic help, run prostitution rackets, and be the customers of this racket. We blame the government, the judiciary and the police, but we are responsible too.”

Panel hailed

Exalting the recommendations by the Justice J.S. Verma Commission, women’s rights lawyer Flavia Agnes, who deposed before the Commission three times, said though there were recommendations for the government, police, judiciary, it also contained recommendations for the society at large.

“Death sentence or castration is not the answer. The government and civil society must act. Verma Commission challenges the society – not to consider virginity as the only important aspect of a woman, saying that even a husband cannot rape his wife,” she said.

She lambasted the comments by political leaders who said a rape victim was a “zinda laash” (living corpse). “We need to support rape victims, not make them feel like they have lost their worth. Victims commit suicide because society makes them feel so. Imagine if by Delhi rape victim’s death, the country had been given hope, if she had survived she could have done so much more,” said Ms. Agnes.

The programme included a candle light vigil and a pledge against violence on women. Oscar Fernandes, Rajya Sabha member, showed his support to the movement by participating in it.

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