Activists call for change in mindset, punishment to offenders

Women activists have reacted strongly to the gang-rape of a medical student in Manipal late on Thursday, and have called it a “wake up call” that shows the misogynistic attitude of society.

Terming sexual assault as “a contagious disease”, Vaidehi, Udupi-based Kannada writer says, “Although, the Delhi gang rape was severely criticised across the country, incidents have continued to be reported in many places, including in Manipal… The town gave women the confidence to move around at night. The incident came as a shock to me.” Though a change in mindset is necessary, the immediate course of action should be to ensure severe punishment to the rapists, the writer says.

Similarly, Mustiary Begum, chairperson, Women’s Anti-Sexual Harassment Committee, Mangalore University, said, “The attitude of men should change… the safety of girls is at stake.”

Traditional vs Modernity

Attributing a divide in the thinking of traditional and egalitarian views for the sexual assault, Vidya Dinker, co-convener, Forum Against Atrocities Against Women, said: “There is tension between the traditional community and the ones who have a modern lifestyle. The latter wants to hangout late, and there is interaction of sexes, which may not be understood by the former.”

However, she criticised the police for their laxity. “The police need to be more vigilant, and cannot wash their hands in the presence of security guards or CCTV cameras,” she said.

Writer Sara Aboobacker also said there was conflict as some in the country were not used to seeing women walking around late in the night. For the particular incident, she said the management should not have had its library open till 11.30 p.m. without ensuring the protection of the girls. “It’s the duty of management to ensure safety of the students, especially when they collect hefty fees,” she said.

Laxity in system

On a larger perspective, the laxity in the police and judicial system has lead to “confidence” among rapists of getting away scot-free, said Asha Nayak, senior advocate and Chairperson of Dakshina Kannada Child Welfare Committee. “Incidents of rape are increasing today and many go unreported. The reason is that we do not have sufficient convictions, and this gives the rapist confidence. If caught, they know they may escape hard punishment.”

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