But miles to go before actual change is seen
The sessions’ court’s verdict on Thursday of holding guilty five adults for raping a photojournalist and a telephone operator at the Shakti Mills Compound could engender a change at the macro-level, feel women’s rights activists.
“There is still a long way to go for changes to occur at the micro-level. However, this judgment could serve as a deterrent. One hopes that verdicts like this make men stop in their track and give it a second thought,” said sociologist Nandini Sardesai.
Many believe that the outcry and media attention following the Shakti Mills case helped in the speedy verdict. “Just giving an order on one case because it has grabbed headlines will not make any difference. Judgments should come quickly for all cases of sexual assault,” said Shilpa Phadke, who was one of the writers of Why Loiter?, a book that explores spaces in which women move.
Sabla from the Forum Against Oppression of Women said that assuming the investigation has been done thoroughly, this verdict can help women. “Finally, the judgement should do justice to the survivor. If it does, other women in similar situations can feel empowered to report incidents of sexual assault,” she said.
The verdict comes as a welcome move for a city, which has seen 1848 cases of sexual assault from January 2013 to February 2014. Of these, 1675 offenders have been arrested.
However, everyone agrees that laws and judgments alone cannot solve the problem of women’s abuse. There is still a long way to go for changes to be seen at the micro-level. “We have seen that capital punishment has not stopped murders. So for sexual assaults to really stop, there has to be a complete attitudinal shift, change in ethos and the patriarchal setup of society. There are many factors like education, family values and so on that play a role in these matters,” said Ms. Sardesai.
Taking the point forward, Ms. Phadke says how most sexual assault happens at home. “Because of such instances, it is very easy for women to feel like they shouldn’t step out of home. But we need to reclaim public spaces because they are as much ours as they are of men. To be sure you are not assaulted, you must not exist,” she said.