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Public forum on the fight against rape

Staff Reporter
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Panelists called for overhaul of the criminal justice system and institutionalising gender sensitivity.Photo: S.R. Raghunathan
Panelists called for overhaul of the criminal justice system and institutionalising gender sensitivity.Photo: S.R. Raghunathan

The recent Delhi gang-rape proved to be the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back, said Siddharth Varadarajan, editor of the The Hindu , at a public forum organised by The Hindu on Thursday at the Ethiraj College for Women.

The panel of prominent speakers who chaired this discussion included Madras High Court judge Justice Prabha Sridevan, R. Nataraj, chairman, Tamil Nadu Public Service Commission, D. Nagasaila, advocate and civil rights activist and Sashi Kumar, trustee, Media Development Foundation. The event was sponsored by Shriram Chits.

Two students Pushkal Shivam from IIT-Madras and Supriya Rao from Ethiraj College for Women also took part, representing the youth of today. The panel was moderated by Siddharth Varadarajan.

Rape is not just an act of sexual violence but also an indication of the deeply-mired gender inequality.

“Rape is essentially a crime of power – the aggressor wants the victim to know she is not an equal” according to Prabha Sridevan, while addressing the attentive audience at the forum ‘Crime and Punishment: The fight against rape’. She talked about the inequity in systems all around the world and stressed on the need to do away with objectification of women.

Objectification of women is often largely perpetuated by popular culture and mass media. According to Sashi Kumar, the media had an important role to play in changing perceptions. “Some of the worst stereotypes of patriarchal order like ‘katta panchayat’ are being propagated by cinema.”

Ms. Nagasaila also raised the issue of the delivery of the criminal justice system in our country which needs a complete overhaul. “Even filing an FIR is a herculean task,” she added.

Mr. Nataraj believed that such crimes could be prevented by conscientious and focused policing. By making police presence visible, the crime rate can be brought down considerably. “Even if we cannot reduce crime completely we can make people wary,” he said.

Both the young speakers spoke vehemently against the crime. While Pushkal Sivam spoke of the gendered notion of power that allowed such crimes to proliferate in India and quoted statistics to back his claim, Supriya Rao urged people to be more sensitive and to implement more stringent punishments to curb rape in India.

In a country that was labeled the worst place to be a woman among all the G20 countries, the fact that the sexual assault of the student had shaken up the latent conscience of the nation and resulted in the voicing of sentiments so strongly, is essentially a good thing, said panelists.

“Let us not question that,” Ms. Sridevan added. “Let us use to this as an opportunity to end this now. The woman has suffered enough.”


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