Violence against women is one of the most widespread human rights abuses. Every day, thousands of women and girls are abused, murdered, raped and attacked for defending women’s rights. It’s time for that to end.
By Pallavi Sinha For SBS
My spirit and passion to fight for women’s rights can never be suppressed.
In December 2012, when a young girl was brutally gang-raped in Delhi, I attended a protest about the gang-rape that was organised in Sydney, where I spoke out against violence towards women.
My purse, car keys and handbag were stolen during the protest.
But this only increased my spirit and passion to fight for women’s rights, and I went on to prepare a petition that was sent to the Indian Government through the Indian Consulate Sydney, which emphasised the need for reforms such as changes to the Indian Penal Code. I was also interviewed on the 7.30 Report, ABC news & SBS news about the gang-rape and possible solutions to the growing number of cases.
Ongoing inhumane treatment of women
Several years ago I worked at the National Human Rights Commission in Delhi. I witnessed many cases of dowry deaths, female foeticide, rape and violence against women cases.
It deeply saddens me that violence against women is an ongoing and worsening problem locally and internationally. According to figures released by the NSW Bureau of Crimes Statistics, domestic violence in NSW reached its highest level in 15 years. There are other statistics that indicate that domestic violence is the highest cause of death or serious injury for women under the age of 45 in Australia.
A few days ago, I read with disgust that two teenage girls were gang-raped and hung from a mango tree in their village in Budaun district in India after they went out to go to the toilet. It was even more disturbing to read that two of the three men arrested for this heinous crime were police officers.
Shortly before this sad gang-rape, it was reported that a 25-year-old pregnant woman, Farzana Parveen was murdered by a 20 relatives in a so-called ‘honour’ killing because she married a man of her own choice in Pakistan.
As the UN Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said, there is not the faintest vestige of ‘honour’ in killing a woman in this way. Around the same time, it was reported that a 27-year old Sudanese woman, Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, was sentenced to death for refusing to renounce her Christianity and gave birth to a baby girl in prison in Africa.
A woman gives birth to human beings, yet local and international statistics and incidents reflect how inhumanely women are treated. As Women’s Chair of the Federation of Ethnic Communities Council Australia and Deputy Chairperson of Immigrant Women’s Speakout Association, I hear countless stories of women being mistreated by men on a regular basis.
What is the solution?
There are numerous strategies to tackle the growing problem of violence against women, including but not limited to:
- Education: in family homes, primary school to higher education. Locally, I think it would be good if Australian values of treating each other with respect were incorporated into the curriculum.
- The role of media: social media, print, television, radio and films play an important role in educating men and women. It would good to see modern and progressive role models of women and men in Bollywood and Hollywood movies.
- Campaigns with high profile men and women: The White Ribbon Ambassadors in Australia play an important role in providing examples of men who are willing to stand up and make women’s safety a man’s issue too. It’s very important that such campaigns are adopted in countries like India and Pakistan, especially as the male to female ratio is also significantly tilted towards men and backward attitudes towards women are prevalent.
- Stronger laws: The law sets the standards for society and coveys a message about what is and is not acceptable. There are significant amendments required to the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2000 in India. The 17-year-old juvenile who was one of the four men convicted for the heinous gang-rape of the young girl in Delhi in 2012 received the maximum sentence available of three years in a correctional home. I strongly believe that three years is not enough for such a hideous crime, and that greater emphasis needs to be placed on rehabilitation of criminals and examination of why such crimes are being committed.
Violence against women is endemic and some have referred to it as a national emergency in Australia.
The time to act is now.
Pallavi Sinha is an Immigration Lawyer and Principal of Lawyers with Solutions and Sessional Academic with Australian National University. She is the Women’s Chair of Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils Australia and Deputy Chairperson Immigration Women’s Speakout Association.