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We failed as a society - not the first time

We are ashamed of ourselves - damn right, we should be

We will never forget - until the next time it happens again

And we fail, we feel ashamed and we forget

How about we try something different? How about we really show our elected govts how concerned we are and how desperate we are to address these concerns?

How about we stage a #NationalWalkout on April 23rd, Monday @ 10:00am?

What is a #NationalWalkout?

Simple answer is no matter where we are, who we are and what we are, we can just decide to walk as an individual or as a group, leaving aside whatever work we may be doing at that point in time

Walk to where?

If we are in the city, closer to the parliament or the state assembly hall, walk to that place

If we are not, we can walk to the nearest court or the nearest district headquarters or the nearest police station or nearest any office dealing with public welfare.

Why a NationalWalkout?

This is a problem concerning not just a village or a town or a city or a state or a child or an adult but a problem concerning an entire country and the entire humanity, because what we are witnessing is a rape of our consciousness.

Why April 23rd, Monday at 10:00am?

Its the following Monday giving us a weeks time to prepare and organize.10:00am because its the time when its not too early and not too late, but just about the right time to cause inconvenience to us and to send the message to our elected govts

What do we demand?

  1. No more victimization of the victims and the guilty should be punished
  2. Nirbhaya Law should be implemented in spirit

What after the Walkout?

We can chose to continue the fight and keep the pressure on the elected govt and may be even the rest of the political parties. Let this be the beginning of the end of our inaction and indifference.

What kind of preparation is required?

Prepare placards, banners, invite ministers, press, media, organize events around these themes and basically try and do everything to rally people and create pressure.

One week may be a bit aggressive for a #NationalWalkout, but may be it isn't after all - it may be a bit late.

Would it be worth it?

Remember the last time this happened, the result was the Nirbhaya act. Yes its another issue that the act itself is yet to be implemented, but without the public pressure, the law makers would not have done what they were forced to do. So yeah its totally worth trying, but one thing is for sure, if we don't do anything other trending on twitter or sharing on facebook, we are just fooling ourselves.

If this still doesn't convince you, I will let the data do the talking

520 kids all below 6 years of age were survivors of rape i.e. Five Hundred and Twenty. I repeat Five Hundred and Twenty. And if we include all the kids below 18 years, this number rises to 16863 i.e. Sixteen thousand eight hundred and sixty three.

  • 16863 children will carry these scars for the rest of their lives
  • 16863 children may never get justice and may never get a closure
  • 16863 children may never get a chance to heal their wounds
  • 16863 children and their loved one’s may forever try to move on, only to dragged into with every single incident that makes it to the news headline
  • 16863 children may never know what a normal childhood feels like, what growing up feels like
  • 16863 children may be living in constant fear for the rest of their lives

Girl-Child-Victims

22,205 women i.e. Twenty two thousand two hundred and five women. As these horrific numbers prove, rape crimes are beyond any age groups, beyond any cultural divides, beyond the norms of society – yes beyond the norms of society, since

Women-Rape-Victims

94.6% of the offenders are known to the rape survivors i.e. Ninety Four percent of the offenders are known to the rape survivors. Some of the offenders are family members who include grand fathers, fathers, brothers, sons, relatives and neighbors. Not implying everyone is an offender here, but what the data is proving, yet again, year after year, that the offenders are amongst us. They could be from our family, from our neighborhood, not some random person on the street and not some random person in a desolated place.

Offenders-Relation.PNG

So what is the police doing? Well, what can the police do? What can the police do when most of the cases don’t even get reported and even when they are reported, there are so many backlogs, the police can’t possibly afford to investigate the cases.

Police Cases

And what about the courts? Well, its no secret, the courts have been buried with cases pending from several years, in fact, several decades now.

Court Cases

Total-Rape-Victims

source: ncrb.gov.in

 

Disclosure of bias: I am biased against mainstream schools as currently exist in India and think they do more harm than good. We need better schools and for reasons more than security.

This is the second murder in a Ryan International School. Last year, in February, a child was found drowned in the Ryan International School in Vasant Kunj. Now there is a child found stabbed to death in the Ryan International School in Gurgaon.

Very conveniently there is the confession of a murder on TV by a bus conductor. Soon, the predictable will happen. The bus conductor will be the villain. Lawyers are already refusing to represent him, which will always leave the question of whether he is taking the fall for someone else.

The questions not being asked are how after having one murder in the school, the safety of students was still lax enough for a murder to happen in the toilet of a school. It does not explain what a bus conductor was doing in the children's toilet to begin with to have the opportunity - if at all he is the murderer as he is confessing.

But more than that, it does not explain what children were doing in that school at all. Or, for that matter, any school. The Delhi Gang Rape used a school bus to commit a horrendous rape. The driver of the bus was ferrying children on a daily basis till caught. Much outrage had ensued. Much vanishing of who the owner of the bus was happened. Sheila Dixit made it mandatory for schools to run background checks.

What happened? When the child was found dead in the Ryan International School in Vasant Kunj, many excuses were made to shrug off responsibility like he had a habit of wandering. Seriously? A child had a habit of not being in class and wandering the school and no one found it odd enough to investigate or be alert for?

I wonder at the gullibility of parents who send children to school. In an age when we don't see a two hour film without reading a review or hearing word of mouth praise first, how is it that parents commit 10 years of a child's time without so much as asking whether it is necessary at all to spend 10 years to learn to read and write.

But that is the real thing. Schools are not a service to children, they are a service to parents - a service that gets the kid out of your hair for most of the day, and installs all the knowledge a "standard human being" should have as per a template. It has nothing to do with a child's needs. Nor does it have any ability to predict what knowledge a child will need to function in the world as an adult. Most of you who learned how to calculate square roots in school have never done it after leaving school. Most of you who mugged up names of random places in the world have never found use for that information as an adult. What a child does in school has nothing to do with a child's needs.

We recognize the vulnerability of children and think they are stupid, but have no hesitation sending them off to an environment which may not be safe on their own without us. I could easily get a high paying job instead of making do with working from home. The reason I don't is that my son can't speak. Till he isn't able to tell me about his day and complain if he had a problem, not a chance I'm leaving him to strangers in day-care. I have no intentions of allowing someone who could potentially be harming my child to speak for him. And when I say harm, I include so much as intimidating or insulting a child or subjecting them to the indignity of sarcasm and taunts. Let alone murder.

I must wonder at parents who can comfortably trust a school and not think further. When there is a rape or a murder, parents suddenly get all traumatized. Parents reading about it imagine their innocent child in that place, all broken and dead, they can't bear it. Many cry, can't get images out of their heads. But it isn't like they won't send their child to school or will go and land up in the school of their own child and demand to see the files with background checks on all the people working there to make sure that robust investigation of potential risks has indeed happened.

It isn't like if their child talks about a sarcastic or unpopular teacher in school, they land up demanding that teacher account for their actions or be taken out. How many of you, after the Delhi Gang rape insisted that all personnel on the campus of your own child's school be investigated? But offending people by thinking they are suspicious is so bad, no? Yet they provide an Aadhaar that tracks people as potential criminals by default.

How many did this after any instance of a child being found raped or murdered in school? This is just the capital of the country - a place where "people like us" send their kids. There are even more horror stories from schools in smaller towns, hostels for tribals. Government schools are a free for all - may the biggest bully call the shots. What will it take for parents to see that schools are NOT SAFE FOR CHILDREN? Or at the very least to demand a security audit? What will it take to see that schools are a business that targets parent satisfaction and not kids? What will it take for people to stand up for their own damn child instead of imagining them in every crime against children and getting all emotional, but doing nothing to protect?

I am a staunch proponent of homeschooling, but I accept that it may not be an option for many people who have jobs - for example or where there are ill people in the home needing considerable attention, leaving the adults too weary to participate in a child's learning. Or where the home enviornment may have abusive people around. Sure, schools can be a necessity for many. But I think it is high time their overinflated importance be evaluated too. If a school can't get your children fluent in basic knowledge and blames children for low scores, it is basically time and money invested with zero guarantee. And today, there is no guarantee that all the education in the world will result in a job anyway. Technology is developing so fast that assistive devices may take communication to the illiterate without ever requiring them to read or write in a few decades. What exactly is it that the school is being glorified for? Why is it that the need of sending a child to school at all can't be questioned? Why is it so hard that schools face robust scrutiny? You'd have a problem if your office peon or collegaue or even the CEO squeezed your boobs as he passed by, right? What will it take to ensure that extensive efforts are made to ensure that your child isn't going to be subjected to it? How the hell is it that parents simply meekly take a school's word for it - if at all they ask.

It won't be easy. Schools are already on tight budgets. Popular culture blurs age and sexuality encouraging perverts and normalizing behavior that should create alarm. Investigations and stepping up security is time consuming, expensive. Being screened would probably be taken as an insult by many teachers who feel entitled to lack of scrutiny. But it isn't impossible either. Without security, the most logical place for a pedophile to be in is a school. Where the ratio of vulnerable targets to potentially alert protective adults is exceptionally high - say unlike a park, stressed teachers getting through their duties on autopilot are not likely to notice things unless trained for it. How many schools train their staff in basic security concepts so that they may notice and investigate potential risks?

This is my question to you, parents. When are you going to shed this blind obedience to authority figures and demand that they are worthy of the trust you entrust them with? Does your child matter or not?

Because right now, the old Ryan International School murder is all but forgotten, and the new one is on its way out of our awareness. We forget, over and over the news that shows the threat to children. Untill next time.

What will it take for you to ensure to the best of YOUR capacity that your child is not on national news for the wrong reasons?

"Why don't you get a job?" she asked.

"Well my child is severely disabled and needs care." I replied.

A simple reply changed the direction of the conversation. "You really shouldn't call him disabled. He is special needs." She informed me, as though it was possible for the mother of a five year old disabled child to never have heard the cosmetic term "special needs". I've heard them all, I think - special needs, differently abled, physically challenged, learning delayed, developmentally delayed.... there is an endless list as feel-gooders go on an orgy of finding names that won't hurt.

A post about "chinkies" - street term used for people with slanted eyes right from the Chinese and Japanese to Manipuris and Ladakhis - caused outrage. It may have spoken about hate attacks against them and apathy in the eyes of India, but hey, I should have used a better term.

The last straw (well one of them) was when the Delhi Gang Rape victim who died of her injuries was called a rape survivor - hello! She DIED!!! How does that make her a survivor? Well she reached hospital, so survived her rape, I guess. Perhaps we shouldn't prosecute the rapists for murder along with the rape.

I have a problem with sterile descriptors - particularly ones that are inaccurate. A rape victim is NOT a survivor. "Survivor" implies that every rape is as good as death - which is the plain fucking patriarchal view, only recycled by feminists (yeah, our feminists often end up convenient to women owners). The other problem with survivor being used as a default description is of course the sad reality that sometimes they don't survive. They die of injuries or commit suicide or get murdered for silencing or honor. The third problem of course is the sheer inaccuracy of it. Even if we were to understand "survival" as recovery from trauma (as opposed to risk of death), many victims remain traumatized and brutalized by their experiences and don't begin recovery as urgently as mass media would prefer.

Similarly, calling disabled people who travel in compartments for handicapped people "special needs" is a cosmetic makeover that makes no difference to the reality. The same people suffering the same disadvantages travel in the same compartment. And if you tell me there exists a single child in the world whose needs are not special, perhaps you need to respect children more.

There are several things these cosmetic makeovers achieve. The first and biggest is that they give us the power to play God. Here is a problem, you rename it and the problem is gone. Its new name is not a problem.

The other thing is our own lazy insensitivity. If there is no problem, we don't need to go out of our way to do anything for them, right? If she's a survivor, triumphant and all, it doesn't remind us that she may be fragile and need a lot more assistance than is apparent.

But, the hiding of devastating disadvantages can put help out of reach for those affected. Getting out of your seat for a cripple, handicapped, lame, blind person would be manners. For someone with special needs? Nah, sit.  Just attention seeking. They need more than normal. But you are tired too.

I'd rather my child be known as a disabled child than people to think that he just has some special requirements - which someone (the state? - standard fallback) must be providing. Nothing to worry ourselves about in special needs. Besides, what do we know about providing special care?

It is a dehumanized, impersonal way that serves those without disadvantages by removing the obligation to assist the needy that is hardwired into any responsible mind. It is an attempt to sweep ugliness out of sight, even if that whitewash means more difficulties in receiving aid, because the need is rendered invisible.

We pretend that being unable to sit, stand, talk, walk - difficult challenges to overcome - aren't the problem, but the problem is the label - which can be changed easily - that keeps the problems visible and hurting sensibilities.

Those who prefer such euphemisms claim that the dehumanized euphemisms empower the disadvantaged. "A rape victim keeps getting reminded of her trauma" are the actual words by an activist I raised this issue with. Well, a rape survivor also keeps getting reminded of her trauma. The issue isn't with the word victim, but the rape itself - which will take as much time and healing as it does before it stops hurting. If we see the hurt, we can offer solidarity, compassion, our hurt in empathy.

The problem is not with words. Words are mere descriptors. A cripple or a victim or something else. That is the reality of what they go through. The hurt is in the suffering. In discrimination, in lack of respect. Until we learn to love and respect people and be compassionate, we will keep changing labels as older ones become symbolic of our insensitivity and we need newer, kinder ones that further pretend nothing is wrong.

Maybe if we tell ourselves enough, we can just label away all the problems in the world.

Here's George Carlin on a similar subject.

5

The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread. ~ Anatole France

Rights, like laws are determined by the powerful to address problems they face or allow actions they prefer and apply "equally" to all. These also happen to be those unlikely to prevent them from acting as they wish.

We seem to have reached an era where we "harvest" the power of hard won rights to ensure unfettered freedoms for some, while the most dangerous instances of suppressed rights continue to go under the radar.

To me, Charlie Hebdo appeared to be among such instances before the attack. Its right to free speech was largely protected by both laws and culture. There was little question of it not being allowed to have its range of free speech and that speech (in my opinion) was squandered on making a point of being offensive in a juvenile manner. I had earlier promised to publish the offensive cartoons (without seeing them) - regardless of Indian laws on the matter as a statement against violent and extra-judicial suppression of free speech. However, after seeing them, I am forced to limit myself to writing, as I honestly couldn't find anything funny about a star coming out of an ass - for example. My five year old son probably would (he even thinks farts are hilarious and breaks out laughing every time he hears one), but he doesn't blog here yet. Regardless, there is no question that free speech includes the right to be offensive as well as juvenile.

On another level, I am reminded of two recent rape cases to hit media courts - but not courts of law till the state took suo moto action in one. Both cases saw women well versed with women's rights and procedures and law after rape make no attempt to comply with the law by promptly undergoing medical tests or filing police cases. Both these women were unhesitatingly supported by more women's rights activists, lawyers and journalists, and yet the only action taken was public leaks of accusations that resulted in media character assassination campaigns that protected the identity of the victim and unquestioningly published accusations as fact in the manner of press releases and left no room for the accused to even speak in their own favor.

What I find common to both instances is empowered entities having full knowledge of their rights and using them to maximum effect, exercising their freedoms with little responsibility beyond knowing own rights.

In a world where battered and bleeding women showing monumental courage walking into police stations to file rape charges get denied, in a world where states silence dissent or target communities on the basis of identity, to exercise rights in a manner that flaunts their potential to hurt innocents has a very predictable backlash that questions the necessity of the right to exist at all without limitations.

The more insults are heaped on religion for the sheer joy of insulting, the more are voices disturbed by indiscriminate hurt caused demanding a leash. The more women flaunt the unequal protections granted to protect the voiceless many women routinely denied justice, the more misogynists claim that women use the law to punish men and there are few cases of real justice. It also seems a bit farcical to me to claim massive trauma from a fleeting incident the victim did not attempt to avoid a repeat of, in a country where marital rape (often painful and repeated) is not just common but perfectly legal and the women continue to function, while living within easy reach of their rapists (who enjoy complete impunity) without any crippling trauma recognizable to outrage brigades. It is also a country where no particular effort is visible to insist on justice for cases that are not young professional women, low caste, outside cities (particularly Delhi) and so on. And cases are cherry picked to be sensitive to, with little uniformity of importance for cases across the spectrum the crime covers.

Similarly, we see targeting for race as wrong, so why is targeting for religion a right? Similarly, in France, why is banning of specific headgear only for Muslim women wrong, but ridiculing the religion right? It is hardly a secret that your free speech won't extend to pedophilia - even if the pedophile is staunchly against child rape and insists on consent. Who went and decided that children don't have the free speech to consent to sex? For that matter, why are violent rape porn or child rape porn CARTOONS illegal, when obviously no one got harmed in making them? Why is a person who praises the attack on Charlie Hebdo or defends it "supporting terrorism" as opposed to merely exercising free speech to express an opinion? Is it that there is someone sitting up there deciding what should offend us and what shouldn't? Is it that this "righteous offense" is determined unilaterally by some entity that is no more accepting of "free speech" than a religious person, but remains unquestioned? Will we some day see a cartoon ridiculing someone who demands a ban on child rape porn cartoons? Yes these examples are "offensive" - we are discussing a right to offend, right?

This is not to say that exercising rights is wrong. It cannot be wrong and must never be leashed. However, there appears to be disproportionate utility or access to rights that is troubling.

For example, another way the Charlie Hebdo attack reminded me of rape was the motive for the crime being "provocation".

There is a perpetual conservative response that blames the victim and recommends not offending. In effect, creating a right to be offended. On the other hand, the offense being social, the mere upholding of rights does little to prevent unjust and illegal retaliation. Those at risk must strike their own balance between continuing to enjoy their rightful freedoms and exercising caution. Regardless of who is at fault, it is the life of the victim that ends up devastated or lost altogether. There is bravery in bold stands, but there is nothing wrong with installing a phone app that allows you to instantly broadcast an SOS - for example.

Less discussed is the willingness to risk the safety of another. Just because a woman should have the right to travel in the city alone at all hours (and you would do it as a ringing statement of your freedom), would you ask a woman employee or relative to travel alone at night in .... Delhi - for example? I suspect the day is not far that publishers of content that can trigger a violent backlash will consider the potential risk of the editorial stance to employees or others tasked to protecting their lives.

While even empowered women are long used to compromising freedoms for safety and finding ways to exercise rights when they really matter rather than making risk a way of life regardless of importance of goal; the question of free speech remains stuck on absolutes that depend on the world comprehending specific ideals and respecting them. This is not a criticism of any choice - they are all our right and our safety is our right regardless.

There is also a need to include more voices on what we agree on as rights. While I believe that free speech and particularly the right to challenge entrenched bastions of authority (including government and religion) must be sacrosanct, my belief in democracy also forces me to accept that like any other participant in a democracy, I have no special right to have my specific preferences met and those contradicting it, overruled. I would rather prefer to dig in my heels on those saving lives and rights. I also believe it is more important that free speech or women's rights (or indeed any other rights - women's rights is just an example) not be trivialized in a manner that shakes popular support to crucial, life and death need. In my eyes, the need to prevent the suppression of expression of religious belief through attire trumps the need to allow juvenile, racist crudery that effectively deems large swathes of humanity as inferior. In my eyes, it is more important that Saudi Arabia flogging a blogger be fought - with international pressure, if need be; than the right to stereotype and demean people.

I don't dispute that these are rights and can and will be exerted in a whole range of ways that will be as diverse as there are people. What I am suggesting is that uniformity and equality demands that we understand the variations in urgency and ensure basic rights and freedoms more equally before allowing free rein to a few disproportionate voices. Perhaps there is also a question of why some kinds of radicalization is unacceptable while other kinds of radicalization are free speech. After all, having a near cult following for juvenile insults to all sorts of diverse cultures cannot be all that different from seeing your religion as the only true one and discriminating against others. Except that the "holy book" of the "religion of offending as a means of creating enlightenment" is illustrated and easier to read.

That said, because Charlie Hebdo faced the attack, upholding its right to free speech now becomes paramount, as opposed to merely supporting the right to free speech of yet another kind of religious fundamentalism.

There is also a need for believers of all religions who do not support violence to not blame the actions that "provoked" the criticism by enacting the religion in a manner that brings it disrepute. What Islam (or Hinduism in India) "really" is becomes irrelevant if it manifests as a danger to others. Religious people need to recognize that it isn't their humanitarian description getting insulted and avoid providing smokescreens to criminals by making it about themselves. Violent fanatics conducting cold, premeditated murders while yelling "Allah hu Akbar" or "Jai Shri Ram" are not a figment of the imagination of someone who likes to harass peaceful people. It is time to accept that there are people who enact your religion in ugly ways without your permission and either be okay with it or join the criticism of your own religion for not being enacted in a manner compatible with what you believe it "really" is. Jumping into the fray as victims without interpretation you endorse being criticized only implies that you will allow crimes in the name of your religion and are defending them. This helps no one. Least of all your religion.

What happened at the Charlie Hebdo premises was ugly, tragic and unwarranted - plain wrong. It was a crime and this article makes no attempt to justify it. The intent is only to dig in deeper to a level where we are able to find dialogue that goes beyond camps of "people like us" with "preferences like ours" to uphold. If it manages to engage people into deeper dialogue on what comprises free speech and attempts to find agreement across a wider range of humanity, perhaps over time we may find ways to strengthen and deepen the manifestation of rights - beyond merely being accepted as ideals - to a point where all are strengthened and conversations fuel enlightenment rather than provocation or outrage.

Logged in to Twitter this morning to see a flood of wishes for a happy women's day. I replied "Thank you. For today and every day." which people found witty. Actually it wasn't so much witty, as it was a statement of intent.

Awareness for women's rights - at least in public is growing by leaps and bounds and I think it is time for the women of India to move to the next step. To leave the narratives of victimhood for addressing specific wrongs, and write a new narrative where it is NORMAL for a woman to exercise her rights freely, and any obstruction to it is what is abnormal. This is how it should be. Enough headlines of "brave girl" confronts her molester. If there is a molester that got away with it, it must be treated as the exception.

Is this entirely true? Not really. But then it is about as true as the narratives of victimhood. There are women getting devastated for women, and there are women who wouldn't dream of limiting themselves to being equal with men.

Here is a quick exercise. Look around you. Notice how many green things are there. Remember the smallest detail. Now name three blue things with eyes closed. We notice what we are paying attention to. And the more we notice the helplessness of women, the more we trap women in a perception of overwhelming lack of choice.

Something odd I found over the last year... which is also when I started distancing myself from mainstream media narratives of women's empowerment is that women who read news faced far more severe sexual harassment on the street, while women without access to much news usually responded with domestic restrictions, inflation and an overburden of responsibilities being the worst thing about being a woman in India - this was nearly every woman I spoke with in real life - strangely, across classes. Some had added issues like domestic abuse and alcoholic husbands. This was odd. How many were really bothered by the burning issue on women's rights in media? None liked it, but it wasn't on the top of anyone's pet hates about being a woman in India. So where was this priority for the media coming from? More importantly, what was it doing to the perceptions of those exposed to it?

I saw dangerous dependence building on male approval for the rights of women. Be it a male controlled media, or petitions for a male dominated government to provide a 33% reservation for women. So it isn't even as though we are demanding equality. The state of knee jerk "protection" of women by condemning any and all criticism in my view started working as yet another protective and patronizing cage around them. "Don't worry little girl, we won't let them say bad words to you." ... "Even if you earned them". In another words, still an isolation without women engaging as equals on their own steam.

This is a far cry from women taking out marches protesting lack of water in which many of our mothers participated. Openly, on the street. Furious with rolling pins and buckets in hand. Today, women marching for water would probably be seen as a sexist thing, with intellectuals going "Is it only women who need water?" and ignoring the reality that regardless of ideal conditions, fact remains that women do suffer the worst of water shortages, because their responsibilities require them to use a lot of water as well as be the ones having to reply to someone needing water that there isn't any. It is as though we have adopted some ideals as reality and lost touch with what is actually happening around us. Worse, we are telling men that they must make those ideals come true and in effect, declaring a lack of trust in the ability of women to LIVE on their own steam.

This is beyond absurd. While women still face horrendous treatment, conditions for them have never been better. Look at the population of the world and understand that women have managed to thrive in far more adverse histories without any special favors. Today, when they can, why is the easy war being handed over to men to win on their behalf or grant to them in an orgasm of benevolence?

It is important that evils be confronted, but it is also important that the confronting not happen at the cost of possibilities available to women. If our idea of women empowerment were working our generation would not be expressing insecurity so bad. We cannot adopt everyone. The need is to let women CLAIM their space - to what extent they think they need or can sustain. We can support. We cannot gift it to them, or all we see is a lack of value for it.

Today, if we look at media, the loudest voices decrying the conditions of women are women who never had to face the kind of adversity the women of India at large face. They are men who haven't had to face anything women face (d'uh). What access do we have to actual issues?

Rape? Our system has failed on rape. Nor can it succeed. It is impossible to do court cases faster than rape. A ten minute rape takes a decade of court time. And there is a complaint of rape every seven minutes, not counting systematic exploitation of disadvantaged communities, widows, economic misgovernance pushing women into the flesh trade,cases not filed, cases refused and more. Yet we are so addicted to "strong punishment" as justice, we fail to call a spade a spade and keep pushing one victim after another into the limelight and taking some kind of morbid satisfaction in retelling their tale and demanding justice for "this" one. Then we pat our halos, and satisfied we are saving the world, sleep peacefully.

Yet the fact is, violence against women is going to need a solution that will eventually look remarkably like the Khap Panchayats. Where a crime happens, it is taken to a group of people responsible for the community and gets instant verdict based on known facts and the victim is free to LIVE again, leaving the bare minimum of complex cases for the courts to dispose off as fast as possible. But our Khaps as they stand would be more likely to lynch the woman than get her justice and we have no plans for engaging with them and improving social thinking beyond banning Khaps, which are informal gatherings and as such impossible to stop. At best the name Khap will stop being used.

We are not able to create a society where domestic abuse gets condemned by the neighbours before it festers into a life spent in abuse. What is worse, we are barely trying for it. We want the courts to micro-judge all we do. And only for women, because they are specially powerless. That is what we are saying, because we make the woman about the vagina when we demand huge punishments and hangings. We are not able to see a sexual assault as an assault because we are not ready to let go of judgments that say women touched by men other than their husbands (and now boyfriends) are somehow rendered less. So if it was non-consensual, we look at it as destroying the spirit of that person forever.

We talk of divorce settlements where only the husband pays alimony to the wife so she can afford to live. What about her parents? They washed their hands off her when she married? Why are they not legally expected to help support her to live independently as well? This still sees the woman as a property that got transferred from parent to husband and is now attempting to be self-owned (which will be seen as "society" - read opportunistic exploiters - as public property, because women owning anything is so absurd).

This women's day, I am hoping for power for women. Where a rape victim is able to dust herself off and get on with life just like the victim of a mugging. Perhaps more jittery in dark alleys, but most certainly not imagining judging eyes stalking her through life. Where the punishment of a rape is about the crime and damage done more than outraged modesty.

I am hoping for a world where more and more women openly do things previously off limits so that another woman at risk of being refused for her gender can point to commonly seen examples and say "of course women do these things".

I am hoping for a world when we can empower women with knowledge for her safety instead of a cottonwool cocoon that says, "Don't worry, baby, this business suit will make you look professional to all, but a strapless dress invites only those you intend" and leave it to the woman to discover the hard way, when we go "But this isn't supposed to happen!"

When we care about the women we claim to lead into new thought more than the ideals we are trying to peddle, so that we teach them that while the freedom is their right, it is a right currently under dispute by idiots who do not wish to give up exploiting and it is a good idea to play safe and have back up, but push boundaries as much as they can anyway.

I wish that empowered women can engage with younger girls getting their first taste of freedom to be the mentors that are missing in the earlier generation, that speak of freedoms, but not only from patriarchy at home, but also an exploitative patriarchy outside that would enjoy exploiting "free" women for entertainment without the least interest in their freedom. To prevent many women walking into traps we navigated without a guide.

To recognize that denying that women often attract the attention of men - even random men - is not doing millions of vulnerable girls any favors when they get exploited for their HEALTHY INTEREST IN SEXUALITY THAT WE DENY. The knee jerk defense of virtue of women leaves behind those most at risk. The hundreds of thousands of young girls who flirt because they are just learning the intoxication of male attention and have no idea how much promise or threat is really there. We were that woman too, once. We went through those giddy behaviors too, once. And we aren't bad people, are we?

I hope we can become secure in seeing women as people where we can restore their right to make mistakes and be burned for them without needing to prove their "innocence", as though guilty women should be burned. So, she was slutty and unwise and she got raped. She was foolish, but the rapist is a criminal. You don't have to deny her right to make a mistake to call a criminal a criminal.

It is high time the idea of women empowerment put WOMEN first. Regardless of whether their conditions are ideal or not. In recognizing that the conditions of each are unique, as are their needs, and the fight must be for keeping possibilities open for all regardless of culture, character, broad/narrow mind or whatever.

Here is to hoping for an India and a world where women are only limited by their abilities, and there are always ways around adverse conditions. We throw the world open and walk into it as is our right. Halos and warts and all.