I Think: Punishment should be given swiftly, so people can tie it to the crime

Sangeeta Harekal, NGO volunteer, Mumbai

Photo: Kaagni Harekal

Iam pretty old school — I still read the newspapers every day, though I use the internet to stay updated. I believe rape and sexual violence cases are being reported more often than before because victims are not scared of speaking up anymore and want to punish the culprits.

I was numb with anger and hatred towards the culprits when I first read about the Nirbhaya case. It was difficult to grasp the sheer depravity of their actions. The case got media attention because of the brutality of the crime and the fact that it happened on a street with other people on it — in the country’s capital. The case was constantly in news and therefore in the minds of the people.

The media helped bring rape and violence against women to the forefront. People were discussing these issues openly; it helped garner a wave of solidarity from the public. However, by writing too much about one case, the media sensationalises it. When rape is sensationalised to such an extent, the viewer is de-sensitised and the victim becomes just another statistic.

Punishment has to be given very swiftly so that people can connect it to the crime… this would have a deterrent effect.

If I was a journalist, my focus would be on the rapist and how ashamed they should be for committing this crime, not the victim. More importantly, I’d try to address why they thought it was okay to do so, and how we can start changing these mindsets.

In India, particularly, sexual violence is often driven by patriarchy and power dynamics. There are many people responsible for creating this situation — not just the attacker, but also those responsible for his upbringing, society at large, bystanders who choose not to speak up.

Since the responsibility lies with everyone, every single person must take the lead. The bystanders must stand up against crimes, victims should complain to the authorities, regardless of the magnitude of the crime and, most importantly, people must be aware of the violence and power dynamics that accompany rape and no longer choose to feed it or quietly watch it happen.