AAP volunteers lead an effort to put an international spotlight on India’s big problem with sexual abuse
The highlight the issue of rape and the condition of women in India, US-based volunteers of the Aam Admi Party started a campaign in various US cities to put an international spotlight on these issues and to support the Rape Roko (Stop Rape) campaign.
Swati Maliwal, head of the Delhi Commission for Women, started the campaign February 13 with a satyagraha [#RapeRoko campaign, http://www.raperoko.org/our-campaign/,] after an eight-month-old girl was raped by her 29 -year-old cousin. She has pledged not to return home until March 8.
“I always want India to be a safe country. I have been reading about rape incidents every now and then which makes me think how to fix this heinous crime against baby girls and women,” Prabhat Sharma, who along other volunteers hosted the campaign in the San Francisco Bay Area, told indica.
Sharma and others supporting Maliwal say the only way to tackle the issue is through education and strict enforcement of the law.
“We know the education system in India. It will take many years to educate people… The second option [is that] if we put pressure on the government – which Maliwal has initiated through the Rape Roko movement. I thought it my moral responsibility to empower Maliwal to run the movement,” Sharma said.
In a letter to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Maliwal shared her concern and has demanded a robust criminal justice system.
The letter states, “One of the major causes of growing sexual crimes against children and women in the country is a complete lack of deterrence. We believe that swiftness and certainty of punishment is a must to establish fear of law amongst sexual predators. That is why we are demanding a robust criminal justice system, which ensures that rapists of children are accorded capital punishment within six months.”
The California AAP campaign in support of Maliwal also has its counterparts in New Jersey and Texas.
‘’Bringing the issue of rapes in India to the international spotlight, is not being ‘anti-national’ but is an attempt to wake up the Indian Government to protect women and children, and punish the rapists.” Roopsi Narula, a volunteer in New Jersey, told indica.
One of the Rape Roko volunteers in Texas, Vijaylakshmi Nadar of Dallas, is personally invested in this movement because she herself has been reportedly fighting a molestation case against Indian federal government officials for the last ten years.
It has been a particularly frustrating case to pursue because she is a US resident, while the incident happened on a vacation in India, a press note said.
The fact that she had to keep paying the lawyers there to keep the case going, while the accused kept filing petition upon petition to delay the matter is an indication of how things function in India, it said.
It added that given that justice has been severely delayed Nadar stands by Maliwal, who is fighting for overhauling the entire justice system In Delhi, forcing them to take crimes against women and children seriously.
The campaigners said India need a stringent law, effective policing, strengthened forensics and increased fast track courts.
In an interview to www.theguardian.com in 2017, Maliwal pointed out that more than 31,000 crimes against women had been registered with the police in the two years prior to 2014. Of those, just 146 – less than half of one percent – had resulted in convictions.
The volunteers for the Rape Roko effort have also called several parliamentarians to either seek their support or just to make them aware of the movement.
Rajendra Lodha, a Dallas Rape Roko volunteer, said he was shocked to learn that even women members of parliament were unaware of the attack on the eight-month-old child who was left to die in a pool of blood.
Lodha said, “The idea was to get the parliamentarians to wake up and raise the issue of safety of women and children in parliament and demand speedier justice – at least for crimes against children.