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Meet to sleep campaign undertaken by women on the support of the 6 year old gang rape victim

In a bid to make cities safer, the government has set up help lines and installed security cameras which was a great fail according to the rights activists. A six year old girl was raped in the state of Haryana.

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FILE - Indian women participate in a candle light vigil at a bus stop where the victim of a 2012 deadly gang rape had boarded the bus on what would become her final journey, in New Delhi, India, Dec. 16, 2014.
Indian women participate in a candle light vigil at a bus stop where the victim of a deadly gang rape in a moving bus had boarded the bus two years ago, in New Delhi, India, Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014. The case sparked public outrage and helped make women’s safety a common topic of conversation in a country where rape is often viewed as a woman’s personal shame to bear. (AP Photo/Tsering Topgyal)
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  • A 6 year old girl was gang raped int the state of Haryana
  • The gang raped was compared to The Delhi gang rape in 2012
  • “Meet to Sleep” campaign done by women

December 16, 2017: Five years after the fatal gang rape of a 23-year-old physical therapy student in the Indian capital turned the focus to violence against women, small groups turned out in New Delhi and several other cities on Saturday to highlight the need for safety for women in public spaces.

The “Meet to Sleep” movement, under which women took a short nap at a park, is one of several campaigns that have emerged in the wake of massive protests that rocked India after the gang rape. The symbolic nap highlights the need for women’s safety when they are most vulnerable.

“What happened to her [the gang rape victim] happened in a very public place, in a bus, which is a mode of transportation that many women use, but remains unsafe. Five years on, not much has changed,” said 26-year-old Kriti Omprakash.

Kirti Omprakash says that public spaces are still not safe for women in the Indian capital, where a horrific gang rape in 2012 turned the spotlight on sexual violence against women. (A. Pasricha/VOA)
Kirti Omprakash says that public spaces are still not safe for women in the Indian capital, where a horrific gang rape in 2012 turned the spotlight on sexual violence against women. (A. Pasricha/VOA)

The gang rape victim was assaulted by six men on a bus that she boarded with her male friend in December 2012. She later died due to the injuries she sustained.

Not only do sexual attacks targeting girls and women continue to pose a challenge – such incidents actually have increased, according to the latest data from the National Crime Records Bureau. Delhi, considered one of India’s most unsafe cities, reported 1,996 rape cases in 2016, up from 1,893 in the previous year.

Rising voices

Women’s rights activists say the biggest change, however, is that women have become more vocal in demanding their freedom and safety and that the subject of violence is now discussed openly in a country where talk of sex crimes previously had been considered taboo.

A woman takes a symbolic nap at a park in New Delhi as part of a "Meet to Sleep" campaign initiated to highlight the need for more safety for women. (A. Pasricha/VOA)
A woman takes a symbolic nap at a park in New Delhi as part of a “Meet to Sleep” campaign initiated to highlight the need for more safety for women. (A. Pasricha/VOA)

“In the past five years, one of the most positive things I think is that those kind of agitations have taken teeth and grown,” said Kavita Krishnan from the All India Progressive Women’s Association.

In a bid to make cities safer, the government has set up help lines and installed security cameras, although that has failed to be a deterrent, according to rights activists. They express disappointment that despite the tightening of laws for rape and sexual harassment, crimes are still surging, sometimes against very young girls.

“We feel very, very let down by the system, by the government. The gruesomeness of crime has increased,” says Ranjana Kumari at the Center for Social Research in New Delhi. “There have been very, very young children who have been assaulted in most brutal way.”

Less than a week ago, a six-year-old girl was found murdered with grave sexual injuries in the northern state of Haryana – a case whose brutality led to comparisons with the 2012 bus gang rape.

Women activists say movements like "Meet to Sleep" have increased in the wake of the 2012 gang rape. (A. Pasricha/VOA)
Women activists say movements like “Meet to Sleep” have increased in the wake of the 2012 gang rape. (A. Pasricha/VOA)

Legal efforts

The mother of the gang rape victim, Asha Devi, also expressed anguish over reporters asking, “Women and girls are still being raped, what changed? The city is as unsafe as it was five years ago.”

Activists also worry about what they feel are efforts to dilute the tough laws that were instituted after the gang rape to punish men and point to a judgment.

Earlier this year, a judge set aside the conviction of a Bollywood filmmaker for rape after ruling that a “feeble no” could indicate willingness on the part of the victim.

Kavita Krishnan stresses the need for more mobilization of the kind that was seen in the wake of the 2012 gang rape to continue to keep the focus on women’s safety and freedom.

“We cannot celebrate the 2012 movement without realizing what is happening around us right now. It has to be a continued fight. It can’t just be a ritual obeisance paid to the 2012 moment,” she said. (VOA)

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Afghan Orchestra Flourishes Despite Social Issues

Afghanistan and Pakistan have experienced years of terrorist attacks, including massive casualties on both sides of their long shared border.

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Afghanistan
Negin Khpolwak, leader of the Zohra orchestra, an ensemble of 35 women, practices on a piano at Afghanistan's National Institute of Music, in Kabul, Afghanistan. VOA

The consequences of Afghanistan’s increasingly deadly war are weighing heaviest on the nation’s civilians, with women bearing the brunt of the violence. The Taliban banned music and girls education, and restricted outdoor activities of women when the group was controlling most of Afghanistan.

But violence and social pressures have not deterred members of the country’s nascent orchestra of mostly young girls from using music to “heal wounds” and promote women’s rights in the strictly conservative Muslim society.

The ensemble, known as Zohra, was founded in 2014 as part of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM) in Kabul, where suicide bombings lately have become routine.

Hope and music

Students and trainers are not losing hope and regularly come to the city’s only institute to rehearse and learn new lessons, says Ahmed Naser Sarmast, the director of ANIM and the founder of the orchestra. Zohra is the name of a music goddess in Persian literature, he explained.

The musicologist spoke to VOA while visiting neighboring Pakistan earlier this month with the young ensemble to perform in Islamabad as part of celebrations marking the 99th anniversary of Afghanistan’s Independence Day. Kabul’s embassy in Islamabad organized and arranged for the orchestra’s first visit to Pakistan.

Despite the many challenges in Afghanistan, Sarmast said, student enrollment has consistently grown and more parents are bringing their children to the institute to study music. Around 300 students are studying not only music at the institute but other subjects, including the Quran, he said.

Afghanistan
Members of the Zohra orchestra, an ensemble of 35 women, attend a rehearsal at Afghanistan’s National Institute of Music, in Kabul. VOA

Advances for women

Negin Khpolwak, the orchestra’s first woman conductor, says Afghanistan has made significant advances in terms of promoting women’s rights in the past 17 years. She says there is a need to sustain the momentum irrespective of rising violence.

“We need to stand up to protect those gains and we need to open the doors for other Afghan girls,” Khpolwak said when asked whether deadly attacks around the country are reversing the gains women have made.

But violence alone is not the only challenge for women and girls, especially those who want to study music, she said.

“When you are going in the street with your instrument to the school and they are saying bad words to you and if you are giving a concert in public they are telling the bad words to you. But we are not caring about it,” Khpolwak said.

Afghanistan
Ahmad Naser Sarmast, head of Afghanistan’s National Institute of Music, speaks to members of the Zohra orchestra, an ensemble of 35 women, in Kabul, Afghanistan. VOA

Ethnic groups help each other

Sarmast says that girls and boys in the orchestra come from different Afghan ethnic groups and they help each other when needed.

“It’s hope for the future,” he said.

Ethnic rivalries have been a hallmark of hostilities in Afghanistan and continue to pose a challenge to efforts promoting peace and stability.

“I strongly believe without arts and culture there cannot be security and we are using the soft power of music to make a small contribution to bringing peace and stability in Afghanistan and at the same time using this beautiful, if I can call it a beautiful weapon, to transform our community,” the director said.

Some of the members of the Afghan orchestra were born and brought up in refugee camps in Pakistan, which still hosts around 3 million registered and unregistered Afghan families displaced by years of war, poverty, persecution and drought.

Afghanistan
Members of the Zohra orchestra, an ensemble of 35 women, bring instruments to a class before a rehearsal at Afghanistan’s National Institute of Music, in Kabul, Afghanistan. VOA

“We are using the healing power of music to look after the wounds of the Afghan people as well as the Pakistani people. We are here with the message of peace, brotherhood and freedom,” Sarmast said.

Afghanistan and Pakistan have experienced years of terrorist attacks, including massive casualties on both sides of their long shared border. Bilateral relations are marred by mistrust and suspicion.

Also Read: OrchKids- Bringing Jot to Underprivileged Kids Through Music

The countries blame each other for supporting terrorist attacks. Afghans allege that sanctuaries in Pakistan have enabled Taliban insurgents to sustain and expand their violent acts inside Afghanistan. Pakistan rejects the charges.

The Islamist insurgency controls or is attempting to control nearly half of Afghanistan. (VOA)