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Nirbhaya revisited as juvenile set to walk free

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Come December 20, the lone juvenile convict in the Nirbhaya rape and murder case that shook the nation’s collective conscience will walk free unless the Delhi high court acts on the government’s plea to extend his stay in an observation home till all the aspects, including mental health and post-release rehabilitation plans, are considered by the authorities.

“His (juvenile) stay in observation home needs to be extended….,” Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Sanjay Jain told the court on Monday, claiming that several mandatory requirements were missing from post-release rehabilitation plan of the juvenile convict.

The Centre’s move also comes in the wake of a secret Intelligence Bureau assessment that claimed that the juvenile might have been radicalized in the observation home. Nirbhaya (name changed) was brutally assaulted by six persons, including the juvenile, in a moving bus in south Delhi. She later succumbed to her injuries in a Singapore hospital triggering protests across the country demanding stringent action against the culprits and measures to ensure women’s safety.

So, what has changed since that fateful night?

According to the data released by National Crimes Records Bureau (NCRB), as many as 36735 rapes were reported in 2014 while in 2013 the number was 33707. Total crimes against women in 2014 were 337922 while in 2013 the number was 309546, a significant rise that should suffice to give us sleepless nights.

According to the government, an increase of more than 50 per cent was reported in cognisable cases involving juveniles in last ten years.

“As per data collected from states and union territories, an increase of 50.6 per cent – from 25,601 cases in 2005 to 38,586 cases in 2014 – in cases under total cognizable crimes registered against juvenile in conflict with law,” MoS for home Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhary said in the reply to a written question in Lok Sabha on Tuesday.

The steps taken by Centre and state governments seem to fall way short of what is actually required in view of the rising number of incidents. On December 11 this year, a seven-year-old girl was allegedly raped by a 16-year-old boy in Delhi’s Tigri area, showing how the national capital still remains unsafe for women and children. Last year an executive was raped by a Uber driver in his cab who even threatened to shove an iron rod inside her, invoking troubling memories of brutal violence inflicted on Nirbhaya.

Therefore, the measures like setting up of a Nirbhaya Fund or the stringent ‘Nirbhaya Act’ taken to deal with the menace would not suffice. The need of the hour is to change the mindset of the men in our patriarchal society. When leaders like Mulayam Singh Yadav try to justify rape by saying that ‘boys will be boys’ or when Chhattisgarh’s home minister Ramsewak Paikra says that no one commits rape intentionally as it happens by mistake, we need to look within and realize there is something rotten in the society.

The comments like these by our politicians show how deeply embedded patriarchy is in our society and how tough will it be to cleanse the mindsets that blame women for sexual assaults, questioning them for dressing ‘inappropriately’ or for being out late in the night. Alas, women have long been considered as second-class citizens. In ancient India, a Hindu widow would be compelled to immolate herself on her husband’s pyre under an obsolete funeral system, namely Sati. This savagery shockingly continued for several hundred years.

Thus, critical reforms in the education system are required so as to bring about gender sensitization in the children and the process must continue for next three to four decades. At least two generations must be educated in this manner so as to ensure respect and safety for the other half of the humanity. The children educated thus would have an inherent respect for women.

Ironically, India is a land where women have always been worshipped as goddesses. Tomorrow as the nation observes the third anniversary of Nirbhaya rape case, we ought to remember Mahatma Gandhi’s words:

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

We must change ourselves to ensure that another Nirbhaya doesn’t even befall this country.

(Image: Quint)

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Sikkim Holds Exceptionally Steady And Silent Progress In Improving The Lives Of Ordinary People

Given the track record, it may be safe to predict that Sikkim might be the first Indian state to offer solutions to the rest of India - and the world.

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Sikkim, along with Meghalaya, occupies the top two positions in the best performing region of Northeast on women's empowerment index comprising of participation of women in household decisions, ownership of land, cell phones and bank account, and instances of spousal violence. Pixabay

Everyone knows that Sikkim is a small extraordinarily picturesque mountainous state tucked away in the Himalayas in the northeast of India. That indeed it is. Even today, there are only around 650,000 people living in the state. However, much less known about Sikkim to the rest of India – and also the world – is the exceptionally steady and silent progress in improving the lives of ordinary people that the state has recorded over the past two decades.

How did Sikkim achieve this? The obvious answer is that Sikkim, like many countries in the world, has ensured that policies that promote economic opportunities go hand-in-hand with policies that ensure an equitable expansion of health, education, nutrition and essential basic social services.

Less obvious is the critical role of political leadership in ensuring improvements in the lives of people. Ensuring that the additional tax revenues from economic growth are invested in expanding human capabilities does not happen automatically. Chief Minister Pawan Chamling – the longest serving Chief Minister of any Indian state – has prioritized investments in health, education and infrastructure like no other political leader has. After all, ensuring adequate funds for the social sectors is as much a function of the funds available as it is of making it a political priority. Very few political leaders in India and elsewhere recognize the importance of investing in people as Chamling does.

What goes even more unnoticed is the role that women have played in Sikkim’s development success. Traditionally women have enjoyed greater freedom in Sikkim than in many other parts of the country. The Sikkim Human Development Report revealed that the state had the best gender parity performance among the northeastern states, with female labour force participation at 40 per cent, much higher than the national average of around 26 per cent. In recent times, with the support of the state, they have played an active role in various spheres of life.

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Traditionally women have enjoyed greater freedom in Sikkim than in many other parts of the country.Pixabay

Sikkim’s women have exercised leadership by taking advantage of the available educational and development opportunities. This is revealed by the progress on multiple indicators from NFHS 3 to NFHS 4 recorded by Sikkim. According to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS 4), 41 per cent women in the state have 10 or more years of schooling – much better than the country’s average of 36 per cent. Only 15 per cent women, age 20-24 years, were married before age of 18 years as against the national average of 27 per cent. There are only 3 per cent teenage pregnancies in the state placing Sikkim as the best among the northeastern states. The infant mortality rate in the state is 30 against national average of 34. Sikkim has improved its performance with regard to safe delivery remarkably by 43 per cent points from NFHS 3 to 97 per cent in NFHS 4, the best in northeastern states.

Sikkim, along with Meghalaya, occupies the top two positions in the best performing region of Northeast on women’s empowerment index comprising of participation of women in household decisions, ownership of land, cell phones and bank account, and instances of spousal violence.

Women in Sikkim are more empowered to take decisions than women in other parts of the country. According to NFHS-4, in 2015-16, 85 per cent women have the freedom of movement, including to market, health facility and places outside the village or community compared to national average. Almost all (95 per cent) of currently married women in Sikkim participate in household decisions as against national average of 84 per cent. Nearly 80 per cent women in the state have mobile phones for personal use against 46 per cent at the national level. Close to two-thirds (64 per cent) of women in Sikkim – as against just over half 953 per cent) of women across India – have a bank or savings account that they themselves operate. Only 3 per cent ever married women have ever experience spousal violence as against 29 percent nationally – the lowest across Indian states.

Sikkim has, however, many things to worry about. This includes creating jobs for its young people within the state, improving the quality of education, protecting residents from natural disasters, expanding infrastructure and so on. Equally worrisome is the sharp decline in total fertility rate (TFR) – 1.2 in 2015-16 – which is well below the replacement level of 2.1. This sharp decline in TFR might have also contributed to the worsening of the female-to-male ratio at birth from 984 in 205-06 to 809 in 2015-16.

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Sikkim has, however, many things to worry about. This includes creating jobs for its young people within the state, improving the quality of education, protecting residents from natural disasters, expanding infrastructure and so on. Pixabay

The reduced TFR is not good news as it may result in an age-structural transformation wherein Sikkim, like Kerala, will have to address the challenges of an aging population. This could get manifested in the short supply of workers as well as a further decline in the sex ratio. With shrinking active labour force, Sikkim’s economy could experience loss in economic output and possibly a decline in income levels. There could also be an increase in the elderly dependency ratio and morbidity levels on account of a rise in non-communicable diseases. Sikkim will have to mobilize the resources needed to extend financial support of the elderly and make provisions to address, in particular, their health care needs. It will also have to deal with the challenge of declining fertility rates.

Also Read: Millennium City Is Witnessing Rise In Illegal Trade Of Marijuana

These challenges may not come as a surprise to the political leadership in Sikkim. They should not given how well Chief Minister Chamling and the executive are connected the people. Given the track record, it may be safe to predict that Sikkim might be the first Indian state to offer solutions to the rest of India – and the world. (IANS)