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Ujjal Dosanjh Headshot
Raminder Dosanjh Headshot

Stopping Rape In India Starts With Ending Female Feticide, Dowry

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The gang rape of Amanat (the name given to the Delhi assault victim to protect her identity) in a moving bus has provoked an unprecedented yet a desirable and natural revulsion among the Indians. They poured themselves out on the streets of Delhi with a ferocity never seen before.

The conscience of India may finally have been touched. We salute Amanat and her companion for the valor with which they fought back.

There are calls for tougher laws. There are demands for better enforcement of laws and better training and sensitization of police. Some have called for fast track courts. All of that and more is necessary and welcome.

What is not welcome is the commentary by some in responsible positions in India asking women "to dress appropriately" or "in keeping with our culture." This is absolutely despicable. It totally misses the point.

India is considered one of the least safe countries for women. Rape has nothing to do with what women wear. It has nothing to do with whether it is day or night. It has everything to do with what we teach our men and how we raise them and what values they grow up with. A serious examination and revamping of male attitudes is what the so-called responsible leaders should be focusing on.

Why is it that India continues to produce and nurture relatively a larger number of rapists? Why is it that most of the rapes go unreported? Why is it that out of those that are reported relatively fewer charges are laid? Why are the successful prosecutions generally and more particularly in Delhi few and far between?

In Mahatma's India many relationships often do serious violence to our humanity — whether between rich and poor, strong and weak, men and women, adults and children. We fail to recognize it. We fail to acknowledge that India prevents women from being born. We commit female feticide.

There is an extremely disturbing gender disparity in the population. India now has only 800 women for 1,000 men. Many women cannot marry because they can't afford the dowry. Dowry in essence is money/property that parents of women provide to enhance the bride's "value" so that it matches that of the groom.

Rape is the ultimate in violence that degrades women and treats them as dirt. Rape is violence and no one, we mean no one, ever invites violence upon oneself. Rape brutalizes the woman.

Let us stop killing women by feticide. Let us stop expecting, asking for, or accepting dowry. Let us stop killing brides who have not brought "enough" dowry. Let us stop telling women what to wear and when. Let us stop restricting the woman's right to freely move about. The woman is and must be free to move about and dress as she wishes.

Forcible castration of rapists or capital punishment will not improve the situation since all of that is after the fact. If the death penalty were a panacea, the 26 death penalty states of the U.S. would have that country's lowest murder rates. The opposite is true.

Outrage is a good beginning. So is better policing and prosecuting. So would be better reporting of the crime of rape. But for better prevention and reporting to happen, the economic and social power of women would have to improve. The whole of the Indian culture including the economic and social condition of women must change.

Just because of the outrage and anger that we all feel, rape as a crime is not going to be a thing of the past anytime soon, no matter how much we may wish it otherwise. What is important is that we turn the tragedy that befell Amanat into an ever-present reminder that we owe it to our future generations to bring about the fundamental changes to our society now. Not tomorrow, not later but now.

Ujjal Dosanjh is the former premier of British Columbia. Raminder Dosanjh is a women's rights activist and founding member of India Mahila (Women's) Association.

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