Ramya Kudekallu is from the YWCA of Bangalore City, India. She’s an advocate and community volunteer in her home city. She is one of the new chosen World YWCA interns for 2013 and will be working closely with the Communications Department at the World YWCA Office.
This is her reflection on the recent tragic circumstances in her Nation’s capital and the work her local YWCA is doing towards leading a change in India.
On the16th of December 2012, in the capital city of New Delhi, a young medical student and her male friend boarded a private bus after a late movie at 9.30pm. The driver of the bus and 5 other men confirmed that the bus would be going to their destination.
Within minutes of their boarding the couple felt uncomfortable when the doors of the bus were shut and the 6 men on board began surrounding them.
The young woman was continuously raped by all 6 accused and her male friend was beaten unconscious. She was then pounded repeatedly and violated with a rusted steel rod (which allegedly caused fatal septicaemia). After hours of this treatment, the couple was thrown out of the vehicle naked and brutally injured.
The rape victim suffered from internal bleeding and her intestines were damaged beyond repair because of the violent penetration. 13 days later ‘Nirbhaya’ as she was named (meaning the ‘Fearless one’) died because of the seriousness of her injuries.
The incident transformed a nation. Women decided that they would no longer sit back and watch episode after episode of violence against them take place.
India broke out into protest. Citizens were on the streets in the thousands standing before offices of Government. The only resounding notion that echoed within these minds and hearts was – ‘It could have been me, or my sister, or my mother, or my daughter’, and that such a thing should never happen again.
Protestors in New Delhi, including members and staff of the YWCA of India, were confronted with tear gas, water canons and police charges. Unable to control the emotional uproar, the Government of India had no choice but to review its laws on rape.
Reports and statistics say that a girl is raped in India every 20 minutes, and every 5 minutes in other parts of the world.
The YWCA of India, although actively involved in December’s protest, has been advocating for the end of violence against women long before the Delhi incident.
The YWCA of India, along with other women’s rights organisations, has formulated a submission to Justice Verma Committee (a Government appointed panel that was put into place to review penal provisions on the crime of rape). Some of the recommendations included establishing preventive safety measures, Fast Track Courts, improvement of efficiency in investigation, enhancement of punishment and inclusion of ‘marital rape’ into the purview of the definition.
An equally strong memorandum was prepared to the Delhi police asserting the need to improve safety measures for women living in the city.
Local Associations of the YWCA of India have been involving survivors of abuse and violence for decades, provided rehabilitations centres, help lines, self defence classes, crisis cells, free counselling and safe homes for women across the country.
An element of the YWCA’s role is to provide support and a safe place for all women, regardless of their circumstances and background.
What happened to the young woman in New Delhi has shocked the world and has created a strong emotional reaction. Yet this keeps on happening, all over the world. Nothing is more excruciating than hearing of a ‘Nirbhaya’, other than perhaps being a ‘Nirbhaya.
Stories like these need to become a thing of the past.