Violence against women, mainly sexual assault is a burning problem in India. The increasing trend of violence has sparked public outrage and anguish in the recent past. The Nirbhaya incidence in December 2012 provoked the collective conscience of India. The movement was supposed to press the government into bringing legal and judicial reforms to ensure swift and effective action against sex offenders. There is a growing demand for harsher punishment to the culprits of sex crimes against women, even capital punishment, to discourage people from committing such heinous crime. On many occasions, the whole country showed solidarity for effective measures but not much has changed. As the latest data of NCRB paints a very pathetic picture. There is a need for positive measures that can change the mindset of society at large and such kind of efforts will supplement the environment of women's safety. Gender sensitization will be an effective instrument to bring sensitivity to society about women’s safety. This article examines various issues pertaining to gender sensitization.
Keywords: Gender Sensitisation, Empathy, Sex Education, Gender issues, Women Empowerment
After the Nirbhaya outrage, followed by the recommendations of the Justice J.S. Verma Committee, the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 was passed, by bringing in changes to the Indian Penal Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012. Key amendments were brought for the death penalty for rape. In 2018, further changes introduced death as the maximum punishment for every perpetrator in a gang-rape. In the Delhi case, a fast-track trial court sentenced four to death in September 2013. The Supreme Court dismissed their appeals against conviction in 2017; the convicts have filed curative petitions in the court and one had written to the President of India for clemency. This is a grim reminder of how the existing framework continues to fail in providing justice to victims.
After the Nirbhaya incident, the UN Human Rights chief had called rape and violence against women in India a “national problem” which would need “national solutions”. Unfortunately, the National Crime Records Bureau, which released its 2017 data said a total of 3.59 lakh cases of crimes against women were reported, a 6% rise compared to 2016. Of this, assault on women with intent to outrage her modesty comprised 21.7%, and rape 7%.
Sex is a biological determinant between men and women but Gender creates differences between the males and females in terms of their strength, ability, performance, earning capacity and social acceptability, etc. In fact, the biological process does not discriminate between men and women, but society has regarded women as weaker and subject to the subordination of men. Gender sensitization is instrumental in the change of behavior and change of mind-sate of society towards women. It inculcates the attitude of respect women as equal to men.
Process of gender sensitisation
1. Change in perception is a psychological process and it should inculcate right from beginning from schooling level that man and woman are equal. The impression that women are weak and unequal should be washed from the minds of people. In fact, women must see as responsible and equal partners in all walks of life. Society has to play a greater role especially men in removing biases. The society at large must realise the ill effects of prevailing biases against women at family as well as in society.
2. Society must recognise the contribution of women in the building of family, society, and nation. Indeed, women are contributing their best in most of the areas of the socio-economic development of our country. Through gender sensitisation we can remove the ignorance of people about the contribution of women in society. The very capabilities of women should not go unnoticed and must get attention. Women should be more conscious about their capabilities and contribution and take pride in the same.
3. Through gender sensitization a message can reach that women have all-natural capacity to make decisions and can handle administration efficiently, therefore, they must get participation in the decision-making process. In this ongoing Corona Pandemic women premier like New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina are doing a good job. In the past, Indira Gandhi had already been shown her administrative skill.
4. Members of various civil societies and intuitions-related interaction to different sections of the society should inculcate accommodative habits in the people especially students. To make accommodative our society, change of mind-sate and change in behavior are required. The difference between men and women can be narrowed down if society allows women to function in a comfortable environment in the available socio-economic space. To begin such kind of accommodation, the family is the right place, if opinions and suggestions of women get importance at the primary platform of the society, it will create overall development. At the community level, women should get encouragement to play their roles equally.
5. Such kind of program is an action and result oriented. Women should get their proper space in society. Conscious efforts can create a favorable climate in nurturing and flourishing her talent. The role of women is very important in making women empowered and respected in society. Women can play a positive role in bias and discriminatory practices. They can be instrumental in making space for a respectable position of women in society.
Gender sensitisation strategy
It has been experienced that gender-based discriminations exist in all walks of life and every sphere of society, including everyday interactions at the workplace and public places. The main question everyone is asking why violence against women is surging now. If society asks themselves then it would be easy to find a solution. In fact, our society by and large is not willing to accept the growing presence of women in every walk of life. The traditional and patriarchal mindset is also ignoring due respect for women in society. The Gender Sensitization and Legal Awareness Programme would facilitate inculcating values of equality, inclusiveness, and diversity, which are essential for building a healthy society among adolescent boys and girls. Moreover, knowledge of laws relating to women and gender sensitization is not only crucial for the balanced development of young minds; it will also help in building correct values, self-discipline, and national spirit. Patriarchy empowers structures or institutions that exclude women from participation in spaces of power economically, politically, culturally, and religiously. Patriarchy is an unjust social system that subordinates discriminate against or is oppressive to women. We need to challenge patriarchal mindsets & ensure that both boys and girls have equal access to opportunities, decision making, and freedoms.
Gender sensitisation is the modification of behaviors so that there is a need to create awareness and empathy for gender equality. Sexual offenses include sexual gestures, stalking, ogling, voyeurism, molestation, and intercourse (rape). If we want to prevent all kinds of diseases, but we are reluctant to discuss a change of behavior, it would create a hindrance. Every act of rape or violence should be registered, there are many which go unrecorded as patriarchal mindsets remain unchanged. Better policing, fast-track courts, and quick sentencing are the need of the hour. Such efforts can serve as a deterrent.
Role Of Gender Studies
There is a need for something additional to control crime at the very beginning. Gender sensitization should be included in the curriculum right from school. Boys and girls should be raised in an atmosphere of freedom and a culture of mutual respect. Sexuality is a normal part of our biological growth; hence sexual awareness is imperative. We need to educate people about what is normal sexual behavior and what is not acceptable and clearly wrong so that there is no guilt involved in reporting offenses against women.
It is pertinent to provide sex education to the students of schools and colleges to get rid of misconceptions regarding myths and realities pertaining to body structure and physiological activities, in either gender, regarding procreation, the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, etc.
We can combat this problem either individually or in a forward strategic manner by educating and teaching women of all ages how to be safe. It is here that the role of self-defence in the form of martial arts or use of any other techniques or deterrents, such as pepper spray, which will protect them from the offender. Hence, teaching women to be self-advocates for their safety with full awareness of what is right/acceptable and wrong will be a forward step in the right direction.
Jawaharlal Nehru University and the University of Hyderabad have the Gender Sensitisation Committee Against Sexual Harassment (GSCASH) in place. The UGC has recommended the establishment of such committees in all institutions. In some universities, it is on paper. Rules and procedures under GSCASH apply to all students, teaching, and non-teaching staff on the active roles of a university, residents, service providers, and outsiders who may be within the territory of the institution an attractive provision of GSCASH. Any member of the University can be summoned for violating these codes of conduct.
We need to inculcate moral and ethical values in our society, about respect to women. We are living in a democratic society and India is a liberal democratic country. In the Rule of Law: everyone has equal rights which are guaranteed in the Constitution. Philosophers like Plato, J S Mill and Mahatma Gandhi had advocated for the equal contribution of women in society
Easy access and loud messaging
Everybody should be able to reach women’s protection officers whenever they need – whether it be through helplines or direct contact. Their contact numbers should be heavily publicized. They must be in a position to intervene in all instances of violence against women. As a society, we must come together, shedding any political affiliation, to make fundamental changes to the system. This strengthening must begin at the grassroots level by creating awareness and infrastructure. Not only that they must be empowered for a larger role of advocacy to sensitize our society, clear guidelines must be issued periodically until the message is hammered home on the approach to law enforcement and investigation on dealing with crime against women.
Regular gender sensitisation training workshops need to be institutionalized for the police, executive, and the judiciary. The highest standards of accountability within the police force must be established, and failure to follow procedure must result in strict punishment. This can be done by setting up systemic deterrents such as by including clauses in annual confidential reviews. Any lapses may impact an officer’s promotion. Scientifically investigating a rape case requires immediate forensic examination. Collecting the semen sample in the first few hours can provide clinching evidence. To enable investigators, forensic laboratories must be strengthened technologically and be established even in the remote areas of the country.
Our judicial system operates on the principle that let 100 guilty people may escape, but one innocent should never be unjustly punished. This requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt to enable conviction. Again, each case goes up the ladder of judicial hierarchy and could take over years to finally be disposed of by the Court.
A Framework for speedy justice
It is a matter of concern to note that with every passing year, cases of sexual assaults are on the rise, but what is reported is not even the tip of the iceberg. The problem is further compounded by the victims committing suicide or living with the social stigma of rape Law enforcement agencies may be doing their job, but not to our expectations. Adequate evidence and speedy disposal of cases are needed. In this circumstance, the absence of a forensic lab near the place of the crime has failed to effectively collect and examine forensic evidence. This will later hinder court proceedings. Although the Nirbhaya fund was created in 2013, there is a need for diversified allocations to build more infrastructure across the country but also to fund the use of the latest technology in investigations to facilitate a speedy trial. The most crucial step of the process is the trial. Fast-track trials must be implemented. Consistent delays in a trial result in the dilution of evidence and as a result, the dilution of the strength of the case. The fact that the lethargy of India’s law-enforcement bodies of the country regarding cases of rape has not been a required modification. The government must ensure that all public institutions involved in a criminal investigation should function smoothly. We must strengthen our public institutions so that they serve the purpose they were created to fulfil.
In conclusion, we can say that gender sensitization through education can be a forceful, effective, and primary tool to bring change in the thought process of students through formal school education. The main focus should be on breaking the stereotypes and set patriarchal notions prevalent in society. The time has come for women to take initiative and force the patriarchal society to underline the importance and necessity of the role played by women in cultivating a strong, rational, and progressive society. Post-modern effects on society are very much visible. The revolution in information technology has changed the whole socio-economic and political paradigm. Women are becoming aware of their rights and roles in society. Its the right time to accept and respect dignified place for women in all walks of life.
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