India is a country in transition ‚Äî economically, societally, and most importantly, in regards to human rights. During my time here, I‚Äôve been struck by the beauty, kindness and vivacity of every single person I‚Äôve met, and it‚Äôs been all too easy to forget the darker side of India.
Every 34 minutes a woman in India is raped. That‚Äôs a hard statistic to swallow, a hard number to know as I walk the streets of Mumbai and wonder what lies behind the smiling faces and vibrant saris that dress the women I pass by.
And despite the government reforms, despite the fact that equality for women is a constitutional right, outrageous societal norms still persist, enforced by a flawed judicial system and aided by a stubborn culture of avoidance and discrimination.
Believe it or not, laws are in place to help women in India ‚Äî now more than ever. But it is the implementation of these laws (or lack thereof) that is truly hurting women who have been victims of sexual assault. New legislation ‚Äòfast-tracking‚Äô sexual assault cases came as a welcome concession to those horrified by the 2012 gang rape case that rocked the country, however many of India‚Äôs women are failing to see the benefits of these changes. Although over 100 rape cases are reported every day, a dismal 25 of those will make it to a conviction, and women reporting sexual assault incidences often times face judgment and backlash back home as well as in the courtroom.
The fight against female feticide has seen similar challenges. Since technological advancements have allowed for the implementation of mobile screening and abortion clinics, the amount of parents choosing to abort based on gender has skyrocketed, unfettered by a 1996 ban on the practice. Rooted deeply in the fundamental inequality between the sexes in India, gender-selective abortions are a symptom of a steadfast discriminatory attitude towards women that won‚Äôt be easily conquered.
But it‚Äôs never been easy, has it? Winning the right to vote wasn‚Äôt easy. It wasn‚Äôt easy to challenge our societies definition of women, to get to where we are today. And it most definitely won‚Äôt be easy to confront the immeasurable inequality in India (and across the world) that we see today.
These goals might seem far away now, but the way we start to solve these problems is with the hard statistics. We start by acknowledging that we‚Äôre not done yet ‚Äî that yes, we do have a problem.
Issues don‚Äôt get solved when you ignore them, or when you‚Äôre afraid to hear the hard statistics. Issues get solved by an educated, involved public ‚Äî a public who know how to make their voices heard.
Global Girl Citizen
Girl Museum Inc.