BY CATHERINE FAVORITE
Last weekend The Times of India reported that the number of cases of rape, molestation and harassment registered with the Madhya Pradesh State Women’s Commission more than doubled last year, compared to previous years.
The number of rape cases registered with the Commission jumped from 62 between 2009-2010, to 141 between 2010-2011. Workplace harassment cases grew as well from 115 in 2009, to 268 between 2010-2011.
While this sharp increase in gender-based crimes is indeed alarming, Rashmi Sarawat, chief executive officer, Mahila Chetna Manch, offered some perspective and a slight silver lining to these statistics:
“At the same time, growing awareness levels helped more women shed their social stigma and come out in the open. More women are now aware of the Domestic Violence Act and Vishakha guidelines issued by the Supreme Court for workplace harassment. This may be the prime reason for more number of cases related to violence against women coming to light.”
It may not be easy to confront the real numbers of rape, domestic abuse and harassment survivors (in the United States, a recently revealed figure that one in four women will be raped in their lifetime has caused some commotion). Yet, the large figures not only mean that more survivors are beginning to feel safe enough to come forward, but that the public must pay attention to the crimes that all too often go unaddressed or are swept aside. With more attention paid to these numbers, comes more public outrage. This is the first step to stronger laws (or better enforcement of these laws) protecting women as human beings in both the public and private sphere.