Oxfam strongly condemns the brutal sexual assault and subsequent death of a young woman in Delhi and calls for immediate systemic response to the increasing trend of violence against women in the country. It also calls for broader reforms around women's empowerment through concrete measures including the long pending bill on Women's Reservation in the Parliament.
The widespread anger of the past two weeks following the brutal sexual assault of a young woman in Delhi and her subsequent death is symbolic of all the violence women continue to face in the country. 'Violence is an endemic part of a woman in India during her entire life cycle, from womb to tomb', said Nisha Agrawal, CEO, Oxfam India.
The situation is worse for women from the Scheduled Caste communities as is indicated in the 19 rape cases against dalit women in Haryana in one month alone in the recent past. As more women come to occupy public spaces, which were hitherto male dominated, such incidents act as an unstated message that women are not welcome in public life. It is alarming that violence against women has increased 873 percent in the past 40 years (National Crime Records Bureau, 2011) while the conviction rate for rape has plummeted from 46 per cent in 1971 to 26 per cent in 2010.
Deeply-entrenched gender biases in our laws, our police force, our judiciary and other state institutions continue to act as deterrents for women survivors to seek justice. 'Widespread attitudes in society that, until recently, accepted such violence as a routine matter without expressing any outrage also continue to lead to the high levels of violence that we witness today', reiterates Nisha.
It is time to change both these. Oxfam India expresses solidarity with the citizens' key demands for faster justice and immediate other measures to improve women's safety and reduce violence against them.
In addition, Oxfam India would like to see the following:
• Stronger implementation of the existing laws including Protection of Women against Domestic Violence Act and its adequate financing;
• Immediate passage of the pending bill on Sexual Harassment of Women at the Workplace by the Rajya Sabha, already passed by the Lok Sabha in September this year;
• Passage of the Women's Reservation Bill in the next session of the Parliament. The Bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha on the 9th of March 2010. It will be a fitting tribute to pass it in the Lok Sabha before the International Women's Day, celebrated on 8th March every year;
• Adequate representation of women in other government structures like judiciary and police at all levels through affirmative action;
• A larger effort to challenge and change patriarchal mindsets and attitudes. Oxfam India's ongoing campaign 'We Can' calls upon all the citizens of this country to undertake a pledge that they will neither tolerate nor encourage violence against women under any circumstance.
Oxfam India pledges to reinvigorate its campaign on ending violence against women, while calling for the economic, social and political empowerment of women.
Ending on an optimistic note Nisha feels, 'This brutal incident is definitely a turning point for the citizens of India. At the beginning of 2013, we hope the government will give us an opportunity to celebrate by ensuring concrete actions towards the realization of every woman's right to a violence-free life. It is also worth celebrating that the citizens of India are recognizing their own responsibility for creating such a hostile environment for women and girls in India and are willing to take steps to ensure an end to this violence.'
About Oxfam India
Oxfam is marking its 62nd year in India this year (2013). In 1951, Oxfam Great Britain came to India during the Bihar famine to launch its first full scale humanitarian response in a developing country. Over the past 61 years, Oxfam has supported the growth of many civil society organizations across the length and breadth of the country.
In 2008, all Oxfams came together to form Oxfam India. Oxfam India, a fully independent Indian organization (with Indian staff and an Indian Board) is a member of the Oxfam confederation.
Oxfam India's vision is to create a more equal, just, and sustainable world. The overarching vision of Oxfam India is "right to life with dignity for all". Oxfam India will fulfil its vision by empowering the poor and marginalized to demand their rights, engaging the non poor to become active and supportive citizens, advocating for an effective and accountable state and making markets work for poor and marginalized people.
Oxfam India works in partnership with over 180 grassroots NGOs to address root causes of poverty and injustice in the four areas of 1) Economic Justice, 2) Essential Services, 3) Gender Justice and 4), Humanitarian Response and Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR). Oxfam India's program is focused on seven States – Assam, Bihar, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand – and four social groups – Dalits, tribals, Muslims, and women.
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