The recent gang rape in India alarmed all countries in South Asia. A 23-year-old woman was gang-raped by five men on a bus in New Delhi. Some of the offenders had jobs (bus driver and assistant gym instructor) and one was a juvenile. The victim failed to survive the trauma. This incident resulted in a public outcry for justice, and the media still report statements exposing public officials who are insensitive and lack awareness of the social and economic costs of gender-based violence. Do we have to wait for such a violent incident to occur to start acting?
It is our individual and collective responsibility to make sure that we do not witness any such dramatic incident in the future in our country, city, or neighborhood. It is truly up to each one of us to take responsibility, talk openly about it and say NO. Consider:
- In Bangladesh, every week more than 10 women suffer from an acid attack.
- In India, 22 women are killed each day in dowry-related murders.
- In Nepal, 77% of the episodes of violence against women are reported as being from within the family.
- In Pakistan, more than 450 women and girls die every year in so-called “honor killings.”
- In Sri Lanka, 78% of victims of grave sexual abuse (seduction, rape, and incest) were girls, especially those under 16 years old.
There are high costs associated with this situation: the value of goods and services for treatment and prevention, the psychological costs post-trauma, and economic and social multiplier effects such as reduced productivity and intergenerational transmission of violence.
This issue can no longer be swept under the rug as a domestic issue or personal issue or a United Nations human rights issue. It’s not OK to be silent until it happens to someone you know or someone in your own country. It’s about time we break the silence and culture of denial and blame. The shame falls on all of us, whether a woman, a husband, a policymaker, a youth, or a child.
Let us work together to improve our legal frameworks, public systems (police, shelters, counseling) and continue to fight for fair women’s economic and social participation. Let us include gender sensitization in school curricula and teacher training programs; this is where it starts. Let us make public transport safe and accessible for women and train health care workers on early detection of domestic violence. Let’s talk openly to our children and friends about gender-based violence.
South Asia is home to 26% percent of the world’s youth population, and 20% of South Asia’s population is between the ages of 18-25, according to U.N. population data. So let’s start right now:
How best can the youth of South Asia work together to end gender-based violence?
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