November 25 marked the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. With violence against women on the rise, it is more urgent than ever that we meaningfully address the root causes of this problem.
Between January 2009 and March 2013, 22,701 incidents of violence against women and girls took place, including gang rape, murder, dowry related violence, trafficking and acid attacks.
There are serious systemic factors that are allowing this type of crime to escalate. Our current laws are inadequate to address the various threats that women and girls face and there is little political will to change this fact. For example, in spite of a directive from the High Court to the government in 2009 to enact a comprehensive law on sexual harassment, little action has been taken.
Poor implementation of existing laws and the slow pace of trials in delivering justice also create an environment of impunity that can encourage perpetrators.
We also need to fundamentally rethink the social norms that are often factors in giving rise to the abuse of women and violence in the first place. The changing economic reality is challenging the traditional role of men as primary income earners and authority figures. Young men in particular need to be better educated to deal with the increasingly empowered role of women.
An effective strategy to end violence against women needs not just better law enforcement. It requires a change in both archaic attitudes and laws and dialogue to overcome outdated social norms.