Bhanwari Devi, a social activist from Rajasthan, tells Shalini Saksena that there is only one way to stop rapes in the country — by providing quick justice to survivors
It has been more that 25 years, but Banwari Devi all of 56 today, still remembers the day like yesterday. She was gangraped by five men of the family when she tried to prevent child marriage. “I don’t want to talk about that. Four of the men have died. Only one remains and struts around in my village as if nothing happened. Find me a lawyer who will take my case and fight in my behalf. It has been more than two decades, I still want justice. I want the man to know that he can’t get away with the crime,” Bhanwari Devi tells you who is now a social worker from Bhateri, Rajasthan. She holds workshops where girls are educated about what is right and wrong. She also comes to the rescue of rape and sexual abuse survivors and guides them how to get justice.
“The problem is that the one crime where quick justice is needed is a crime which takes the longest to prove. And even then, there is no guarantee that justice will be meted out. We are all aware how most times the perpetrator gets away with proving that the act was consensual. This is bad. It sends a signal to the other men that they too can get away with raping a woman. We have to stop this from happening,” the 56-year-old tells you.
Her solution is simple even if it might be naive. “Rape survivors are looking for immediate justice. They need to know that the perpetrator didn’t get away with the act. So shame the criminal. This is easier to do in villages — parade him around the village with the shoes on his head. This way everyone will have a good look at his face. They will know that he is an offender. Women will stay clear of him. The elderly will also take note that he is an offender. If he is caught harassing a girl, he can be immediately reprimanded. This way other men will also be wary. It can go a long way in preventing crimes against women. Also, eve trading needs to be tackled. It all started with it. Men realised that they got away with it. They got bold and their actions turned more heinous.
If the parents, thr society and the police had taken timely action, we would not have so many crimes against women”Bhanwari Devi opines and tells you that turning the police of the system is not the solution.
“We have to change. We have to educate the girls, we have to tell them that it is not correct to suffer in silence. This is what I tell the girls when I hold workshops. This is what I tell the survivor as well — she is not to be blamed. She had done nothing wrong. She needs to speak out so that other women are not made fresh targets,” Bhanwari Devi says.