F-Word and Gender Equality Week have brought attention to women’s rights issues at home, and on Wednesday, Iota Nu Delta and the South Asian Students Association decided to focus on a part of the world that gets little attention.
During the hour-long “Future Without Violence” event in the Student Activities Center on March 4, both groups led a discussion on domestic and sexual violence in India. They discussed topics such as victim-blaming in India and the way Indian police forces handle rape cases, as well as the frequency and effects of acid attacks.
Starting with a video called “Rape: It’s Your Fault” by Indian comedy collective All India Bakchod, several South Asian women talked about the idea that following gender norms would prevent rape. This immediately jumpstarted a conversation about victim-blaming here in the United States and how both India and the United States are affected by it.
The South Asian Student Association and Iota Nu Delta presented statistics concerning rape cases to the audience. According to the statistics, the only rape case that had a conviction in 2012 was the Delhi gang rape case in which a woman was raped by a group of four men and died two weeks later.
The case sparked discussion on the flaws in the Indian justice system.
When Jasjot Kaur, president of SASA, brought up that in India, marital rape is essentially legal under Indian Penal Code 375, the crowd was flabbergasted.
“Women are still not given rights,” she said, “not even in our country, as progressive as we are.”
Yaruq Hassan, the vice president of SASA, moved the discussion to the mentality we bring to rape.
“The only way we can change the mentality is through teaching kids that you have to respect women,” he said. “If they don’t see [women] treated well, they won’t treat other women well.”
Acid attacks were also on the list of topics to discuss. A clip from the documentary “Scarred” was played, and attendees saw a testimony from acid attack victim Chanchal Kumari. It was eye opening for freshman biochemistry major Birav Shah, who said, “I didn’t know of the acid thing until recently. I knew of it from ‘Slumdog [Millionaire],’ but not legitimately.”
President Saurabh Malik also found the attacks surprising.
“Before I looked it up, I had no idea that that was actually a big deal in India,” Malik said. “I didn’t know that was a method of violence against women.”
Those were not the only topics discussed, as various students talked about a lawsuit against Stony Brook University where a former student is claiming that the university mishandled her sexual assault case. Many students in the room were appalled by the alleged handling.
Students also questioned the media’s involvement in presenting the rape case, wondering if the media did a thorough job of reporting on the issue. Many big ideas came out of the event, but according to Kaur, the biggest was that “we all can do something to better women’s rights and human rights.”
Malik furthered those sentiments, saying, “we need to make sure we understand the consequences of what we do at all times.”
“You shouldn’t stay silent,” Hassan said. “If you don’t speak up, you are giving more power to the person that wronged you. Don’t be silent, speak up.”