To the Justice Verma Committee
I visited India in 2009 and to this day consider it the most interesting and friendly country I have ever visited. I would return in an instant if the opportunity arose.
India is known the world over for its association with peace, spirituality and vibrance. The Satyagraha that Mr Gandhi developed while in my country, South Africa, was pivotal to your nation’s own independence.
When I visited in 2009, it was clear then that, not unlike my own country, the general populace were beginning to grow very concerned with the disconnect between those elected to lead the country and the needs of the people. Corruption and all the ills associated with it seem to be a growing trend in developing countries like ours.
In South Africa we are just emerging from possibly the deadliest festive season in history as far as traffic fatalities are concerned, with an estimated 1600 people to have been killed on our roads in the past month. Corruption and poor management are to blame, with Police not doing enough about drunk and reckless driving, and other departments failing in their duty to keep unroadworthy vehicles off the roads.
I use this example because it shows how a government that no longer has its finger on the pulse, a government which is focused on political games and self-enrichment, is a government which does little to make the lives of their citizens, most especially the poor, any better.
The grotesque crime against Jyoti Singh Pandey in your country has been closely followed in mine. South Africa has one of the highest incidence of rape in the world and it is said that nearly two thirds of all South African men are rapists, just worse than the around one quarter of Indian men.
Rape in South Africa is another example of a serious issue which affects the lives of South Africans significantly and yet goes relatively unaddressed by our elected leaders. I expect our leaders to speak out on a regular basis about rape, gender discrimination, and the broader ills affecting our society caused by corruption but they do not.
But far more than that, in the second decade of the 21st century, it is high time that leaders started to actively do something about these crimes. The ability and willingless of our respective government machinery to investigate and prosecute rape cases leaves much to be desired. Often far more debilitating than the lack of competent forensic facilities, is the attitude of the investigators and other officials to the crime. Too many men regard rape as something that women must just get over, and far too many more regard rape as something that certain women ask for.
To that I say the following: “Rape is not something that happens to a certain type of woman. Rape is something perpetrated by a certain type of man.”
We need to sensitise our societies and sharpen our law enforcement to the point where the most despised and most harshly punished individuals are the perpetrators of rape.
A political leader who has an interest in maintaining access to the levers of power they so desire would do well to take this and related issues very seriously going forward. The Arab Spring of the past two years has shown the world that the general populace of any country, especially the youth, will tolerate only so much before they revolt. We needn’t ever learn that lesson again.
Please consider signing the petition here and sending an email to the Justice Verma Commission yourself.
eThekwini, South Africa