• commotionindia

No stringent laws for discrimination

- By: Vida Bawlte -

I woke up to a dark figure on top of me. I screamed for help but no one came. I tried to push him off me, but he was heavy. With the last of my strength, I kicked him off my bed and onto the floor. My fingers reached the light switch as he scrambled through the door frame. He was too late. I recognized him as my building’s security guard, so I called my landlady for help. It didn’t take long for her and other residents to huddle at my door and reach a verdict. You see, a North-Eastern woman like me has to have brought it upon myself with my ‘loose moral which is inherent in my culture’.

The crowd tried to persuade me to keep silent about the injustice I was enduring. If not, I was told, that my name will be tainted when it comes out on the newspaper and I would ruin my life by registering a case. Despite their discouragement, I called the local police. As I sat and waited for their arrival in my room - the scene of the crime, I googled the legal procedures and laws for cases like mine. I geared up to fight my case even if I had do it alone.

It has been five years since I registered the case but the trial is at a standstill. Our justice system is slow, overburdened and inefficient and that has led to too many cases being withdrawn. Delayed justice is no justice at all. But I refuse to withdraw my case due to the threats that I have received from the perpetrator. I am determined to pursue the case till the end so that no other women will have to face the same ordeal I went through.

I moved out from that place. I kept changing addresses mainly because the accused after he was out on bail was stalking me. The police said that he could have got information from the official records. So he might have known which college I went to. He got bail after spending 90 days in jail.

My personal experiences in dealing with racism and sexual assault has helped me to realize the need for stringent laws and proper implementation of existing laws and procedures to safeguard the rights of groups that are vulnerable to discrimination and violence. From fighting human trafficking in the country to analyzing policies on child rights for a Member of Parliament at the Rajya Sabha, I do my best to ensure that our laws and system works effectively and efficiently so that no one is robbed of their right to live peacefully and prosper as a citizen of this country.

Last year, a journalist documented my story which was published by The Diplomat. The video story received over 774,000 views. I have been receiving phone calls and messages on various social media platforms which were all words of encouragement. This made me realize the power of social media and I decided to use it to advance the rights of women and children in the country. My team is determined to make sure that no adolescents, young women and men are left behind in their access to knowledge about biased gender lines in the Mizo society.

Through our page called You Matter, which will be up and running by the end of September, we will address how these gender biases impact the physical security, mental health and socio-economic conditions of the subordinated genders. The page will challenge these attitudes and harmful stereotypes that lead to sexual violence in a society where there is little room for the victim to seek redressal. The page will also promote awareness of applicable laws to fight against such abuses.

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