"Don't tell me what to wear, tell your sons not to rape!" was one of many poignant messages splashed on placards during massive protests that erupted late last year in New Delhi over the brutal rape/murder of a medical student who eventually succumbed to her injuries weeks later.
In my opinion, this admonition is not just a message for conservative societies, but also for ones such as ours that sadly continue to rant about the need for women to dress a certain way to avoid inviting trouble.
People with such a mindset seem to have a highly backward approach to addressing sexual violence against women.
Putting the fear of the devil into women in such a manner only serves to inflate a man's ego, as this criminal act continues to dog both conservative and liberal societies alike. The only difference is that in the Western world, women tend to be more vocal in their efforts to bring culprits to justice.
What it comes to is a serious need for education in values for misguided individuals who categorise women as either good girls or bad girls. They convince themselves the bad ones can be abused or dealt with violently because they are asking for it.
To nip this criminal behaviour in the bud, it is pivotal for young boys to have good male role models, both at home and at school. I believe teaching impressionable youngsters, through example, how to respect women will eventually form in them a more caring nature towards the opposite sex when they are grown men.
Mothers, who in most cases are our earliest care givers, can particularly instil values which stay imbedded within us for years. Our thoughts and actions spring from them. They can furthermore teach their sons the importance of being mindful of the way they treat other female members in the family.
I have a dear friend who always instils the right values in her son, who's in his pre-teens. She has taught him never to raise his hand to a woman and that it's totally unacceptable and, moreover, a sign of a first-class coward to do so. I am sure this young man will have this teaching engraved on his heart when he becomes an adult.
As rape is the most severe violation against a woman, it should be prosecuted with a harsh prison sentence. This will also help serve as a warning to others.
In the wake of the fatal gang rape in the Indian capital, a government panel there recently suggested that there would be a rigid enforcement of sexual assault laws, speedy rape trials and changes to the country's out-of-date penal code to protect women.
It was also stated that "failure of good governance is the obvious root cause for the current unsafe environment, eroding the rule of law and not the want of knee-jerk legislation".
I do hope our own government, law enforcement and people in decision-making positions will follow suit.
In 2008, United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon spearheaded the creation of the UNiTE to End Violence Against Women campaign.
Awareness came into focus and the good news is people from all walks of life started getting involved in that campaign and others like it. It is heartening to know that Her Royal Highness Princess Bajrakitiyabha has been promoting and supporting the efforts of the United Nations in this campaign as Thailand's goodwill ambassador.
Through media channels the message is getting across and the general public is being made aware of the serious consequences of such unacceptable behaviour; violence against women, rape to intimidate and control, domestic violence and other such offences are intolerable and have to end.
Society has to also make itself more accountable, as the prevailing attitude of not wanting to become involved in other people's business does not address such crimes. Setting up a neighbourhood watch, in my opinion, can often break the ice, and make people more open to helping each other when a need arises.
Women today are working later in the day due to the nature of their professions, which often call on them to work night shifts. They surely need to have some assurance that it's safe to travel home and not be victimised on the way.
Now the ball is in our court - how do we act upon the urgent need to provide safety? At the very least, we could start with a proactive approach towards helping people in need.
Yvonne Bohwongprasert is a feature writer with the Life section.
About the author
- Writer: Yvonne Bohwongprasert