Organised by RSIS and ICRC, July 21-22, 2015, Singapore
WISCOMP was part of the panel on “Policy Approaches to Gender-based Violence in Humanitarian Emergencies”, in which Nilova Roy Chaudhury discussed some of the policy approaches to gender-based violence in South Asia in the context of humanitarian emergencies.
Humanitarian emergencies can comprise everything from a natural disaster (Act of God ranging from an earthquake through a flood, droughts, cyclones, typhoons, landslides, and tsunamis) to man-made crises like war, conflict, terrorism to displacement, and so on. It can also be an act of violent individual subjugation, like Rape, which is symptomatic of a mindset which views subjugation as power.
If a country’s national legal framework against gender-based violence (GBV) is strong, it would stand to reason that post-disasters, too, more than basic criteria on that score would be met. I will address the widespread and apparently rising levels of violence against women in India. At one level this reflects rapidly changing conditions with improving economic parameters. As rising economic opportunity proves to be a leveller of distinctions, between traditionally envisaged roles of men and women, between different strata of society, the imperative to hold on to “power,” a symptoms of which is forceful subjugation of the supposedly weaker sex, has resulted in an indiscriminate rise of very violent incidents against women.
Singapore has a special resonance in the context of the perception of India being extremely unsafe for women. A young physiotherapy student, Jyoti Singh, was flown to this city as a last-ditch measure by a shell-shocked administration after she was gang-raped and brutalised in a manner that not merely shocked every right-thinking person, but, like her name, held a light up to societal mores and sparked a revolution in attitudes. The awful brutality of what young Jyoti went through, because she had the gumption to protest and to want to live, highlighted the nature of the crisis confronting an emerging India, with its many diverse dichotomies. The media has played a key role in highlighting GBV.
Like the Asia-Pacific region, South Asia is among the world’s most vulnerable regions to both natural and man-made disasters. Over the last 25 years, disasters have killed nearly half a million people in South Asia besides inflicting colossal financial damages. Over 50,000 people were killed by Tsunami in India, Sri Lanka and Maldives. Some South Asian countries have begun to implement strategies for disaster mitigation or risk reduction.
The crisis afflicting the ‘nowhere people’ the Rohingyas, the 2004 tsunami and its aftermath and the recent devastating earthquake in Nepal are humanitarian crises I will speak about, and how they have prompted some positive changes in the law, mindsets and policy.