By Efrosini Costa

Women’s rights activists in India have called for a gender-sensitive agenda ahead of this year's general elections.

More than a year after the brutal gang rape and murder of a young female student made international headlines, Indian citizens are concerned that government leaders have failed to address the issue of violence against women.

In fact, recent similar attacks against females have seen the city earn the unsavoury reputation of being India’s “rape-capital”. According to the latest government crime statistics, the country has experienced a 3 per cent rise in the number of rapes, taking the total number to 24,932 in 2012 – 706 of which happened in Delhi – the most of any Indian city.

More than 50 leading women’s rights activists in the country have taken to the online activist hub Avaaz.org to back a six-point manifesto that addresses women’s safety.

The Womanifesto calls for an education campaign to change the country’s patriarchal mindset and relaxed attitude to violence against women, an action plan for the implementation of laws to protect women, the enforcement of penalties on police who fail to investigate rape crimes, as well as the development of 24-hour crises centres in hospitals, night shelters, women’s toilets and fast-tracked courts for serious offences.

“The reason that this is important is that the existing manifestos are deeply inadequate,” Karuna Nundy, a Supreme Court lawyer who is backing the ‘Womanifesto’, told reporters. For her, the ‘Womanifesto’ is sending the message to all political parties that: ‘If you are going to ask for votes on the basis of gender, then you must commit to something concrete’.”


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