Police in the south Indian state of Karnataka have met with local women to discuss the issue of under-reporting of sexual violence in India. More than 40 women from different backgrounds, including garment worker unions and domestic violence activists, were involved in the discussion held on 8 March, International Women's Day.
The meeting was organised by the Karnataka State Police and Amnesty International India in Bangalore, where a discussion was held about reasons why official reporting of crimes on sexual violence is only 1% in the country. Among the women present were also students, who contributed to coming up with possible interventions that would enable women to report sexual violence.
Gopika Bashi, women's rights campaigner at Amnesty International India, said: "This is the first of many dialogues for women to talk in safe spaces about their concerns about reporting sexual violence to the police, and for the police to respond. It helps build stronger relationships between the police and women, which we need to make our cities human rights friendly."
Yamuna G, a member of the Nayandhali garment's workers union, attended the discussion as well and said that it was crucial for people to "look beyond the law" and engage in ways that police and communities could work more closely together to combat the "hidden pressures" preventing women from reporting sexual violence.
India has been under the spotlight for incidents of sexual assault since the horrific 2012 gang rape in New Delhi made international headlines. The attack resulted in the 23-year-old victim losing her life as a result of the injuries she faced at the hands of her rapists, sparking nationwide protests demanding more action to be taken to curb violence against women.
Despite prompt strict laws in place, a number of women do not report crimes of sexual violence in the country. The reasons behind this vary widely from being threatened by their attackers if they tell anyone or fear of being "dishonoured" or shunned by society.
Alok Kumar, inspector general in the Karnataka Police, said: "We want to celebrate Women's Day in a meaningful manner. Today we have provided a platform for women to share their concerns with police officials and seek redress. We want to encourage women to talk about their challenges. They should feel confident to approach the police with their problems."