When is Enough, Enough? India's Women and Girls Must Be Safe to Live Their Lives

Indian Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) demonstrators argue with policewomen during a protest against the recent gang-rape and mu
Indian Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) demonstrators argue with policewomen during a protest against the recent gang-rape and murder of two girls, in Lucknow on June 2, 2014. Indian police fired water cannon at a group of mainly women protesting against the gang-rape and lynching of two girls in the country's largest state. AFP PHOTO/STR (Photo credit should read STRDEL/AFP/Getty Images)

In late 2012, New Delhi women and girls surveyed by the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) told us that they feared walking on the street, visiting the market, even waiting on a bus. They told us they worried they would be grabbed, assaulted, screamed at or raped.

Soon after more than 3,000 women, girls, men and boys responded to our questions about sexual violence in Delhi, the 23-year-old woman known as Nirbhaya was fatally gang-raped while riding a bus with her fiancé in the Indian capital. Her tragic fate captured the world's attention and ire. In response, the Indian government promised cities and villages would be safer for women and girls. Leaders took steps to ensure that survivors of sexual violence would see justice and their perpetrators would be held accountable.


But recent headlines suggest that not much may have changed since Nirbhaya's death: Last month, two teenage girls in Uttar Pradesh were kidnapped and gang-raped while walking to a field to go to the bathroom. Theirs was just the latest in several incidences of sexual violence in India that have been reported since ICRW conducted its survey.

The headlines provide one form of evidence. But ICRW wants to better understand what is happening in households and on street corners in India, in terms of people's attitudes and behaviors related to sexual violence; women and girls' sense of safety; and the government's response to attacks. We want to go back to Delhi before the two-year anniversary of Nirbhaya's fatal assault to determine whether the environment has changed for women and girls.

Do the one in five women and girls who told us they don't go out alone for fear of sexual violence now feel comfortable leaving their house? Are men and boys less apt to rape, understanding that justice against them may be swift and harsh? And are public spaces now safer for women and girls, 90 percent of whom said they've experienced at least one form of sexual violence in their lifetime?

The evidence we collect will help hold leaders accountable and ensure that all women and girls in India can live free of violence. Learn how you can help.