Kolkata, Jan 29 IBNS | 9 months ago

In less than 12 hours, over 11,000 people have joined the campaign launched by the online civic movement Avaaz asking West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to protect women from violence and rape and sent hundreds of messages directly to her via social media to call for urgent and robust action.

This follows the case where a young woman was sentenced to be raped by a village court last week in Birbhum.

The online petition calls for a public education campaign against sexual violence; better responsiveness from the police and courts; and effective security measures to make the streets safer.

Meredith Alexander, Campaign Director at Avaaz said: "For too long West Bengal has been the rape capital of India; it's time for CM Banerjee to end the crisis. She's already moved aside the police chief who bungled the shocking Labhpur gangrape and now thousands of citizens across India are calling for comprehensive action to protect all women. Didi [Mamata Banerjee] was inspired to poetry by the Delhi rape victim. Now she can be inspired to make West Bengal safe for women."

This campaign is inspired by an effort to get the two parties who now govern in the Delhi Assembly to support a Womanifesto that lays out a series of measures to protect women signed by prominent civil society leaders.

In November thousands of voters contacted politicians directly with emails, social media messages and phone calls. Congress fully committed to the Womanifesto, promising to work tirelessly to implement it, while senior AAP leaders publicly endorsed this six-point plan for comprehensive reform.

Messages on Banerjee's Facebook insist that police accountability is only a first step, and that more action is urgently needed to make West Bengal safe for women

A message from Durgalakshmi read: "Great to see some police accountability as a first step. Please make West Bengal safe for all women by committing to public education, training and enforcement that can stop the rape epidemic."

Another woman named Deepika wrote: "We proud of you as one of the woman CM, therefore your accountability is still much more in your own state. As citizens of India we call on you to commit publicly to implement a programme that can drastically reduce rapes in West Bengal. The key steps are a public education campaign against sexual violence, making the police and courts responsive, supportive and effective, and measures to make the streets safer. It is time to act before more girls and women suffer."

Netizen Prakash posted: "You are lovingly called "Didi" in Bengal. Justify that title by a swift and strong action to help women of Bengal."

Avaaz is an online campaigning community in India with over 850,000 members.

(Posted on 29-01-2014)

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