By Jacqueline Bhaba, Professor of the Practice of Health and Human Rights, Harvard School of Public Health

I read Sharma et al.’s recent paper ‘Sexual violence in India: addressing gaps between policy and implementation’ with interest. The death of “Nirbhaya”, the 2012 Delhi gang rape victim, generated widespread attention to sexual violence in India and it is good to see that her legacy has not been forgotten. Still, there remains much work to be done. As Sharma et al. note, for every survivor that comes forward, 50 remain silent. Though improving care for survivors who report violence is certainly an urgent imperative, the most appreciable gains in eliminating sexual violence will follow from preventive approaches. If policymakers adopted a more informed and progressive attitude towards gender norms, sexual activity and consent, they would see the urgency of attending to the millions of silent survivors as well as those at risk of experiencing sexual assault.

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