(The writer Shohini Banerjee is a gender specialist at Swasti, Catalyst Group)
It has been almost six years since Nirbhaya, a pivotal moment in Indian legal history. It highlighted the plight of women* with regards to the violence they face every day.
There was a major uproar from the Indian public as details of the heinous crime were revealed. Thousands protested on the street, seeking a prompt response on the rape case, broader awareness about the pervasiveness of sexual violence, and changes to the criminal justice system. And change did come in the form of the Verma Committee and the Nirbhaya Fund. 
While the effectiveness of these changes is debatable, more importantly, they focus on response rather than prevention.
More recently, the brutal gang-rape and murder of a 26-year-old woman in Hyderabad highlights the fact that the Indian public outcry after the Nirbhaya case missed the following opportunities to propel forward changes addressing gender inequality and subsequently, gender-based violence: in law, political will, and prevention programmes.
The struggle for justice
Firstly, while there were some recommendations which were missed by the Verma Committee report itself, the larger debate on a woman’s burden to attain justice did not take place.
The ideal survivor is fearless, strong and will defend herself against sexual assault if necessary to the point of succumbing to death to be able to get justice. There is a notion of the “perfect victim” who may attain justice.
This is demonstrated time and time again when rape against children or rape leading to death or injuries leads to protests on the streets, whereas rape of sex workers, trans and less publicly heinous crimes are less reported or even believed.
Furthermore, there is only one understanding of “justice” through the existing judicial system, which does not allow for any restorative course of action should someone require it. Requiring survivors to testify without any other recourse increases their trauma. While there was a call to improve the system, there should have been a debate whether a parallel system needed to be built for rape survivors.
Lack of political will
The second missed opportunity was the discussion of a demonstrated lack of political will to address diverse women-related issues that could increase equality and subsequently reduce gender-based violence.
While the government commissioned the Verma Committee and have used words demonstrating interest to curb gender-based violence, a quick analysis of policies shows a lack of political will to empower women in a gender-equal lens.
Pro-women policies have often been paternalistic and gender stereotypical like giving gas cylinders to women, reinforcing gender stereotypes that women stay at home. There is tremendous scope to look at gender budgeting and increase gender-responsive programming that invest in women’s economic empowerment, health and governance which could in turn create a more equal society.
Bringing men into the conversation
Lastly, while there were conversations post-Nirbhaya about the importance of stopping victim-shaming and holding perpetrators accountable, there were not enough calls for prevention activities.
The onus of women’s safety has usually been with women rather than placing the blame on gender constructions that perpetuate inequality and allow for insecurity. It is important to start the conversation about engaging men and boys, not only as allies to stop the violence but as casualties of the gender stereotypes and inequality as well.
Conversations with children about gender as a construct, discussion on sex and sexuality and challenging gender construction is at the heart of addressing gender-based violence. While there was an outcry about men as perpetrators of rape, it is important to reflect on the environment that allows for such violence to occur.
India is ranked as 108 out of 129 countries in terms of the Global Gap Index, which measures gender equality in a country on the basis of several parameters. With adequate investment in understanding and intervention from both the government and civil society, we can someday hope for a gender equal India.
*all use of the word ‘woman’ henceforth includes transgender women
 Verma Committee examined the existing laws and provided suggestions, culminating the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act of 2013
 Nirbhaya Fund aims to create and support initiatives targeting the safety and security of women in the country
 Some recommendation missing were inclusion of marital rape as a crime and not defining ‘victim’ as gender-neutral, denying the right to legal resource for sexual-assault related crimes for the transgender community and men.