Rape Rides Raisina
While writing this edit I am in Ahmedabd to attend the oath-taking ceremony of Narendra Modi on December 26, 2012. Sardar Patel Stadium is awash with saffron hues with the presence of senior BJP leaders and NDA alliance partners. NaMo received a roaring welcome from the general public of Gujarat and the saints of various sects and communities blessed this hat-trick man. NaMo’s mother, who was present on the occasion, said that her son would be sworn in as PM next.
One is wondering how Modi as the PM will stop the increasing number of rape-incidents in the country. The brutal rape of a 23-year-old girl in Delhi has not only hit the national consciousness, but also shamed the entire country in an unprecedented manner. The people cannot believe that the human can be so brutal as has been witnessed in this rape case. In fact, this rape case has hit a chord among women of all ages and backgrounds, touching the fear that stalks them in public and private life. Hence, there are unrelenting protests in Delhi, demanding the strictest punishment for the perpetrators so that such a heinous crime is not repeated in the future. This anger is pouring out of frustration against social and official apathy to women’s feeling of insecurity. But indifference on part of the government is vindicated when the police cracked down on the non-violent protestors, which is quite regrettable. For, India has the dubious distinction of being a nation where a rape against a vulnerable woman or girl is committed every 40 minutes. And national capital Delhi leads this disgraceful statistic. More rapes were reported in Delhi than that in other metro cities. From 2007 to 2011, Delhi witnessed 2,620 rape cases, whereas Mumbai registered 1,033, Bengaluru 383, Chennai 293 and Kolkata 200 cases. It is the most unsafe major city as compared to other metros. In 2011, Delhi accounted for 572 rape cases, while Mumbai reported 239 cases, Bengaluru 96 and Chennai and Kolkata recorded 76 and 47 such incidents respectively. And in 2012, this number rose to 661 rape cases so far. What is ironical is the fact that of the rape cases reported in Delhi in 2012, at least there were at least eight accused involved, who had not committed the offence for the first time! In spite of such appalling figures, the gang rape and brutalisation of the 23-year-old girl occurred in Delhi. Lamentably, the country witnesses a large number of rape cases every year. Most such cases go unreported or little attention is paid to them. Even when the police arrest the perpetrators, the prosecution rate is about one in three after legal delays for years and victims being forced to live in fear and shame. The permissiveness with which rape is perceived is again reflected in the fact that those accused of rape have been allowed to enter the Indian legislature at the state and Centre (For details read the report “Fence eating the farm”).
At an individual level, rape is always about control, domination and humiliation of the weaker sex. However, the rapist must understand that it is he who is weak and not able to control himself; he (or they in case of a gang rape) brings misery not only to the victim but also to himself and his family. Reports say most of the offences of this gravity are committed under the influence of liquor. The similar pattern of alcohol abuse is substantiated in the present case. So women and children must be protected by the government which takes the responsibility to do so. Against this backdrop, it is worth mentioning that more than a quarter of all Bills passed by Parliament this year were discussed for less than five minutes! But long overdue police reforms are yet to receive even these five minutes. The Supreme Court, in its judgment in 2006, instructed the central and state governments to comply with a set of seven directives laying down practical mechanisms to kickstart police reforms (For details read “Why are police reforms being pushed behind?”). But it seems the central and state governments are unwilling to relinquish control over the police. This would make it difficult to free the police from political interference and make them accountable to an independent body and enable dispassionate enquiry to be conducted against their abuse of power and violation of human rights. The perpetrators of this sort of crime need to be seriously dealt with. The causes governing this problem stem from stereotypical attitude, the portrayal of women in cinemas as object of sexual gratification, etc. Every time a dastardly cruel crime is committed, media, political leaders and well-meaning persons go hysterical with demands for death penalty to the perpetrators. These loud sound bites disappear after a few days. The public outrage against the horrendous crime is understandable. It is easy to pour out our anger on the police, the judiciary and the government. But actually society in general is responsible in the first place. The notion that women are repository of family honour is ingrained deep rooted in our society. Even the emotionally charged Mrs Sushma Swaraj in Parliament said that even if the girl who was raped survived after getting medical treatment she would just be a living corpse. The enforcement against dowry has yielded some progress though not up to the desirable extent. Therefore, the quick and effective enforcement of the existing law coupled with the change in mindset of society will help reduce such incidents in future. Also this is time we framed certain norms and strict laws related to the heinous crime, so strict that the perpetrator could not even think of doing such things. And the other thing to do is reforming our education so that the next generation of India must have some real values that help them be a good and responsible citizen of India.