Rape, A Shame
The appalling incident at Subalpur village in Birbhum district, West Bengal, in which a 20-year-old tribal woman was gang-raped by 13 men as sentence for alleged wicked demeanour, exposes the ruthless reality—that in rural parts of the country, kangaroo courts exist and flourish. The vestiges of feudalism and prejudice against women are deep rooted and demonstrate their facade in the most repulsive forms at regular and periodic intervals. A few weeks ago, the daughter of a taxi driver from Bihar was gang-raped in Madhyamgram in North 24-Parganas, West Bengal. She was later killed by associates of the rapists. It is a shame that so many crimes against women are happening in a state that is led by a woman Chief Minister. Can the state government believe that its responsibility ends by paying compensation to the rape survivors? It seems honour is being traded here. Is there any value for honour? These incidents are a blot on the so-called progressive nation—India. When the whole village that too women back the kangaroo court, then we can only lament about the attitude of civilians towards such incidents. Moreover, when a country still relies on the khap panchayats or such other courts despite several provisions of lok adalats, laid down by the Supreme Court, then what is left to say? Despite education and development, percolating to depths of rural India, such reprehensible incidents happen, which corroborate that surely something is wrong with our conscience and mindset, which can only be manipulated not treated. Law-enforcement officials in India have a history of not taking reports of rape very seriously. For example, one of the top-ranked police officials in India, Ranjit Sinha, said, “If you can’t prevent rape, you should enjoy it.” While this statement may have been careless on Mr. Sinha’s part, it shows that certain beliefs regarding women and rape are largely internalised. Enforcing laws regarding rape is difficult because much of the problem comes from the internalisation of attitudes such as misogyny, tradition and patriarchy. These ideals are set in stone from a very young age, beginning with selective abortion. In a society, where men are valued above women, the roots of the issue run extremely deep. After the Delhi gang rape of Nirbhaya, isn’t it pretty clear that the country’s laws have changed only on paper. Laws and attitudes must change together in order for a true transformation to occur. The fight is not for women but for human worth. The heinous act, which forces every citizen to feel the searing shame, has once again repeated itself. There are plethora of such cases and umpteen numbers of protests for the same, but all in vain. Now who is to be blamed?
It is a clear evidence that absence of enforcement of constitutional provisions and the spread of awareness in the rural areas of the country are missing. In spite of many acts in favour of women, the gruesome act by the kangaroo court is unacceptable in the society. Attitudes do not change just because a new law is enacted. Passing a new law and placing it on the book or online do not change behaviour. First, all persons have to learn the consequences of their actions. Then, they have to understand the meaning of their actions in terms of consequences to others and themselves. Go to a village, a slum, or a college campus and you will hear obscene and cursed words, being hurled at women. Most of the time, these amount to violence against women. This language and its use are perhaps illegal. But the continued use of this language in public teaches children bad language, shocking manners and unacceptable behaviour. The rupee-seven-crore loot in Delhi is the outcome of this mannerism. Against this backdrop, good governance assumes significance. Hence, attention must be focused on the primary responsibilities of the government. These must include the maintenance of law and order, administration of justice, and welfare of economically and socially weaker sections of society in terms of provision of safety net for them, transparency and responsiveness of the government. But it is seen that, in its anxiety to do thousand and one other things, these primary responsibilities have been neglected over the years by the government. So, it can be said that he who governs the least governs the best. If this principle had been followed in governance all these years, India would not have presented a picture of such heinous crimes even after more than six decades of Independence. Hence, the main question is whether we are prepared to learn lessons for the future from our experience of the past. It is, therefore, high time the central government prevented kangaroo courts, forestalled the reign of village heads and other de facto tyrants, and put an end to male chauvinism. The rule of law should prevail and the writ of the State in criminal jurisprudence is the need of the hour.