How many more ‘Nirbhaya’s we need?
In yet another shameful incident, a 14 years old Dalit girl lost her battle of life in Max hospital in Delhi on 24th July. She was abducted from her house, raped and forced to drink a corrosive substance (read Acid). Not surprisingly, the incident was from Delhi again. This, however, poses very serious questions of women safety in National capital.
Not long before this tragedy, another horrific incident had occurred in Uttar Pradesh where a 28 years old mother was forced to drink alcohol and was raped in front of her 3 years old daughter and 2 weeks old baby. The baby died in this horrendous incident.
Before this, fateful incident of ‘Nirbhaya’ had happened in December 2012 where a para-medical student was sexually assaulted with an iron bar so violently that only 5% of her intestines remained intact, and then thrown naked into the streets, where for two hours no one stopped to help.
Now, If you are not living under rock, you will certainly admit these rape cases are unabated in national print and electronic media almost daily (sic).
In cases of rape and sexual assault, women are often blamed for the abuse, an outdated concept from a conservative patriarchic society. According to a survey, Most rapes go unreported because the rape victims fear retaliation and humiliation. So it is a really worrying thing to consider that if only the ‘reported’ rapes makes it to the news, what should be the real number of cases against women if we were to combine reported and unreported incidents of crime against women.
Following the ‘Nirbhaya’ incident in December 2012, there was huge uproar and weeks of protests all over India. Many candle marches were organized for protesting crime against women. A new woman superhero had also arisen in India in the wake of this brutal gang rape in Delhi. Priya, a mortal woman who was raped herself, but she fights back against sexual violence with the help of the goddess Parvati and a tiger.
But has anything really changed? Do women feel less fear when they step outside? Do they feel more able to report crimes and receive justice?
Rape, the worst form of crime, is the fourth most common crime against women in India. As many as 2,095 cases of rape were reported in 2015 till December 15, compared to 2,085 cases during the same period in 2014.
Data also revealed that 5,192 cases of molestation and 1,444 cases of eve-teasing (euphemism for sexually-coloured remarks, street harassment etc.) were also reported till December 15, 2015.
This data imposes a big question mark on women’s safety in the Nation.
True, Crimes against women and their pleas for respect and dignity are not going unheard to some extent. Specimen changes were made in sexual harassment laws and in specific police procedures to prioritize crimes against women, but it is obvious that there is a deep moat between changes in policy and their impact on society.
We often talk about changing the mindset of male species on how they perceive their female counterpart. But this idea is too abstract to be implemented. These ideas are often talk about but rarely acted upon and perhaps this is the reason why the reality never changes.
We need to ask serious questions whether the way men think about women has really changed, including their attitudes towards using male power to abuse women when they(men) have the opportunities.
What can really be done? Death Penalty, Sexual Education?
The problem with Death penalty is that it would never be 100% successful. For starters, confuses prevention with punishment. Also punishing all rapes with the death penalty would indeed ensure that women were not just raped but also killed precisely so the rapists could go “scot-free”. Perhaps a better solution is to leave the rapist for the agitated crowd, many would agree, including me.
As pointed out by Justice Verma Committee, that rape is committed to express and assert dominance. Therefore, it is a psychological issue and hence, Education is the ultimate panacea.
Contrary to the widely held belief, Sex Education is not about the details of reproductive organs or sexual intercourse. It is a broad discipline involving understanding gender, definitions and meaning of manhood, womanhood, appropriate/inappropriate behaviour with the other sex along with understanding and appreciation of the body cycles of each other. This education will also help in understanding and helping the woman who has been raped through her traumatic times instead of stigmatizing her. Dialogue needs to happen in every school and every institution to question rape – and who is to blame for it.
The aim ought to be to nip sexual violence in the bud, to prevent it from escalating to the extreme act of rape. The punishment should be harsher, faster and non-bailable. Also, there should be a similar approach to sexual violence on all the offenses — stalking, groping, verbal harassment — that are covered by the infamous euphemism, “eve teasing”.
If men know they can escape this heinous crime, and women know no one will intervene for protecting them – if the apathy and impunity remain same, little will change.