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Declare rape as national emergency

Declare rape as national emergency
Highlights

In February last, Sierra Leone's president, Julius Maada Bio, declared rape and sexual violence a national emergency after a series of high-profile...

In February last, Sierra Leone's president, Julius Maada Bio, declared rape and sexual violence a national emergency after a series of high-profile rapes of young girls.

He promised speedier trials and new arms of the police and judicial system to address sexual offenses. To emphasise the severity of the crime of sexual assault, he also said that anyone found guilty of having sex with a minor — under 18, the age of consent — would be sentenced to life in prison.

Whether be it Sierra Leone, India or the US or for that matter the entire world, rape has become increasingly common and is growing humongously. If it was Nirbhaya yesterday, today it is Disha of Hyderabad (Cyberabad, if the police prefer so).

How long do we keep giving new names to the girls reduced to crime numbers in the police stations?

India's rape crisis points to a deep-rooted socio-cultural problem that has pervaded the society. The crime rate in respect of rapes has been steadily and constantly increasing since the last two decades and, thus, the lives and dignity of women are under constant threat.

Close to 40,000 women are raped in the country every year – 40 per cent of the rape victims being minors. Moreover, due to the stigma and legal hassles, about 85 per cent of the rape cases are never reported.

Clearly, something has gone horribly wrong somewhere. Why are so many men on the prowl in the society? We can address the problem of rape only when we understand it in its entire complexity. New stringent laws are passed and yet nothing seems to prevent the rapes in the country.

We could go on and endlessly discuss this yet another rape and its brutality. But, everything is forgotten soon. In fact a Nirbhaya or Disha get highlighted and dominate the headlines more because of the brutality and not because of rape itself.

The point to be noted is ,rape in itself has become just another crime for us and long hours of vociferous discussions and debates in the Parliament alone will not bring it down.

We can even critically analyse the rape crisis, psychological analysis of rapists, socio-cultural reasons of rapes, effect of porn and popular mass media, trauma of rape victims, penalty to control rapes, etc, in great length. But unless the education begins at home in right earnest for the boys (a difficult demand anyway), one cannot expect any real change. Rape is a devastating crime.

Some women are badly physically injured. Some become pregnant. Some contract HIV. But the emotional trauma can be worse than any physical injury.

The lives of women who are raped are forever changed. Victims say they will never be the same, that it feels like dying. Even if they have not been physically harmed, women who have been sexually assaulted often suffer from long-term psychological and physical health problems.

Majority of the cases are never reported, because of shame, fear and deep-seated cultural notions that the woman is somehow to blame herself for the crime. It is time India too declares rape as a national emergency and adopt all required measures like in case of natural calamities.

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