Sexual assault and the sense of entitlement

Sexual assault and the sense of entitlement
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Sexual assault and the sense of entitlement

Highlights

Rape is the most heinous and atrocious of all crimes and nothing, neither compensation announced by governments nor punishment given to the culprit, can bring solace to the victim

Rape is the most heinous and atrocious of all crimes and nothing, neither compensation announced by governments nor punishment given to the culprit, can bring solace to the victim. Rape is indeed a blot on the face of any civilised society. Broadly speaking, all rapes fall under two categories: the rapes that attract public attention and those that go unnoticed.

The first kind is something that politicians and celebrities of every hue, and media thrive upon. Except for the victim and her kith and kin, a few women groups and genuinely concerned citizens, most others try to derive mileage out of the incident, unmindful of the scar caused by the monstrous incident. God forbid, if the victim is a minor from a downtrodden family and she succumbs, and the culprits are at large, then there would be obnoxious melodrama. However, the hullabaloo dies down once the rattled police resort to delivering instant justice.

The alleged molestation and murder of a 6-year-old tribal girl in a cramped slum in Hyderabad, however, had a different climax. The 30-year-old accused, a drug addict, who hoodwinked police, was found dead on a railway track at a faraway place. People are asked to believe that it was a suicide in the full glare of half-a-dozen eyewitnesses. Let it be!

I am aghast with the way the police, the powers that be and media dealt with the latest of a series of rape cases. The victim's family alleged that police didn't act on time and on top of it, they used force against them after the body was found in the locked house of the accused.

The clarion call of the then Chief Justice Hima Kohli, who while digitally inaugurating a special court for the trial of Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) in July, that victims and their parents should be treated with empathy, fell on deaf ears. This unsavory episode demands ano-holds-barred enquiry into tracing the police officers responsible for humiliation caused on the victim's family.I, in the same breath, am flabbergasted at the mute mode of government.

The Chief Minister may be excused for not calling on the bereaved family but I am unable to fathom the reasons behind the failure of key ministers to do so soon after the incident came to light. The Home Minister, responsible for maintaining law and order, and the IT Minister, who adopted the colony, should have visited and extended moral support to the anguished family on the same day.

Meanwhile, oblivious of this gruesome incident in the heart of the capital, the mainstream media's hands were 'full' following the self-inflicted road accident of a film star belonging to a high-profile filmy family. Fuming at the lackadaisical attitude, some youngsters from the aggrieved family vented ire at the police, government and the media.

Taking serious exception to the almost insignificant coverage given by some of the mainstream media, a group of tribal youth raised slogans against media houses at the hospital where the 'injured' film star was undergoing treatment. Once again it was the social media, especially a couple of daring digital news channels, ensured wide coverage to the unfortunate event.

A total of 3,71,503 cases of crime against women were registered in 2020, showing a decline of 8.3% over 2019 (4,05,326 cases). 'Cruelty by husband or his relatives' (30.0%), 'assault on women with intent to outrage her modesty' (23.0%), 'kidnapping & abduction of Women' (16.8%) and 'rape' (7.5%) are the major crimes against women, according to the National Crime Records Bureau. The crime rate registered per lakh women population is 56.5 in 2020 in comparison to 62.3 in 2019.

A constant increase in the number of POCSO cases in Telangana is sounding alarm bells. The epidemic year (2020) saw 2,626 cases as against 938 in 2014. In the current year, till July, 1,750 cases have been booked. Unreported cases could be much more, analysts say.

Societal 'thought process'

Trailblazing research of Dr Madhumita Pandey, a UK-based researcher who interviewed more than 100 convicted rapists, points out at two key factors that contribute to the growth of this brutal crime in India: 'Upbringing' of boys in the families and 'thought-process' of the society.

Carried away by the patriarchal culture, parents, including mothers, are biased towards boys and the subsequent misogynistic attitude and male chauvinism have become a deep-rooted malady in our society.

Utterances like 'don't cry like a girl,' and 'boys will be boys' are used and overused by parents without realizing the impact of them on their wards. There is no dearth of double meaning dialogues in TV serials and gender-based sick jokes in messaging platforms.Our politicians, time and again, say 'I am not the one with bangles' to indicate that they can't be taken lightly.

Gender equality is not an impossible task if all family members treat daughters on par with boys while giving them equal opportunities. The teaching community should shoulder the responsibility of creating sensible generations. Sex education should be taken seriously by the governments and civil society to fix the issue. Anti-ragging laws should be strictly implemented. The underpinning commonality in rape convicts, according to the researcher, is the sense of entitlement.Who is giving this sense of entitlement to these guys?

A section of the film industry as well as social media crooks should take the blame.In the name of creativity, some third rate, vulgar films are made by unscrupulous people. Indecent comments against women and the near-erotic 'item songs' of late have become common.

While one film teaches kids as to how to constantly chase a girl who doesn't accept the hero's proposal, another film shows blossoming of the so-called love inside school premises. All these nasty ideas, indoctrinated by such films, would sit in the budding minds. I strongly feel that all directors, actors, actresses and producers should be made to pursue a mandatory certificate course on "responsible creativity."

Why don't the established actors raise a red flag against objectionable scenes in the movies they act, for the sake of society? I am not saying that the entire film industry is rotten and filthy.But, decent movies are few and far between.

Mind you, many surveys have revealed the adverse impact of visuals on young minds. The gullible, illiterate youngsters are carried away by the highly provocative scenes in films.Phew, what is the message these reality shows are giving to the society?

Communist Party of India (CPI) national general secretary K Narayana was echoing the sentiments of millions of concerned citizens with his open criticism of 'Big Boss' for its vulgarity and obscenity. He is up in arms against Akkineni Nagarjuna, who had created ripples with his 1989 crime-action runaway hit 'Siva' and 1997 spiritual magnum opus 'Annamayya', for hosting 'the utterly useless and highly dangerous show' now.

The show organizers must be happy with the hue and cry raised by Narayana as it could attract more eyeballs to ensure the success of the show's Season-5. Expectedly, the CPI leader didn't get support from political leaders, who are otherwise busy in mudslinging and rabblerousing.

Notably, an actress, who exposed casting couch in Tollywood industry, mustered courage to speak against the show as well as the host in an animated television debate. But I was thoroughly disappointed to see her social media avalanche. Some netizens, bereft of minimum commonsense, showed the photograph of the 6-year-old victim in a hurry to condemn the ghastly crime.

Comedy shows, like Jabardasth, are also going overboard and there is no mechanism to checkmate them. It is a different story that the 'MeToo' movement has shown how sick some bosses could be at the workplace.

Reactions against rapists

There is no one answer to the heinous crime of rape. Alcohol, tobacco, drugs, and pornography ('sin goods' in business parlance) are directly related to majority of rape cases. It is found that abuses against women are committed under the influence of alcohol and drugs. Governments are, sadly, unable to sustain without liquor money. Pornography is easily available to everyone now. Monetisation of YouTube stuff is also spoiling the younger generation beyond repair.

Instead of addressing the root-cause of the problem, we are opting for quick-fix solutions. Enraged by the heinous crime, the victims' family and relatives would bay for the blood of the alleged rapists. And, the governments, in a hurry to close the case as early as possible would meet the demand of the public for an instant justice.

Police used to give 'saza' in a meticulous manner but we have reached a point where minsters are openly talking about killing alleged culprits like it happened with the 'encounter' killing of Disha perpetrators.

"Don't worry, we will encounter the person who did this," announced a prominent state minister Malla Reddy, in front of television cameras and media representatives. Much before Malla Reddy did it, the monster Raju died. But, the cruelest form of crime, rape culture, still persists.

(The author, a PhD in Communication and Journalism, is a senior journalist, journalism educator and communication consultant)

(The opinions expressed in this column are that of the writer. The facts and opinions expressed here do not reflect the views of The Hans India)

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