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Curbing rapes a societal responsibility

Curbing rapes a societal responsibility
Highlights

PM down down, CM down down’ these are the slogans of political activists; ‘We want justice, kill the rapist’, shout women organisations; “We will not keep quiet till justice is achieved,” declare students organisations whenever heinous crimes like rape or murder or kidnap take place. 

‘PM down down, CM down down’ these are the slogans of political activists; ‘We want justice, kill the rapist’, shout women organisations; “We will not keep quiet till justice is achieved,” declare students organisations whenever heinous crimes like rape or murder or kidnap take place.

The media, particularly the electronic media, goes over board and invades into the privacy of the victim and the family. Not to be caught napping, politicians of every hue jump in to derive political mileage, and some sympathy too. Alas for their clamouring, everyone forgets about the incident a fortnight or so later.

India woke up to a brutality of the most sordid kind in 2012 when the Nirbhaya rape case was first reported. The brutality of the gang rape shocked the world and sent shivers up the spine of every Indian. It is grim reality that six years on, one continues to read incidences of rape, the Nirbhaya Act, notwithstanding.

Recently, an eight-year-old girl from Kathua in Jammu was abducted, tortured, raped repeatedly and murdered, and her body was dumped in a forest. On Wednesday in Dachepalli in Andhra Pradesh a nine-year-old girl was raped by a 55-year-old man leading to large scale protests. A day earlier, some miscreants in an inebriated condition tried to drag a teenager into the fields but was saved by the timely intervention of people in the locality in Tammaipeta area of East Godavari district. An even more barbaric incident occurred in Tanuku mandal of West Godavari where a five-year-old girl was raped by a 15 year-old boy.

It is high time one ponders over the factors that are responsible for the spike in such crimes and what could be done to curtail the problem. If one observes the pattern, in most of the recent cases, the crime is being perpetrated by those who are known to the victim.

Laws like Nirbhaya Act or the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012 do not seem to be working as a deterrent. This makes everyone wonder why it has been so. There are instances where the police is said to have played the role of mediators and come up with a settlement between the accused and victim’s family. Neither political parties nor social activists who hit the streets to draw media attention when an incident takes place have done nothing to bring about any meaningful changes.

No one has come out with any kind of action plan to see that value-based education system, along with sex education from the early years is implemented though everyone knows that such a system can bring about a change in male youth towards women, howsoever miniscule.

Like charity, even such changes should begin at home. The present-day youth are mostly directionless. If they can figure out their motive and be centralised and channelised towards it, then it will help them change their opinion and attitude towards women. Rapes are directly proportional to bad habits like public drinking, several factors like economic disparities, unemployment, scant respect for women, male dominance and the deep impact of internet, especially when it offers access to sexually explicit. Experts say incidents in which older people who are above 50 are involved, the problems arise mostly out of perversion and frustration in life.

This trend, experts say, can be altered by overhauling the education system and by including sex education in the curriculum. The foremost thing is value-based educational system, which will spread awareness among the youth. Awareness needs to created not only through protests and peace marches but also in every household. Boys need to be taught to look at girls as fellow human beings rather than the other sex. Also, on the matter of marital rape, the government still displays insensitivity towards the victims. Awareness should also be created among girls so that they can take preventive measures.

The government, on its part, should also show a sense of urgency in addressing the malaise of rape and its complex socio-economic, socio-cultural and socio-political dimensions.

Social organisations should not only pitch in when there is some outrage and protests but should also sustain the momentum and ensure that there is some kind of social intervention and infrastructural support for rape victims, which is absent in most cases. It also appears that there is a total lack of political will to tackle the menace.

The police still are not people-friendly and act with lightning speed only when there is uproar in the society. The conviction rate is also low. The governments too are not taking any demonstrative action against the rapists. All that the leaders would say is, “We are hurt. It is an unfortunate incident. We shall take necessary action and will stand by the victim’s family.”

Nothing could be more appalling and absurd. Who’s bothered about the agony of the victim and her family? Think about the children and women who were raped.

If there is one thing that needs to be changed it is the mindset of those who view women as nothing but objects. What is really important is a fear of law, a strong conviction rate and social awareness.

First and foremost, one must understand that the increase in this crime has to be correlated with the ground situation, where you have people who don’t even talk about it and are wary about social implications. If there were no cases of rape being registered, there would be no questions. But the fact is that more and more women are reporting about rape.

The general argument whenever an incident takes place is that a tough law can bring about a change. But what is a tough law? What is required is less of political interference in investigation, prosecution which should be more proficient and efficient, constitution of special courts since the regular courts are overburdened.

There is also demand from social activists that there is need for capital punishment, it is only posturing. Legal experts say that the tougher the punishment, the lesser the convictions, as there’s more pressure on witnesses to retract. It is important to note that most women rights activists did not ask for capital punishment when sending recommendations to the Justice JS Verma Committee, which was constituted on December 23, 2012, to recommend amendments to the criminal law.

I am not a criminologist and hence I cannot say what will deter a person from committing a crime. But statistics show that people known to the victim commit more than 90 per cent of rapes. So, is society ready to hang fathers, relatives and neighbours?

This is very disturbing because most of the cases end in acquittal due to family pressure and because there is no one to stand beside her to support her. What we lack is sensitivity in handling these cases. There is no one to monitor whether the state officials are doing their job as mandated by the statute.

There is a huge gap between the rule of the land and its implementation on the ground. So, victims of sexual abuse do not get the support they need to walk the legal journey. If India needs to stop or control these offences, our approach towards rape and child sexual abuse must change.

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