By Harshmeet Singh
(On December 16, 2012 in Munirka, a handful of men shamed the capital of India. A brutal gang-rape followed by a fatal assault took the 23-year old woman’s life. Such a savagery of physical and sexual violence was condemned by the world and women in India came out on the streets to protest. Two years have passed since and state and central governments have vowed time and again to protect the women and restore their respect-worthy image in the eyes of ludicrous men. Unfortunately, nothing has changed. At least recent reports of sexual violence against women prove it so. The article makes a critical observation in the light of some latest incidents that makes a mockery of the hypocrisy underneath the cover of civilized and patriarchal societies. – Editor)
Our society is essentially divided into two parts. One which thinks that a drunk lady, a lady wearing skimpy clothes, a lady roaming with a guy at night, a lady using mobile phone and in some cases, a lady passing a smile ‘invites’ the guys to rape her. And the second part which thinks that a candle march or strong condemnation on Facebook will change the thinking of the other half of our society. Unfortunately, none seems to change its ways for the better.
The recently reported rape and murder case in Haryana has brought back the memories of the 2012 Delhi gang rape case which shook the nation to the core. Among the similarities in the cases is the unprecedented manhandling of the victim. In the recent case, the body of the mentally ill Nepalese woman was found stuffed with blades and stones, and bitten off from some places by animals. If we thought tighter laws against sexual assault post 2012 would help curb the rape cases in the country, we were wrong by a long shot. In 2012, amid the major protests that took place all throughout the nation, there were also some insane suggestions including “She should have addressed them as her brothers & they would have surely let her go”. What followed the incident was a series of showdowns between the police and the public and formation of the Justice Verma committee to come up with possible amendments in the Criminal law to cover up the loop holes in sexual assault cases. By the time the committee prepared its report in 29 days, it had only received 80,000 suggestions. Keeping in mind the fact that the committee made an open appeal in all the leading newspapers and invited suggestions over the email, 80,000 seems too less a number as compared to the lakhs (or crores!) of protesters who took to the streets nationwide. Is not it worth asking ourselves that can we blame the committee if we did not like the suggested amendments?
One of the most disturbing aspects of such cases is that the clause of ‘far and few in between’ does not hold true either. Only 1 out of 10 rape cases in India is officially reported. The fear of ‘society’ rarely allows the victim to gather enough courage to report the case. Apart from letting the culprits walk free, keeping the case under the wraps further strengthens their belief in their invincibility, which usually encourages them to repeat their deed. Case in point was the Shakti Mills rape case in Mumbai. Soon after the 22 year old photojournalist reported the case, a call centre employee also came out alleging that she had been raped by the same offenders a month ago. Had she reported the case at the first instance, things would have been much different for one young girl.
Sunitha Krishnan, a women’s rights activist recently created a storm by sharing two videos on WhatsApp which showed two separate women being gang-raped by 6 men. Urging people to identify the culprits and bring them to the book, Krishnan launched the ‘Shame The Rapist Campaign’. While the campaign failed to gather steam after the initial couple of days, it remains to be seen if the offenders can be nabbed or not. If the reports suggesting attacks on Ms. Krishnan’s vehicle soon after the videos surfaced are true, she would know that her battle is far from over. If ‘the true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its women’, we certainly aren’t headed in the right direction.
Image Credit: Caron