Society At War
By Poonam I Kaushish
A 15-year-old girl leaves home for her tuition classes on 9 January in Haryana. Four days later her body is found mutilated, naked, showing evidence of rape and torture: 19 severe injuries on her face, neck, lips, chest, liver and lungs ruptured and an object jammed into her private parts. Nirbhaya 2.
Later, another 11-year-old is kidnapped, molested and strangled by two necrophilics, followed by a 10-year-old raped and brutalized by a 50-year-old man and four others, then a 22-year-old assaulted in a moving car for nearly two hours. An endless gory list.
If one expected the Administration to immediately swing into action and Chief Minister Khattar calm public anguish over these horrific crimes and ensure the culprits are brought to book, it was not to be.
Alas, six years since Nirbhaya’s brutal gang-rape nothing has changed. Daily newspapers scream headlines of young 2,4,8 year old girls raped, women being routinely stalked, assaulted by men getting more violent, harassed by police or bullied into silence by family. Less said the better of our leaders, policemen and lawyers. Think. Four rapes occur every minute.
“If a girl is dressed decently, a boy will not look at her in the wrong way. If you want freedom, why don’t they just roam around naked? Freedom has to be limited. These short clothes are western influences. Our country’s tradition asks girls to dress decently. Pre-marital sex is a blot. It happens as the minds of the girls and boys are not on the right track,” said a leader.
Why does rape not move our political class? Where is my India going? Most important, where are our leaders taking it? To hell it seems. What worries one is that this brutality has not stirred our netas conscious. Will they wish it away as a bad dream? An issue which will die its natural death within days? Have we decided to surrender shamelessly to horrendous criminalization? Said goodbye to the rule of law?
Why are women viewed as sex objects? Males plaything to satisfy their libido and massage their egos? Why is it only the media and some “women’s groups” raging and raving about sexual crimes? Why are girls a threat before they are born and every second after they are born? Why should 50% population be denied their right to life, liberty and basic human dignity? See the dichotomy. Our netas and fringe groups are more exercised about a movie about fictional Queen Padmini’s honour being sullied. Sic.
In a society where the national narrative conditions people to think that rape has no consequences; where violence has been unleashed by an imbalanced sex ratio; and where women have little or no cultural respect, 37,000 rapes per year are not considered shocking or surprising. It is just par for the course.
Sadly, such is the state of affairs we are immune to women being snatched off the streets and gang raped in moving cars. In a UN survey India ranked 85 out of 121 countries unsafe for women. Shockingly, 6.26 rapes take place for every 10,000 women.
Last year’s police records show rape registered a 9.2% rise over 2014 of which more than half (54.7%) of the victims were between 18 and 30 with Delhi accounting for over 17%. Abductions were up 19.4%, torture by 5.4%, molestation by 5.8% and trafficking by an alarming 122%.
More. Over two million crimes against women were reported over the past decade: 26 every hour or one complaint every two minutes. There were over 470,556 molestation cases, 315,074 kidnappings, rape 243,051, modesty outrage 104,151, dowry death 80,833 and 66% experienced sexual harassment between two and five times during 2015.
One explanation for this is the skewed sex ratio. Sociologists call it the Bare Branches phenomenon wherein boys are culturally preferred over girls consequently it gives rise to increasing female feticide. In Gujarat, the sex ratio is 112 to 100 and in Haryana 914 girls per 1,000 boys. With no respect for women violence comes without remorse and becomes unhinged.
Undoubtedly, toxic masculinity tells men it is okay even commendable to seize women who they can’t otherwise have. Topped by our regressive society which ensures that if they cross limits there would find sympathisers and defenders who will pin the blame on the woman.
Clearly, in a society heavily loaded in favour of men, women and young girls live in an increasingly unsafe environment wherein they are viewed as sex objects and mince-meat for male lust camouflaged as human animals. Comply or reconcile to battling it out at every level. Perhaps it has something to do with our patriarchal lineage and misogynistic culture.
Worse, implementation of laws meant to protect women, post Nirbhaya are patchy. In 2016 over 35,000 rape cases were reported but only 7,000 were convicted. Tragically, women are on their own vis-a-vis their safety. There is no law against sexual assault or harassment and only vaginal penetration counts as rape.
Horrifyingly, one Rajasthan hospital continues the “two-finger” test (doctors insert fingers into the vagina) to determine if a woman has been raped, despite the practice being banned in 2013. Sic.
Those who molest a woman are only booked for “insulting or outraging a woman’s modesty” or “intruding upon her privacy”. The maximum punishment is a year’s imprisonment, a fine or both. Besides, though a 2015 law mandates victims be paid Rs three lakhs as compensation just three of 50 rape survivors have got it.
Abysmally, our leaders have not only lost the plot but are so out of sync of what the people want that the perception and reality don’t match. Indeed every rape mocks our Constitutional right guaranteeing equal rights to every citizen and is a blot on those entrusted with upholding the Constitution.
For those who enjoy the ruinous events unfolding, there is some good news! The end of the tragedy is nowhere in sight. The bad news? It’s simply a system’s failure! They collectively coo. Who failed the system? Not the politician, bureaucrat or police. All point accusing fingers at each other. Nevertheless, everyone agrees there is something rotten in the State of Denmark! And we call ourselves a civilised society!
Tough times call for tough action. A revolutionary change is needed. Women will truly be safe only when there is a transformative change in the social mindset which will take time. Till then the police must document rapes and judiciary fast-track cases instead of lingering them for years.
Both need to be made accountable so that women get their Constitutional rights. The right to move about without fear and the right to redress if violated. The onus is on our polity. Women cannot wait for societal reform before they can feel safe. Our netagan who brag about Mera Desh Mahan and Brand India must unitedly denounce rape incidents and not make them into election issues.
In sum, in an environ where incidents of moral turpitude pervades across the country, the time has come to seriously ponder for how long will women continue to be playthings at the hands of voyeuristic animals in the garb of men? A time to introspect: Balatkar aur apradhikaran akhir kab tak? —– INFA