By Sonie Kharduit
Not a day passes without being fed with news related to gender crimes and sadly it’s the women folk who happen to be at the receiving end all the time. I believe sexual crimes are the most ubiquitous crime where race, religion, ethnicity, nationality, rich-poor etc fail to put any barrier. It’s a borderless, ageless disease. Even in a country like ours inherently impregnated with thousands of reasons to divide our society but united in this one crime. Truly the fraternity spirit enshrined in the preamble exhibits itself in true colour in this act. Our very own soils so famed with matrilineal pride are no escape from these brutal god-awful acts committed bestially against the other half of God’s creation.
Rape is no recent offence. Just as prostitution is known as the oldest surviving business, rape has been part of every society. Financial gains and voluntariness might be the separating factor between the two, nonetheless the end result is always exploitation of the female body. Thanks to media pro-activeness in recent times there is no shying away from reporting this crime. Hence rape victims have overcome the stigma associated with such crimes by reporting it and thereby helping in waking up the unconscious or rather dead consciences around the world.
Besides rape and other acts of sexual harassment against an adult woman, what is more terrifying is the increasing number of rape against minors. This really questions the level of human conscience and how much it can be degraded. An NCRB record shows that in 95 percent of all rape cases, the offender knew the victim. For example, 27 percent of rapes are committed by neighbors, 22 percent involves the promise of marriage and 9 percent are committed by immediate family members and relatives. The data further states that at least two percent of all rape cases involve live-in partners or husbands, 1.6 percent are committed by employers or co-workers and 33 percent are committed by other known associates. Furthermore sexual assault, most often than not, becomes an under-reported crime not only because of the stigma attached to it and a broken justice system but also because of the additional barriers that a collusion of familial, social power structures, shame and dependency create. Victim’s families often opt for a compromise route knowing the offender is a close acquaintance or rather their own family member. Hence, shielding the family’s dignity is more important than the dignity and trauma of the victim.
Marital rape is another least focused crime happening in our society, especially in a country where child marriage is rampant. An under-aged girl bestowed with the responsibility of bearing and raising babies is indeed experiencing another form of rape against her body and her childhood rights. In the name of marriage, many women are subjected to various forms of sexual exploitation. They are no different from sex slaves. The alpha male attitude besides monopolizing the political, economic and social rights don’t even spare women’s biological rights over their bodies.
In recent weeks, a rousing atmosphere was built based on the sentiments created by social media to protest against the gruesome acts on those two minors girls in Kathua and Unnao. Several protests were organized in different parts of the country and abroad as well. The same atmosphere was created during the Nirbhaya episode, and the government did react by amending the Criminal law, the Juvenile law, but the truth is nothing much has changed since then. Enacting a new act or merely amending the old ones has failed to deter such crimes. In fact there are innumerable women centric laws meant to protect them but none has shown any impact nor improved the status of women in India.
The knee-jerk reaction of the government or the stirred up reactions of the public are all momentary. Chances are that we will all get back to the post-Nirbhaya slumber. Public memory, after all is short. What we need to understand here is that political tools are no remedy when the disease is deeply ingrained in the social sphere. When no one values the worth of a girl or woman, then how can we value their existence? Crimes against women all intertwined with the position of women in social hierarchies. Since women possess no real identifiable assets in this hierarchy hence they become just a tool of amusement for the counterpart. Stereotyping women’s capabilities only as home maker, sexualization-commercialization of their body bespeaks their worthlessness. Aggravating the problem is the voluntary acceptance of our women of such stigmatization as if they are meant to bear the onslaught of male chauvinism.
A more sustainable effort to counter this disease is by acknowledging the facts discussed above and accordingly responding with appropriate social tools. In the societal setup, family is the first step. Our boys need to be equipped with virtues to respect women and accord the rights they own. Treatment on equal footing by the parents is another vital aspect of letting the girls know their space and worth. The same measures could be followed on a parallel plane in schools, colleges, offices etc.
From the pre-independence to post-independence era multitude of laws, rules and regulations had been enacted and amended to curtail this historical injustice and to promote women’s empowerment Some of these legislations are the Domestic Violence Act, Protection of Women Against Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act, Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, Protection of Children against Sexual Offence act etc., but still we are far away from an egalitarian setup. The problem here is that we expect laws on paper alone to heal the social injustices. A social solution for a social problem will produce more success, because the wrong is being corrected not for the fear of law but more so because of the guilt and aspiration to undo the wrong.
Rape and other women centric crimes symbolize the overall moral degradation of our society. The prejudice against women’s ability to compete, the unbearable truth to see women on the same power quotient and other biased socio- cultural influences promoting the worth of the male child only all add up to crimes against women and the girl child. Unless we change these attitudes, sad to say that our women will continue to experience the same onslaught and be subjected to objectification, sexualization and other forms of exploitation and discrimination.
The judicial system also has a big role in perpetuating the crime; offenders don’t fear the law anymore because they know the delay, the poor quality of investigation, and corruption all adds up in their favor. The cost of litigation, the complexity, the slow process further discourages many poor people from coming forward to report a crime. Justice for the poor is a tall order indeed. Hence, for reinstating the credibility of the justice system, the judiciary needs to have a focused approach; the justice system has to be time bound and affordable for women centric crimes. This in turn will inspire the victims to come forward knowing that justice will be served and the perpetrators duly punished hence adding the much needed deterrence factor.
Women too need to be pro- active in the process; it’s no easy battle to correct the historical wrongs. It’s your right to fight for your Rights, God did not create the value gap, and it’s all a man-made rule to secure the male superiority complex. It’s all about acknowledging your self-worth. Even scientifically we know that women have far superior endurance level and have higher life expectancy than men. The biological role of producing babies is the exclusive domain of women. For nine months carrying the enormous weight of a bulging body and managing household chores alongside is indeed a super human effort. Had the same role been bestowed on man, he would have died within the first-five months itself with the weight of the burden. If he survives by any chance then death is definite during the delivery stage due to lack of endurance for pains and the stamina needed din the process.
Hence, for curing this social-ill, we need to examine the problem holistically, understand the underlying causes and then adequately address it. A law becomes effective only when those who make the law or those who apply it and more importantly those on whom the law is applied have understood the essence of the law and are ready to assimilate it at the individual capacity. The victims and their families should come forward since justice will not come at their door step. They ought to fight for it, and the judiciary too should respond responsibly. Capital punishment may not be the only remedy, because death kills only the body but not the evil inside us.