Collapse of the moral-ethical order

The news that a baby of just 20 months old was raped in a village in South West Khasi Hills sends shudders up the spine. Rape has become so commonplace in Meghalaya that society seems to have lost its capacity for outrage. It is good that the case in South West Khasi Hills was horrifying enough to evoke a public protest. But will even a protest deter the next rapist? What has gone wrong with matrilineal Meghalaya is a query that those from mainland India raise time and again when they hear of the crimes against women and children in this society where women are ostensibly held in high esteem. That narrative had collapsed a long time ago. The societal framework that used to be guided by robust ethical mores and which were practised as a collective have frayed. The clan as a support system is weakening as families move towards the nuclear model. With abandonment/divorce so rampant in Khasi society and the woman having to bear the brunt of bringing up her children single-handedly, the repercussions can only be imagined. How could a young man get hold of a 20 month old baby. Where was the mother? Can a small baby be left alone with a stranger? Or is this a normal practice since the mother – a single parent has to earn a livelihood and possibly left her baby with the elder siblings which is again a common practice in the villages. Sometimes the elder children are still at the playing age and hardly able to look after themselves, much less their little siblings. Hence it is easy for a neighbour or relative with bad intent to prey on a little girl-child.
In 2021, Meghalaya recorded 75 rape cases, in 2020, 84 and in 2019, 102. These are only reported cases put up on the Meghalaya Police website. There may be several unreported cases in distant villages, where the nearest police station is distantly located. In 2020 a murder case that happened at Syntung village in Mawkynrew Block, East Khasi Hills District which is 82 Kms from Shillong had to be attended to by police from the Madanrting Beat House. What if a rape case happened in that distant village? Would the parents of the victim have the wherewithal to come all the way to Shillong to file an FIR immediately after the rape has been committed? The problem with Meghalaya is that reaching the law enforcement agencies is a rough ride. True, the Police Department has come up with an App recently to address crimes against women but villagers must also be given enough awareness to use the App effectively.
Meanwhile there’s need for a societal reawakening to counter rape which is a slur on society.

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