In India, the answer to rising incidents of rape lies perhaps not in stricter laws but better upbringing of that ‘apple of your eye’!
Students hold placards during a protest march against recent cases of rape in the country, in Ranchi.
I had barely typed out the words ‘death penalty for rape’ and the very second option that showed up via Google prompt was ‘rape death penalty statistics India’! This was embarrassing, but greatly reflective of a culture of bestial gratification that has so worryingly and so very unfortunately reared its ugly head on so many occasions in the recent past in different parts of India that one has simply lost count. After Kathua and Unnao, another incident has come to light involving an eight-month-old girl child in Indore, Madhya Pradesh, plucked out while the infant and her parents, all pavement-dwellers, were asleep in the wee hours. The child was carried away, raped and murdered before the lifeless body was dumped in the basement of a nearby building.
‘Shocking. Shameful. Nauseating. Scary …’
We have used all those adjectives before for similar crimes in India.
‘Enough is enough’.
We have heard that too, just as loud and clear, as it were during the gang-rape of Nirbhaya on the streets of Delhi in 2012 and her subsequent death in a Singapore hospital.
Activists of Hindu Shiv Sena burn an effigy of Jammu and Kashmir, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti during a protest demanding a CBI probe in rape and murder of the 8-year-old Kathua girl, in Jammu. Photo: PTI
As in 2012, when mass outpourings of anger and clamour for justice forced the then Union Government to react with some stringent legal measures to counter the menace, the Central Government of the day has reacted this time around, too, issuing an ordinance that stipulates death sentence for raping a minor below the age of 12.
However, the question still lingers: Will this be enough to deter those beasts whose lust for carnal pleasure does not even spare an infant who is too young and innocent to even express her pain and trauma in coherent terms? And like many others who are currently struggling to get to the root of this scourge that is more socio-psychological in nature than legal or criminal, I too believe that even this latest instrument in jurisprudence may not still be the answer to neutralising this cancer cell.
Let’s face the stark reality that stares us in the face right now: In a nation of 1.3 billion, if law itself could have been a potent antidote to this festering ulcer, then we wouldn’t have had the kind of statistics that are confronting us today. In 2016 alone, according to official figures, there were 40,000 cases of rapes that had been reported. Yes, 40,000 REPORTED cases, which means there were several other instances of violation that had not even been documented by the authorities because no one had even spoken about it! Consider this as well: The conviction rate for rapes in India is currently a meagre 28 per cent. In other words, for every 100 cases of rapes that are reported with the police and judiciary, there are 72 accused persons who get away without having to face the full force of law. This is appalling, atrocious. This bit of statistics clearly shows that even if there are enough legal measures in place to address the issues of rape, physical assault or molestation, there is no fool-proof mechanism that can guarantee conviction. There is no certainty that even if a woman or child approaches the courts and seeks justice against an act of violation, the guilty will be brought to book and made to face the consequences of his act.
NSUI and DUSU activists display placards and shout slogans during a protest march against rape cases, atrocities against women and various other issues, in North Campus, Delhi University. Photo: PTI
As an Indian, I am sorry to say this that if we really need to look for ways to stop this menace or even aim at arresting the rising numbers of such bestiality, then along with asking for more stringent legal provisions, we ought to take a closer look at our own homes and immediate surroundings to identify all those signs of patriarchy that are so steeped in machismo and a skewed sense of entitlement that for centuries it has dared turn a blind eye to the plight of a wife, a sister or a mother – or the girl child.
Let’s start with those fathers and brothers who still believe it is their prerogative to be fed first. Let’s start with that family of the groom that demands a dowry to accept someone’s daughter or sister as a prospective bride or daughter-in-law. Let’s start with those alpha males, who believe that a mini-skirt is an invitation to sexual misdemeanor. Let’s start with those boys and men who still do not care to offer their seat on the Metro to a woman standing by. Or better still – let’s start with those boys and men who would offer their seat to a woman, just to make sure they are close enough to ogle at the female form and never miss out on an opportunity for an inappropriate touch in a crowded carriage. Let’s start with those clinics that still allow female foeticide without batting an eyelid, just because they get paid a handsome amount.
There are so many ways to make a start, you see if only one has the will, honesty and spine to rise up and be counted.
Students take part in a candle light march to protest against Kathua rape case, in Jabalpur. Photo: PTI
A rapist doesn’t land from Mars or isn’t produced in a laboratory test-tube. The scrums are a part and parcel of the very society that we all belong to. They are not necessarily one of us, but are definitely one amongst us. A wrong sense of entitlement, abject poverty, gender bias, lack of education … These are the reasons that lie at the root of this gangrene that bears a criminal manifestation only in its outward visage. It’s a deranged mind that leads one to commit rape. It’s a false sense of authority that propels one to commit rape. It’s a wrong sense of entitlement that encourages one to commit rape.
And here, parents in an average Indian household have a huge role to play. They are the ones who should be able to pick up those initial ‘pings’ — the first, not-so tell-tale signs of a male ego or pride going awfully wrong. Let the brother in the family realise that his claim to social, financial and familial benefits and privileges should and must end where his sister’s begin. Let the husband in the family respect the simple truth that marriage hasn’t conferred upon him the right to coerce his wife into consummation against her will and desire. Remember: As the mother or father of a male child, the values you inculcate – or the lack of them — in the ‘apple of your eye’ may well make or mar the life of someone else’s daughter, sister or mother in the not-so-distant distant future.
And yes, it is time we instil FEAR in the minds of all those who still believe they can get away with outraging the modesty of a woman or a girl child. Death penalty for raping minors below 12 years is a good way to start. But that’s just the first wave of chemotherapy to counter a malignancy that has shown signs of aggression for some time now. And we are looking at a long-haul in the Intensive Therapy Unit.