Society should strongly support the victims of rape and not blame or shame them. The moral fabric of the country is tearing up slowly and this needs to stop. Boys must be taught to respect women by their parents at an early stage
In William Shakespeare’s famous drama Julius Caesar, Cassius, a nobleman, speaking with his friend, Brutus confides in the latter that in the best interests of the public, Julius Caesar must be stopped from becoming the monarch of Rome. Cassius tells him, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.” How apt is this quotation today! The solution to the increasing number of rapes and atrocities on women lies with us not elsewhere. This was my intro while writing about the Nirbhaya rape case. Unfortunately, since then, despite public outrage, rape and molestation cases have been on the rise and they have become more violent. The recent Telangana rape-murder case and the burning of the Unnao rape victim and her subsequent death in a hospital, show that nothing has changed. Delhi is now considered the rape capital of the world. Foreign countries like the US and the UK have sent advisories to tourists travelling to India. In these countries too, there are crimes and rapes but by and large, the public is aware that the “big brother” is watching and the perpetrators will be caught sooner or later.
Sadly, this is not the case in India as criminals seem to have no fear of the authorities.
The public outrage following these unfortunate incidents is huge, as it should be. Asha Devi, mother of Nirbhaya, went on record and vented her frustration over the fact that her daughter’s rapists had still not been given capital punishment after all these years. In the meantime, there have been many high-profile rape cases allegedly involving some politicians and gurus.
However, the way some parliamentarians clapped their hands in support of the police encounter of the four alleged rapists in Telangana and the public support for the extrajudicial killings reveals the frustration of the people with the county’s criminal justice system which takes years to mete out punishment.
But many apprehend that police encounters often end up thwarting justice and are often misused as a quick-fix by the security establishment under public pressure.
After the Nirbhaya incident, The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 was amended and is held as one of the most concrete steps taken by the Government to curb violence against women. After the Telangana and Unnao incidents there has been clamour for even more stringent punishments. The question is, do we need more laws?
In reality, what is needed is stringent implementation of the existing laws by the police, Government, law enforcement agencies and awareness campaigns by women’s organisations. The cases drag on for years. In the meanwhile, the perpetrators get emboldened and attack infants, children, girls, women and even grandmothers, to satiate their lust. Many women still do not go to the police to report these incidents for lack of faith in the criminal justice system.
The spate of atrocities against girls/women is indeed a wake up call for the judiciary. The State Governments and the High Courts (HCs) must support the Centre’s proposal to set up 1,000 special courts to fast-track nearly 1.67 lakh rape cases, of which the maximum crimes were those involving hapless children. It is also important to note that the conviction rate is a dismal 32 per cent and the other perpetrators are roaming free.
Poor investigation and shoddy case build-up by agencies result in culprits getting away scot-free. In short, there are failings in the entire criminal justice system. The police are not prompt in dealing with rape cases, the prosecution fails to get the perpetrators convicted and the courts do not have enough judges to take up cases.
The Centre and States need to address the issue of women’s safety on a war footing as the public has lost confidence in the system. It is a sad commentary that despite the Supreme Court’s observations that judicial reforms were needed urgently, the Government is dragging its feet on it.
Archaic laws need to be amended. It is appalling that when a toddler is raped and is unable to give evidence, the culprits go scot-free because the mother’s evidence is considered secondary. How can a two-year-old child give evidence of rape? The onus of proof should not lie with the victim. It is this kind of incongruity within the legal system which needs to be addressed.
Last, but not the least, there is need to change the mindset of the public. Society should strongly support the victims of rape and not blame or shame them. The moral fabric of the country is tearing up slowly and this needs to stop. Boys should be taught to respect women in a country where the Shakti (divine feminine creative power) cult is still relevant.
We should introspect in the aftermath of Hyderabad and Unnao incidents and put the fear of God in the minds of perpetrators and provide justice to the victims.
(Writer: Kalyani Shankar; Courtesy: The Pioneer)