Vinod C. Dixit
Recently a seven-year-old girl was abducted and brutally raped in Madhya Pradesh’s Mandsaur is a grim reminder of the 2012 Nirbhaya case in Delhi where a nursing student was sexually assaulted by six people onboard a private bus. It is widely acknowledged that the rate of unreported sexual violence in Indian society is far higher than official statistics would indicate, and that this is likely to be a bigger problem in India than in other countries, as it is a more patriarchal society. People of Mandsaur have rightly demanded death penalty for the accused responsible for the shocking rape incident in Mandsaur. Protest is important, it shakes the conscience of society, it brings people close to change, it makes them feel part of the change. And there is a good chance that the current wave of protests will lead to at least some results – perhaps even just fast track Courts as stated by MP Chief Minister.
In view of the increasing incidence of the rape incidents, it is absolutely necessary to review the rape law humanely and progressively as the existing law is not only partial but also outdated. The subject needs a comprehensive review and should include various types of assault, violence and torture, and with gender neutrality. Indian women are far too vulnerable to violent assaults. Sexual violence in villages, though little reported, keeps girls and women indoors after dark. The pity is that to change attitudes to rape so many young women have had to suffer and die.
Women are routinely groped and harassed by men on buses and trains. The reason behind is the vulgar display by even top grade heroines in the form of ‘item numbers’ has become a must for any successful movie. All these adds to the frustration where the age of sexual maturity does not match with the permissible age for marriage. A piece of fool-proof legislation is needed to safeguard innocent victims.
Rape is not something that occurs by itself. It is part of the continuing and embedded violence in society that targets women on a daily basis. Hastily made laws will serve no purpose. The government should reconsider the Ordinance, giving more importance to the panel recommendations. It is rightly point out that “The law, if it is to be effective, must keep up with these changes, not try to force a regression to a time long past.” While Sections 375 and 376 of the Indian Penal Code are the major laws dealing with rape, they have failed to match the international standards of addressing the crime. A comprehensive psychological study of the mindset of rapists is the urgent need of the hour to get some real insight into the mindset of criminals. Girls are in constant fear of being attacked, raped, victimised by men throwing acid on their faces, and what not. It is important to conduct an imaginative and sustained publicity campaign in the media, especially in regional languages, in cinema theatres and so on. Any new law on rape should include the conduct of the defence lawyer and bar unethical questions against the rape victim. Rather than punish a culprit after a crime, it is necessary to curb the cause of crime against women. We have enough laws but, unfortunately, they are not effective. What’s the purpose of any law that can only bark but not bite?
A comprehensive psychological study of the mindset of rapists is the urgent need of the hour to get some real insight into the mindset of criminals. Girls are in constant fear of being attacked, raped, victimised by men throwing acid on their faces, and what not. It is important to conduct an imaginative and sustained publicity campaign in the media, especially in regional languages, in cinema theatres and so on.
One would find that the scenario for women seems grim indeed and this will continue so long as the basic social and economic structures remain unchanged and the implementing and law and order agencies show indifference. Public display of big hoardings only serves to excite the young minds. Laws alone cannot put an end to evils that are endemic in the social structure; the government can at least make some attempt to take its own enactments seriously.
This is the time to effectively implement various policies such as the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, and effect stricter punishment for voyeurism and stalking. Our presumption that stricter laws will bring down crimes against women stands negated. The real problem is ineffective policing. As long as criminals do not get swift and severe punishment, such crimes will continue to be committed. Police reforms should be implemented, the force insulated from political interference, and professionalised. We need not only stringent police reforms but also a deep insight into the fulfilment of community responsibility on the part of citizens. If we fail to educate our children, then we have failed in the most basic of tasks as a society.
Making tougher laws will only be as effective as its implementation. Violent assaults, rapes and murders of women are symptomatic of a deep societal dysfunction. Any new law on rape should include the conduct of the defence lawyer and bar unethical questions against the rape victim. If an FIR is registered against a person in a rape case, he should be automatically disqualified from contesting elections. The prosecution for rape and sexual harassment should have toughest lawyers pleading the case to have 100 per cent conviction and not one in over 1,000 cases. Before the dignity of more women is sacrificed, we need to have a real change for the better democracy, greater freedom, full transparency, strict law enforcement, and mandatory punishment for heinous crimes against women. These cases also fall under the rarest of rare cases, warranting the consideration of capital punishment. Crime is endemic to the human condition, but a crime specifically directed at one sex is most despicable and unfortunately, the one that is punished least. According to the Government’s statistics twenty five rapes are committed in the country everyday but the unofficial record is in very large number. It is essential to raise our collective voice against rape. But rape is not something that occurs by itself. It is part of the continuing and embedded violence in society that targets women on a daily basis. One would find that rape is a sexual as well as cultural attack which has become a great social problem today. There are many rape cases which have become the headlines of the leading newspapers but the timely actions are not taken. One should see that by giving a deterrent punishment to the rapist this evil of rape would not be solved. Once it is proved that the person is guilty of rape he should be hanged and the women for their self-defense should learn the art of Karate, Judo and if not they should keep a chilly powder in order to escape from the rapist.
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