The news that has made and been making headlines across the world, including China, is the incident of brutal rape of a 23 year old paramedic student in Delhi. The details of the incident are ghastly and stomach churning and yet the brave lady had this to say to her Mom “I want to live”, an exemplary demonstration of courage and fighting spirit that at times only women can demonstrate. It is unfortunate that as I write this post in the New Year, the lady is no more and I have no hesitation is saying that she died a martyr’s death. A Martyr dies for a cause and I think today the whole world has acknowledged the cause that this lady died for. Ofcourse she has expanded the canvas and has made attempts to ask questions much beyond just this brutal incident. I salute the lady’s spirit, spare a moment of silence to mourn her death and offer heartfelt condolences to the bereaved family. We all are answerable and responsible for what happened to her.
Myths about Rape and Sexual Violence:
Her martyrdom doesn’t seem to have gone waste as people on social media, roadside stalls, schools, colleges and offices across the world have reacted, expressed anguish and debated preventive measures along with apt punishments for perpetrators of such crimes. It has also raised plenty of questions about safety of women in society and an even larger question of how much freedom does a society give to its women. It has also led to a parochial view point about the Indian society at large being misogynist and being outpaced by the rapid westernization or modernization of people. I think before we jump to conclusions and find out why such crimes are committed, few facts need to be sorted out dispassionately, and then we could embark on a journey to remedy the Indian Society.
- Rape or Sexual violence against women is an universal phenomenon
- Developed Economies have significant cases of sexual violence against women as Developing economies
- Sex ratio of a country has nothing to do with increase or decrease in incidents of rape
- Conviction rates in all countries continues to be low if not lower than India
- All incidents of such nature do not get reported to the police in other countries as well
- All countries have their own degree of issues with respect to Women’s liberty or freedom
- Research done on Chemical Castration shows it is not proven to be effective always
- Rape is not a modern society problem
- Rape is as much common in rural areas as it is in urban areas so women’s dress definitely is not an instigator
- The marital status or age of the criminal is not a factor, married or old men too rape
Role of Literature and Media:
Literature in all languages and forms (prose or poetry) has always glorified the female body and it continues unabated. From the print media it has now moved to an audio visual format and ofcourse has titillated the male senses for some quite some time. So the objectification of women is complete. A society which struggles to give freedom to women or has issues in providing equal opportunities to women or has repressed sexual behavior, combined with objectification of women, has often led to the male dismissing any right of dignity and respect to the women folk. The problems has gotten more complicated with lot of women, impressed by the audio visual representation, have started to see themselves as “sexy” or objects of “sexual desire”. However a society that believes in respect and dignity to a women and level playing ground wouldn’t dare to see anyone violate the personal space of a lady. Every incident of sexual violence against women is invariably a violation of the dignity, respect and personal choice that a woman deserves and demands of a society. I would repeat here that this is not an Indian problem per say, it is a universal problem; however the degree of the problem definitely varies depending upon the dynamics of respective societies.
Protesters and the Mindset:
I often find it interesting to note protests in situation where we are in a way protesting against ourselves. A rapist, as I mentioned in a blog earlier, are not aliens. They are part of the same society and are one among us. Government can’t be held responsible and should not be held responsible for anything and everything. For example female foeticide is a societal phenomenon and our parents and family members who feel burdened by a girl child or ask for dowry during marriages are to be blamed for such situations and no amount of policing can ever stop such tacit acts. Infact sometimes such acts are perpetrated by women themselves. Many among those who protest would cringe at the idea of their daughter’s or sisters having the freedom to choose a career or a life partner entirely on her own or even decide on the hours allowed outside home. Societal changes are not easy to come about especially where the problem is chronic in nature. Yet that’s exactly what the current problem demands. Question that one has to ask is what aides such societal changes, what aides in change of age old mindsets? What incentivizes people to move out of their comfort zone and ask questions? I think there is a strong need for social scientists or sociologists with strong relevance to India to develop innovative solutions after studying various co-related or unrelated data. I wouldn’t be surprised if nobody among the protestor is inspiring their kids to be social scientists or sociologists and assist in transforming society through innovative methods. Unless people start doing things that they haven’t done before, they won’t get results that haven’t been seen before.
Part of a Solution or Part of a Problem:
Debate has raged on how to appropriately punish the criminals who commit such crimes. The question ofcourse goes beyond just sexual violence and expands to what true justice is. Capital punishment that is being demanded would in a way end the criminal’s agony in one shot whereas the victim or their family would have to suffer all their life, yet if life imprisonment is awarded then the prisoner survives all his life on tax payers money and yet some would say that an opportunity for the person to repent, reform and become productive and reenter society is what we should aim for. And the debate continues with no perfect answer to the problem, especially in the case of rape or any incident of sexual violence.
I think there are three key aspects to think about in the Indian context
– Reduce female foeticide/ infanticide
– Prevention of Sexual violence
– Strict laws that are appropriately implemented to deal with any incidents of sexual violence
– Rehabilitation of the victim
Let us explore some possible solutions that I could think of, and I don’t indicate this to be a exhaustive list by any stretch of imagination or arrogance.
Reduce female foeticide/ infanticide:
– Incentivize families with girl child – addition quote under PDS or free education till a particular age
– Incentivize states with better sex ratio with greater fund allocation
– Incentivize colleges or schools with greater girl representation
Prevention of Sexual violence:
– Street lights have a strong co-relation with crimes in general and sexual violence in specific
– Provide Police patrolling in crime prone areas 24x7x365
– Caste system needs to be dealt with as upper caste men have been known to demonstrate superiority by raping women of lower caste
– Families and Parents have to teach to their sons about the equal rights that women have in this world and that they need to be protected
– Increase the reporting of events so that more and more people get exposed [Needs police to have a mindset of not blaming the victim]- so people get discouraged to perform such crimes in the future
– Increase the conviction rates – so reporting increases and it also in turn acts as a deterrent
– Increasing conviction rates and reporting of such incidents needs a proper redressal system which I describe below
Strict laws that are appropriately implemented to deal with any incidents of sexual violence and Rehabilitation of the victim:
– In countries like Denmark, Canada and US there is a special Task force created to deal with Rape victims
– This task force is responsible for providing a multi-disciplinary (paramedics, doctors, psychotherapist, lawyers) approach to dealing with the victim’s issues
– The task force is responsible for collecting evidences for forensic activities
– Only and only if the victim agrees for the information to be exposed or reported do the police get involved
– If a victim directly goes to the Police the police after filing a report transfer the victim to the task force
– These task forces have branches in major hospitals across country
– More Fast Track courts that function every day to expedite delivery of justice
No changes happen overnight, no changes happen without. All changes take time, are painful and also have to start from within. Ofcourse we need to start somewhere, the earlier we start the earlier we reach milestones, though the journey never ends.