What's Fresh?
Home » Personal » Rising Above Fear – Rape & Sexual Assault

Rising Above Fear – Rape & Sexual Assault


*Co-authored by Roktim Rajpal, Student (Asian College of Journalism)

India, a country where terrorism, corruption and economy usually dominate headlines, has seen a spate of sexual offences against women. The last few years have been nightmares for women. But December 16, 2012, was a turning point.

The Delhi gang rape not only served as a wake-up call for the police and legal system but also for the common man. It has since sparked numerous debates. Scholars and activists have fought it out, yet a permanent solution seems evasive.

On the one hand, it may be a socio-economic problem. First, there is a general notion that sexual offenders are likely to be socially backward.

Courtesy: HT

Courtesy: HT

According to The Guardian, the Delhi gang rape convicts were indeed socially and economically backward. The prime accused Ram Singh and his brother Mukesh had a notorious history of being drunk and violent. Having come to the capital to find work, Mukesh was fired from a dozen jobs while Ram who earned a meager amount by driving a bus had earlier lost his wife.

Economist Jayati Ghosh too, while speaking to Der Spiegel, said that unemployed men who see no future commit these offences. Their poverty and resentment for the rich makes them vent their frustration on their victims.

An American research in the Justice Quarterly in 1989 stated that inequality led to lifestyles that made men susceptible to committing acts of sexual violence. Therefore, this notion is not necessarily baseless.

Yet, the issue is debatable. Statistics prove that in above 90% of the cases, the victim knows the offender, making it all the more likely that the offender is of a similar socio-economic background.

Second, the skewed sex ratio in India is also a likely direct cause. The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights affirmed that the sex ratio coupled with treatment of females was the reason for the increasing rapes in Haryana.

Courtesy: India Today

The census of 2011 shows that India’s child sex ratio at 914 females per 1,000 males is the lowest since independence.

It is no co-incidence that fewer women in the society and the mindset that a woman can be subdued, leads to certain men committing sexual offences. It however leads to a paradox in the society that prefers a male child to a female one but faces repercussions when the number of females reduces.

Often acknowledged yet hardly contested, the fact is that the blame lies on the victim for her dressing and being out beyond a certain time.

Recent statements by politicians throw light on the misogynistic mindset. Naresh Agarwal of the Samajwadi Party, criticized the media for the hype regarding rapes while Farooq Abdullah, said that he would never hire a female secretary.

Courtesy: India Today

Courtesy: India Today

Ironically, members of their own fraternity are not clean of rape charges. As of December 2012, 369 MPs and MLAs in India were facing charges of sexual assault.

Essentially it implies that rapes are ‘expected’ to happen. It seems shocking that in a country that took to streets after the Delhi gang rape, women shy away from reporting incidents. While many put it on the trauma of re-living the experience during tough questioning, others smell threat from the police itself, which blames it back on them.

Surprisingly, India, with a conviction rate of 24%, is higher than many of the European nations, which have conviction rates below 20%. The disturbing fact – it has dropped from 41% since a decade, as cases have increased.

The most disheartening outcome is that these debates have started a gender war instead of uniting people to fight against the evil act. Palash Mehrotra’s view of “Men Under Siege” has not gone down well with women, who feel that they are just finding their lost voice.

On the other hand, as laws are framed by the Legislature and enforced by the Judiciary, the role played by these two pillars cannot be overlooked.

First, the current laws are not adequate when it comes to safeguarding the rights of women after marriage, as marital rape is not a crime in India.

Second, the situation is no better for children. The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act shifts the burden of proof to the accused and ensures completion of the trial within one year. Yet, its implementation is weak because of lack of knowledge.

Following the rape of an 11-year-old child, police in Thalai Gnayiru, Tamil Nadu, booked a case under Section 450 (house trespass to commit an offence) and Section 376 (rape) instead of the above act, as they were ‘not aware’ of it.

Third, current laws create conflicting views as regards women at workplaces. The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, defines sexual harassment varying from “physical contact or advances” to “request for sexual favours” and “making sexually coloured remarks.” Interestingly, these actions are neither at par with rape nor cognizable.

Courtesy: Google

Conclusively, the Judiciary and Legislative are both reactive rather than proactive. The above law was passed in the aftermath of the rape of a female social worker protesting against child marriage.

The anti-rape bill, which provides a broader definition of rape and includes stalking and acid attacks, too came into existence only after the Delhi gang rape.

Startlingly, an important aspect overlooked is the media attention. ‘Trial by media’ has been blamed for denying the accused a fair trial.

Courtesy: Google Images

The constant attention surrounding Justice A K Ganguly seemed to pronounce him guilty without trial. Amidst the massive calls for his resignation from the West Bengal Human Rights Council by women activists and the TMC, were voices of advocates that believed it would set a wrong precedent. They feared any person occupying a high post would be now vulnerable.

On the contrary, cases nowadays are taken more seriously because of the media. Women, whose voices were subdued for so long, have finally risen from the dark and found light that gives them a glimmer of hope.

The media through its role, has set an example that any suspect of this dastardly crime, be it a Ram Singh or Tarun Tejpal, will not get away easily. The time has come to give the women of our nation the protection and support they so long asked for, and this is only the beginning.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

Scroll To Top