SOCIAL and economic indicators for developing countries consistently show that women bear the brunt of hardship in poor communities. Efforts to modernise discriminatory laws can be frustrated by the deep-rooted cultural barriers that so often run in parallel with poverty. Women are not only key agents for delivery of poverty reduction programmes but also find themselves in the front line of major global issues – food production, population growth and adaptation to climate change.
Few years back, inside the waiting lobby of network, a travel agency in Assam, a girl slept soundly beside her parents, least aware that a horrible fate awaited her. The parents too lolled in the lap of indolence, least aware that they would not see their child anymore. When they woke up, she was gone…forever. She was discovered dead inside a western toilet in the building with torn clothes, blood and scratches. It was a case of gang rape and murder.
She was only child, not more than ten years old. She hardly possessed anything womanly about her to arouse those insensitive sex maniacs. Was it just because of her fate that her idyllic childhood was brought to a cruelly abrupt end?
This case is just a mere pittance compared to thousands of rape cases that are oozing their venomous way over the whole country. The latest report of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) shows that there has been a phenomenal eight-fold increase in rape cases in India since 1971. The number of such cases has grown from seven to 53 a day. And still not less than 58,000 cases are pending trials in various courts of the country. And people say India is progressing!! What an irony?
Women being victims of rapes and molestations in the westernised metro cities are understandable. But what the present scenario portrays is quite contradictory. Most of such incidents are registered from small and remote towns. So can we conclude that the impressive moral codes left by our sages and seers has finally begun to ebb?
There isn’t a single place or a single hour where a woman can be assured that she is safe. Be it on the street (don’t really matter if it’s teeming or deserted); in the office (especially in a closed cabin), inside a bus (with one female and all wicked males), a school (teachers are next to our parents), inside the house (a child is not safe with her own father nowadays), a temple. Are there any places, which can be called safe for women?
The immediate question is why is it happening? Is it because the women rig themselves out to look like some indigenous woman of African forests with their skimpiest clothing? Then what does a chrisom child or an octogenarian woman does to provoke the monsters? Since most of the cases are related to small children falling victim to this crime, we can’t entirely blame it on the women folk. Nor can we blame it on the whole male populace for the fault of some insane, idle philanderers and rakes who are turning out to be horny demons. It is partly because of the fungal growth of uncensored films, brothels and prostitution and easy access to them. There are definitely more symptoms of degeneration in moral conscience of the society.
While cases like those of the British woman who was raped in Panaji, Bilkis Bano, Mukhtar Mai, the adivasi (tribal) girl in Assam who was sexually harassed during a riot hit the national news headlines, many such cases go unnoticed and unregistered. Either the victims are too traumatised by the assault to reveal anything or too timid to let the news out. However, with the unfairness done to their counterparts across the country by the insouciance of the guardian of law and order, their timidity is justified. Isn’t it a sheer lack of trust on the effectiveness of the government and its organs?
The chronicles of rape cases hitherto suggests that whenever a rape case came to notice, it got over with some hue and cry from the general mass demanding justice, a trial, some kind of punishment to the rapist and some compensation to the victim. And then there’s a dead full stop. Everyone gets back to there regular life. In Bilkis Bano’s case six police officers were charged with shielding the guilty while two doctors were accused of fabricating evidence. This is what goes on. What can we expect from the police, when they themselves are the perpetrators of the crime? Nine out of 20 accused are acquitted of all but a few minor charges and 10 out of 20 take it on the lam. Government’s duty ends with enforcing some laws, passing some Bills and providing self-defense classes to the women. These hardly serve as any weapon against the male libido and their insatiable lust.
The laws are just some check notes. The concerned citizens are the one to make them obvious on the front. We can do a lot more than just utter a string of oaths against the criminal, may be a good public bashing would do wonders. It is no one else who can save the women from the predatory wolves, but us. If we do it, may-be we get the answer to ‘what fate awaits a woman?’ and see the Morgenstern on the next dawn, say some sign of new hope.
(The writer can be contacted at [email protected])