It’s a new day and a bright and fresh morning. You wake up and get out of bed. You have your morning tea while reading the newspaper. You read about politics, sports, and all the latest Bollywood gossip. Amidst all this commotion, the news of gang rape in some remote area of your state lies in a corner when your eyes catch a glimpse of it. It seems like an ordinary article at this point. You bother reading the highlights, ‘a 13-year-old’, ‘3 men’, ‘family dispute’, just the usual. You move on to the next article. The end.
Something that ticks me off more than the issue of rapes in our country is the normalization of the issue of rapes in our country. Isn’t it tragic that unless the rape doesn’t involve extreme brutality and barbarity, we as citizens don’t find it to be worthy of our outrage and time? But we aren’t the ones to blame here because according to India Today, with an average of 88 rape cases EVERY DAY, we simply cannot afford to have our time invested in every single one of them, so instead we wait until something that really catches our attention every single time. And trust me, the bar keeps getting higher.
But the question that’s bothering me is “Why?”. Why have we reached this stage. Probably because of the lack of justice served. The conviction rate here is as low as 27.8%. This means, out of 100 accused, only 28 get convicted.
Every time despite full-fledged outrage from the citizens we fail to see the problem being eliminated from society. From the Aruna Shanbaug case in 1973 to the Hathras gang rape in 2020, no amount of outrage or protests could help curb the issue. The problem still prevails. So what is it that’s going wrong? Why are our efforts ineffective and fruitless?
Something I’ve noticed over the course of the years is how swiftly the way we are channeling our rage has changed. During the Delhi Gang-rape case of 2012, people took off for the streets and put immense pressure on the government which finally led to their execution on 20 March 2020 at the Tihar Prison Complex, New Delhi i.e after 8 long years.
Even though it is truly said that ‘better late than never‘. This inefficiency of our government to provide justice in time has had psychological impacts on the citizens due to which now when we speak up about a rape case we seldom seek justice and rarely blame the government for it’s failure in ensuring security and safety of women. Instead we focus on dealing with the issue from it’s roots by trying to change the mindset of people.
Now every time a case hits the headlines, posts like these are very often found on our timelines and in our WhatsApp group chats.
Now before I go on to say why I think tackling the problem in the manner shown above is important BUT will not give us immediate results, let me tell you factors that are correlated with the number of rape cases in India. Geographical location, financial condition, unemployment, literacy rate.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau, in 2012, of the 24,923 rapes reported nationwide, 3,035 occurred in the large cities. The number of reported rapes elsewhere in the country was more than seven times higher than the number of those reported in the main cities.
Uttar Pradesh, where these latest horrific attacks took place, is one of the poorest states in India, with more than 60 million people living on less than INR 100 a day. At the same time, India is grappling with a lost generation of those who were born after economic liberalization but are ill-educated, unemployed. Unemployment and poverty are common features among the gangs who rape. In this environment, and within a patriarchal structure, sexual violence is one of the few things that can command respect and a feeling of power and control.
My point being, how can we expect a patriarchal system existing since the beginning of time in this country to vanish overnight? We live in a country where we still see malpractices like dowry and child marriage prevalent in certain remote areas. I don’t mean to sound radical or irrational but these methods are going to take us a really long time to have an effect. Getting rid of the root of the problem is not as easy as it sounds.
I am not discouraging or delegitimizing these methods, in fact I myself consider myself a regular advocate of these ideologies and let me tell you an incomprehensible number of activists working for gender rights (including women, men and the LQBTQIA+ community) are doing a splendid job every day at educating people about various issues concerning gender equality.
My problem lies with people bringing up the issues of consent and victim blaming even after a horrendous rape case hits the headlines. At this particular time talking about these things even to further prevent rapes from happening again, is pointless.
To elucidate my point, I stated facts about how certain factors are correlated with number of rape cases reported in various parts of India. With majority of these cases having the accused of a lower socio-economic background, it is difficult to get absurd points like human rights and consent into their minds. While it is not deniable that an enumerable amount of people accused in rape case also come from comparatively higher financial and social areas of society, I wish to be really specific i.e about the former.
These people have been bought up in a certain way with some preposterous things being taught to them since childhood. We have people justifying acts of cruelty against women under the banners of preserving religious and cultural heritage. There’s a whole separate list of things which eventually led to the rape culture that we live in today but that’s another story. Though it is not impossible to get rid of it, it sure is difficult.
There exists a deep rooted patriarchal mindset in our country. Unfortunately it is no surprise that India’s rape culture will take a lot more years than we’ve estimated to be vanquished completely. But we will get there, we definitely will.
But let’s be extremely myopic here. What is to be done right now? What can be done for immediate, if not elimination, but a decrease in number of rape cases in India? How many lives will have to be sacrificed until we reach our utopic India?
For starters, STOP demanding the capital punishment for all rape cases. Yes, I’m sorry to break it to you but that is only going to take us a step back from achieving our goal. Let’s not encourage regressive bills like the Shakti Bill drafted by the Maharashtra government in 2020. Instead we need to focus on the implementation of the already existing laws. Only about a third of rape cases reported to the police result in a conviction. Indian courts have a backlog of more than 100,000 rape cases. There should be pressure on the government, but not pressure to bypass laws or to get stricter punishment but to actually get the criminal justice system to work.
We need to take time out of our lives and invest it as much as we can to pressurize the government to take stringent actions. We can write them mails, organize protests, spread the word, anything that will give out the picture that the citizens demand justice, and they want it immediately.
Apart from that, ensuring safety and security of women for preventing rapes from happening at all is extremely vital. Here are the few steps that can be taken:
- Politicians need to understand our priorities as citizens. We should emphasize on women’s safety being an important part of a candidates manifesto during elections. Unlike all these years, instead of caste and religion based motives, we should make it evident that a candidate displaying seriousness regarding women’s safety will more likely be elected.
- Ensure all areas in cities are safe at all times. In cities and towns, police should be deployed everywhere, even the most crowded or lonely places, and 4 to 5 women cops must be there in each group. Facilities like restaurants, petrol pumps, theatres and all other places that are running 24 hours must appoint more number of women employees.
- A government plan/budget must be decided every year specifically for working towards women safety and must suffice for all provisions listed here and more
- Streetlights must be installed and maintained so no particular street seems dark, eerie and more susceptible to rapes.
- CCTV surveillance: all areas should be under CCTV surveillance at all times.
- Building toilets in villages and other rural areas can stop women going for open defecation and that will stop rape cases and eve teasing
- A separate squad of the police force should be appointed which works only and only for handling rape cases in their respective areas. That squad should mandatorily consist of 5-6 women police officers.
- Crime activities in all areas must be monitored by the police personnel, they must prepare an area wise database of criminals. So that areas with evidently higher number of crimes and criminals can be focused on and surveilled more.
- A 24 hours helpline and booth must be opened in all parts of the city. One and unique women safety government app must be developed and used. Two to three toll free numbers must be given.
- Night-time patrolling and examination rounds must be made regularly by police in all areas.
- Non-profits working for women’s safety must be provided with special and sufficient funds from the government on a regular basis
- Night drop vans, cabs, auto rickshaws must be introduced and run having more women staff which can pick up and drop women in late hours even. There should be mandatory rules both for private and public transports to employ women safety forces (having more number of women staff).
- GPS tracking systems must be used in auto rickshaws, cabs, buses. Safety watches with GPS tracker, alarm system must be provided to girls.
- Counsellors in schools must have regular interactions with young girls and boys to make sure nothing wrong is happening with them. Environments at home must be conducive to open discussions and parents at home must take feedback to know if anything wrong is happening with their girls.
- Compulsory sex education must be given in schools and young kids should be taught about good touch and bad touch.
- Self-defense training in school and colleges must be mandatory.
Let’s stop asking only for justice after lives are lost and the damage is done. Let’s demand for no more rapes and a safe environment. If we cannot teach criminals not to rape, we can hold the power to forbid them from raping, whether they have the necessary moral values or not. Implementation of these steps alongside creating more and more awareness each day is extremely crucial and the need of the hour for our country.