The tragic end of the 23-year-old paramedical student, who was gang-raped and brutally assaulted with screw drivers and iron rods inside a moving bus on one of the busiest roads of India’s rape capital in December, symbolises the danger faced by women every day in a country which is now known as one of the least safe in the world for women. The incident can rather be termed as a part of the continuum of violence against Indian women.
A glance into the statistics compiled by the National Crime Record Bureau, the statistical arm of Indian Police under Ministry of Home Affairs, makes it clear that the country has registered over 200% jump in rape cases in recent years. Moreover, top cops in all the states of India unanimously admit the fact that most cases of rape go unreported for several reasons in the country. The severity of the situation has reached such an extent that you could find rapists in parliament and assemblies too.
The loopholes in Indian law as far as rape and sexual assault on women is concerned, and the collective failure of the police, judiciary and leaders in fulfilling their responsibilities, galvanized India as a whole, at the end of 2012, to erupt in protests to affirm the dignity and safety of its women. The outrage of the people after the brutal Delhi gang-rape was quite natural in the absence of a powerful tool to curb rapes.
That is the very reason a majority of Indian women are now favouring Saudi Arabian or Iranian model punishment for rapists. Meanwhile, ‘stoning to death’, ‘public execution’ and ‘chopping off hands’ of criminals, which were till recently dubbed by a majority of people as ‘most barbaric, uncivilized and inhuman solutions of an outdated religion’, all of a sudden took shape of ‘public opinion’ in India! A modern country like Singapore, where Delhi rape victim breathed her last, too has come out with a strong statement that it would cite the ‘heart-breaking case’ as an example to reject demands for abolition of death penalty.
However, rulers of India, who initially waited for a shift in the focus of the country from violence against women to some other less-serious issues, have now resorted to an eyewash strategy with the proposal of an increased punishment including a provision like chemical castration of perpetrators of rape in rare cases and setting up of fast track-courts to decide the cases. But, the timely demand of people in the country to implement capital punishment or death penalty for rapists has been completely side-lined by the government. It is the time for civilized man to understand the grave consequences of upholding human rights of a criminal at the cost of lives of the victims.
Nevertheless, death penalty cannot be the complete solution for rape in a polluted society, where commoditization of women is rampant. There is something profoundly wrong in the values the new generation is taught in our society.
The Delhi gang-rape also points out the necessity to re-define the “juvenile” and lower their age while dealing with criminal cases, as one of the accused in this case, who inflicted maximum brutality on the victim, has managed to bag the privileges of juvenile as he is aged a few months less than 18 years.
However, if the common man of India forgets the severity of the situation after a few weeks of protest, as he did in the past, and if those who rule once again fail to learn lesson from such incidents, the cases of violence against women will continue to mount unabated, rape victims will continue to die and rapists will continue to wander freely in India.