The brutal gangrape of a seven-year-old girl in Mandsaur last week came as a chilling reminder of the infamous abduction, gangrape and brutal murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua, Jammu earlier this year in January.
A week later, a four-year-old girl was found lying in a secluded place in a village in Satna, Madhya Pradesh. She was raped by a 23-year-old man known to her family.
Appalling crime rate against women
In 2016, India recorded 106 rapes per day, highlighting the mammoth rate of crime rate against women despite a series of court rulings and toughening of laws to deal with the peril. Excruciatingly, the numbers only rise with little redressal of complaints and eventual conviction.
The NCRB data reveals that 2,60,304 cases of crimes against women were sent for trial in courts in 2016. The conviction was secured in 23,094 cases. Also, reported in 2016 were 206 cases of acid attack on women, while 7,236 women were stalked.
Putting up a fight seems barren when abduction, rapes, gang rapes, assaults and murders are used as an instrument of asserting power and intimidate the incapable in the country.
Skewed sex ratio
The awfully skewed sex ratio – largely because of sex-selective abortions and preference for a male child. The country sees 112 boys born for every 100 girls, which is against the natural sex ratio of 105 boys for every 100 girls.
The ‘Pink’ Economic Survey 2018 highlighted India’s obsession with sons.
“Indian parents often continue to have children till they have the desired number of sons,” said the survey drafted by Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian and his team. Because of this preference for sons, there are notionally over 21 million “unwanted girls”, or girls whose parents wanted boys.
It said that the adverse sex ratio of females to males has led to 63 million “missing” women.
Many believe that such crooked sex ratio can contribute to increasing crimes against women.
Despite stringent anti-rape laws, promises remain hollow
In 2016, the horrifying gangrape of a 23-year-old physiotherapy student on a moving bus in New Delhi, which came to be known Nirbhaya Case, prompted thousands to protest on streets on India’s archaic rape laws and handling of sexual assault cases.
It seemed like a watershed moment. With widespread protests, legal reform seemed possible. A week after the dreadful Nirbhaya gangrape case, the Justice JS Verma committee was set up to review criminal laws and recommend amendments to them. The Committee’s huge 644-page report formed the basis of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act of 2013, after first being implemented as an ordinance.
The 2013 Act expanded the definition of rape to include oral sex as well as the insertion of an object or any other body part into a woman’s vagina, urethra or anus.
The punishment for rape was also made stringent. The courts’ discretion to give rapists a sentence lesser than the minimum of seven years was abolished.
But cut to 2018, nothing has changed.
The recent Human Rights Watch report found that despite improved laws and policies, tenacious attitudes towards and condescending views of rape victims still pose massive barriers to victims getting support services and justice.
Also read: Modi Sarkar Fails To Stop ‘Naari Par Var’, India Is Officially Most Dangerous Country For Women
Since the laws were strengthened, there has been a 39 per cent increase in rape complaints reported to the police, according to Human Rights Watch, which implies that the new laws have had some positive effect.
Contrary to this, the report also found that despite the increase in willingness to report sexual violence, there are still obvious gaps in the implementation of these policies and cases are still regularly handled improperly, meaning the survivors are not necessarily getting justice.
After the bone-chilling rape of an eight-year-old in Kathua, Jammu and the eventual shielding of rapists by fringe groups and members of the ruling Bharatiya Janta Party, many took to streets across the country in solidarity with the victim and her family.
On January 17, the battered body of the victim was recovered from a forest in Rasana village, Kathua, a week after she went missing. The gangrape and murder was part of intimidating and dislodging the nomadic Muslim Bakarwal community. The eight-year-old child became a soft target in tensions between the Gujjars and Bakarwals.
India most dangerous country for women
On June 26, a Thomson Reuters Foundation survey stated India as the most dangerous country for women. The survey ranked India as more dangerous for women than war-torn Syria and Afghanistan.
A total of 548 global experts on women’s issues, 43 of whom are based in India, were asked questions relating to risks faced by women in six areas: healthcare, access to economic resources and discrimination, customary practices, sexual violence, non-sexual violence, and human trafficking.
India fared worst overall, and specifically worst for women in human trafficking, sexual violence and in relation to cultural, religious and tribal customs.
On June 27, Union Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi rejected the poll. She wrote to Thomson Reuters Foundation demanding answers as to why was the ministry not consulted for the report.
Stating that the poll has collected opinions of 548 persons on healthcare, discrimination, cultural traditions, sexual violence, non-sexual violence and human trafficking, WCD said, “India is far ahead of many countries in most of these areas and has also seen significant improvement in indicators when compared with its own performance in previous years. Therefore, the ranking of India is a surprise and clearly inaccurate.”
The Ministry also said that there is positive data in the areas of violence too. “There has been a drastic reduction in child marriage over the years, with reports of marriage in the age group of 0-9 years now being nil. Further, the percentage of women age 15-19 years who were already mothers or pregnant has dropped from 16% in 2005-06 to 7.9% in 2015-16.”
WCD said that the usage of an opinion poll to peg India as the most dangerous country for women is a clear effort to malign the nation and draw attention away from ground improvements seen in recent years.
Ironically, the same day a seven-year-old girl was abducted from outside her school and allegedly raped, assaulted by the unidentified person before being abandoned at a secluded place in Mandsaur in Madhya Pradesh.
The same say a Canadian woman was raped by a man whom she met at a pub in South Delhi’s Hauz Khas area.
Ridiculously, at the time when the government rejected the findings of the survey and was trying desperately to hide its face, stating the “positive” data on violence, the two incidents exposed the obvious.
Why is there no end to rapes
In India, rape is still constructed as a woman’s shame and the stigma attached to it, first being “never tell anyone that you were raped, never speak a word about it.”
Fear and shame are still major issues for rape victims. Women are afraid to report rape not only because they may not be believed but because of the stigma that would be attached to them consequently, and the embarrassment they would have to endure to try to bring their attackers to justice.
India has become a society where the national narrative conditions people to think that there are no consequences of rape, and where women command little cultural respect, the number of crimes against women is not shocking or surprising at all.
It is just normal. Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, opposing the new anti-rape law, said that his party would change the law that entails death for rape. Addressing a gathering of thousands of people in Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh, Yadav said, “rape accused should not be hanged. Men make mistakes.”
Women have to reconcile with the reality: your safety is in your hands, don’t step out at night, don’t wear short clothes, don’t go out unescorted or simply, just stay at home – or you are on your own.
After all, this the what the society feeds its men and rapes are just a reflection of its teachings.