India has been shamed, mortified and brutalised once again. Cases of rape, assault and violence against women are reported every day. The shock and horror of one does not even wane off when another case of brutality against women in India hits you. And this time the news of a women photo-journalist being allegedly gang-raped by five men in Mumbai on August 22 has once again jolted the innards of our being.
It has once again reminded the women of this country as to how vulnerable and how unsafe they are and can be. Every single time that we hear of a horrific crime like rape committed by the vultures that are on the prowl, the cynicism inside us deepens and we realise that at the end of the day, we are on our own and that is one hell of a scary thought.
What has changed since the December 16 Delhi gang-rape last year? Probably nothing! Yes, the government did bring in a tougher anti-rape law in March this year, which imposed stricter punishments for violence against women and made activities such as stalking and voyeurism criminal offenses, but what has changed on the ground. Has the new rape law been able to deter the would-be rapists? No. Has the feudal mindset of a section of the men in our society changed? Has the outlook of our policemen and our administrators changed? Again, no!
If they had a ten year old girl, who was allegedly raped, would not have been put behind bars by cops in Bulandshahr, in the most callous manner, when she approached them along with her mother to register a complaint. And the Minister of State for Urban Administration and Development, Manohar Untwal, would not have said that incidents of rapes in his state were not many given the fact that the population of Madhya Pradesh is estimated to be around 7.5 crore. And Samajwadi Party leader Naresh Agarwal, instead of empathizing with the Mumbai rape victim, would not have said that women must pay attention to what they wear.
The list of such insensitive remarks and heartless attitude is a long one. What was the fault of this young photo-journalist, who is said to be an intern at a reputed magazine and had just started her career? That she was out on an assignment to Shakti Mills compound in Mahalaxmi and was just doing her job? In fact, she was not alone but accompanied by a male friend. And it was not even late night but around six in the evening in summers when the sun sets late. Hadn’t she taken enough protection as we are often told to do by our family and friends?
The irony of the fact is that the crime has been committed in Mumbai, the city that was once said to be one of the safest cities in India. However, it will not be misplaced to say that the ‘Maximum City’ is losing its tag very fast, given the number of such cases that have come to light in recent times. As per data released by the Praja Foundation, a non-profit organization in Mumbai, there was a 15 percent rise in crimes against women in 2011-12 in the financial capital of India over the previous year, with 207 cases of rape being registered. The government and the administrators in Maharashtra need to wake up and take heed of the matter. And one only hopes that politicians do not start playing politics over it and parties like the Shiv Sena and the MNS do not start blaming the migrants for everything that goes wrong with Mumbai.
However, the question is not about Mumbai but the whole country – metros, towns and villages included. What should a woman in India do and where should she go? She is not safe at home, with cases of girls being raped and assaulted by their family members and relatives being reported every day. She is not safe outside her home when she goes to school, college, office, marketplace and movie and in fact every damn place. There are evil spirits lurking at every nook and corner out to satisfy their sexual lust.
It is another matter that it’s difficult for any rational mind to comprehend that any man would and can achieve sexual satiation by raping and forcing himself upon a women or a child. And it’s even more difficult to comprehend that fathers can rape daughters and brothers can rape sisters in their quest for sexual gratification. They are either animals or devils in the guise of men, who can violate those they are supposed to protect, putting to shame the term father, brother and uncle.
It is also outright shameful, when a Chicago university woman, back from a study trip to India in 2012, while recounting her ordeal says that she was subjected to relentless sexual harassment and termed her stay in the country as ‘a woman`s hell.’
One would think that the number of rape cases and violence being reported in India against women, minors, children and tourists would make us numb and immune to the news. But on the contrary every time and I reiterate, every time such cases come to the fore, it’s like another dagger pierced in our heart, killing us slowly.
Post Script: The statistics pertaining to violence against women in India is horrifying to say the least. Nearly 68,000 rape cases were registered across the country during the period 2009-11. But out of them only 16,000 rapists were sentenced to prison. As per the National Crime Records Bureau, 24,206 rape cases were registered in India in the year 2011 but only 5,724 people were convicted for the crime.
In 2012, reports of rape, dowry deaths, sexual harassment, kidnapping, trafficking and other crimes against women in the country rose by 6.4 percent from the previous year. The highest numbers of rapes were recorded in Delhi. As per the figures of NCRB, 244,270 crimes against women were reported to the police last year. If this does not present a gloomy and depressing picture of the status of women in India then what does?