Rape Culture: India’s burning issue

By Our Correspondent
In India, a rape is reported every 15 minutes. According to the 2019 annual report of the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB), 32,033 rape cases were officially registered across the country. There are many more rape cases occurred every year which are not registered because of fear of society, intimidation to victim’s family by culprits and humiliating and traumatic tactic use by defense lawyers during court trial.
The recent gang-rape incidents, in less than one month, in Hathras and Balrampur, Uttar Pradesh, once again shaken up the entire nation. In Hathras, a 19-year-old Dalit girl who went to farm to collect cattle fodder, was on September 14, gang-raped by four upper caste men. The violence left her paralyzed with a severe spinal cord injury. The culprits allegedly cut her tongue. The girl succumbed to alleged assault injuries in a Delhi hospital on September 29.
The incident is being projected as a result of a caste war between Thakurs and Dalits.
Even as the embers of the Hathras incident continue to smoulder, yet another incident of a Dalit woman being gang-raped and killed in Balrampur district has taken place.
According to report, a 22-year-old Dalit college student was raped and brutalized in the Gaisari village of Balrampur on September 29. The police said that the victim was raped in the back room of a grocery store in the Gaisari village.
Both the victims were cremated in a hurry late at night without family permission amidst a heavy police deployment.
Though the rapists in both the incidents were arrested, there are many questions still unanswered like why medical examination was done eight days latter in Hathras gang-rape; why police cremated victim’s bodies without family members’ permission, etc.
When incidents like these happened, the politicians instead of helping the victims, all out to criticize the ruling party. From Priyanka and Rahul Gandhi to Akhilesh Yadav, opposition leaders as well as Bhim Army activists have criticized the Yogi Adityanath government in UP for atrocities against women.
Some so-called NGOs also do not miss the boat to get the limelight. Some activists however expressed reservation that because both victims were Dalit, no one would come from the Delhi elite as in the Nirbhaya case to light candles or demonstrate for justice.
People with a frustrated mindset
An awful sex ratio imbalance – largely because of illegal sex-selection abortions – means it is a country full of men. The country sees 112 boys born for every 100 girls. A preference for boys has meant that more than 63 million women are statistically “missing”. Many believe such skewed ratios can contribute to increased crimes against women. Haryana, which records the highest number of gang rapes in India, has the worst sex ratio in the country.
In India, little boys are told that they are stronger than girls. That sparks off a dominating streak in them that stays with them throughout their lives and manifests in various ways, be it teasing a woman on the road, showing their superiority complex or treating the wife like a slave.
To overcome this mindset, India need to eradicate this mentality by giving women equal status and respect at the level of social perception in every field.
Cry for Justice
The intense media spotlight on 2012 Nirbhaya gand-rape and murder case and protest by millions convinced us that the system is going to be changed and justice will be served to the victims. But it took eight years and enormous amount of protests by Nirbhaya’s family to get the justice for Nirbhaya.
There are many inhuman gang-rape cases where victims never got fair justice —
* A woman, working as a tourist guide-cum-ticket booking agent was gang-raped in five-star hotel in Delhi’s Connaught Place on September 17. According to police, the woman has named six persons, including a woman in her complaint.
* Police in Lalitpur district in Uttar Pradesh state refused to accept 22-year-old Barkha’s complaint of kidnapping and rape against three men who had attacked her and her husband in their home on January 30, 2016. Barkha said that two men beat her husband and took him away while the third, belonging to a dominant caste, raped her, abused her using caste slurs, and threatened to kill her if she went to the police. She said the police were reluctant to act because the main accused is a local leader of the ruling political party.
* Kajal, 23, said she and her father were detained, threatened, and beaten up after they filed a complaint of gang rape in Neemuch district in Madhya Pradesh on September 14, 2015. She said that the police detained her father and told her to tell the magistrate that she filed a false complaint of rape at her father’s behest. The police also made her sign several blank pages, slapped her, and beat her with a stick. She said the police also threatened to arrest her father on false charges if he did not sign a statement that his daughter had filed a false complaint.
* Kalpana, 30, a Dalit from Kaithal district, Haryana, turned hostile witness in court after facing threats and harassment from a Khap Panchayat, an unofficial village caste council. She had reported being gang raped by six men from the dominant Jat community on March 10, 2015, in Jind district.
* A 28-year-old Muslim woman was gang raped by two local residents of Simbhaoli of Hapur district in December 2015.The case got a lot of traction when the village elders ordered the victim to drop the case after getting a compensation of Rs 50,000 from the culprits.
* Mansi,” 13, was raped by a man behind a railway station in Maharashtra in 2012. She reported the assault to the railway police but the man responsible was a financially well-off member of a landowning community. Instead of taking action on her behalf, the police held Mansi in custody for 12 days while they tried to get her to retract her complaint.
* Only about 20 percent of campus sexual assault victims go to police, according to a new Justice Department report providing insight into why so many victims choose not to pursue criminal charges only because of fear of humiliation.
Why most rape cases victims scare to file FIR?
For a rape victim, lodging a First Information Report, or FIR, with the police is just the first hurdle. The procedures that follow are often even more gruelling, humiliating and traumatic for the victim.
Rape survivors in India face significant barriers to obtaining justice and critical support services. women and girls who survive rape and other sexual violence often suffer humiliation at police stations and hospitals. Police are frequently unwilling to register their complaints, victims and witnesses receive little protection, and medical professionals still compel degrading “two-finger” tests. These obstacles to justice and dignity are compounded by inadequate health care, counseling, and legal support for victims during criminal trials of the accused.
For victims of sexual violence, coming to terms with the incident is always a traumatic emotional and physical challenge. And that effort is made infinitely more difficult by the State, society and publicity-hungry politicians.
Also, some defense lawyers and judges still use language in courtrooms that is biased and derogatory toward sexual assault survivors. “The attempt at shaming the victim is still very much prevalent in the courts
For decades, rape victims in India have endured an archaic, poorly funded, under-resourced and insensitive criminal justice system which has failed both to care for them medically and to deliver justice, human rights groups and lawyers say.
The number of courts, judges and prosecutors is grossly inadequate, leading to trials that last years, intimidation of victims and witnesses, and the dropping of many cases before judgment.
One of the biggest obstacles to winning justice for rape victims is the length of the trials, legal experts say. In an average case, it can take a court five to 10 years to reach judgment.
Pious words and candle-light protest alone will not get justice for rape victims. There has to be concerted effort to remove the stigma of rape and a State-mandated support structure that can provide victims with legal, financial and psychological support.
It takes time to change mindsets of people. The Indian government should ensure medical, counseling, and legal support to victims and their families, and at the same time do more to sensitize police officers, judicial officials, and medical professionals on the proper handling of sexual violence cases. Till then, rape culture remains a burning issue for India and ‘Beti Bachao’ slogan remains just as slogan.

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