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A Battle Lost?

A Battle Lost?

My recent rendezvous with Ritu (name changed) a rape victim who was invited to speak up at a meeting organized by one of the Women Self Help Groups (SPG) in Kanpur drove home the untold ordeals rape victims are compelled to undergo in India. Listening to Ritu I couldn’t but agree with her that India is a ‘den of rapists’ and most unsafe for women. Heinous crimes callously being committed against women in this country, Delhi in particular with its dubious distinction as the ‘rape capital’, confirm the cruel fact that it is wrong to be born a girl child and a crime to be a woman in India.

Since a couple of years headlines in the newspapers have been daily screaming of the endless escalation of crimes against women. The battle of gender is as old as humanity itself. No nation on the globe is totally free of gender violence. Assault on women happens across India. But uninterrupted atrocities on women taking place in Delhi with rape topping the vicious list makes the capital of the largest democracy a stinking den of rapists. The steadily increasing crimes against women have become a national shame that paints India as the worst place for women to live.

Of all crimes against women, rape seems to defy laws and punishment in India. Even after four years of the brutal gang-rape and murder of Nirbhaya in 2012 that registered a strong public protest and forced the government to make stricter legal provisions for the safety of women and stringent punishment for rape, nothing seems to arrest the heinous crime, nay it has increased to an alarming magnitude.

Uninterrupted cases of brutal rapes and gang rapes in Delhi in the last few months have been so spine chilling that one wonders to what level of barbarity India has descended! As a grim throwback to the brutal Nirbhaya gang-rape four years back in Delhi on Dec 16, this year on the same day a 20 year old girl who was on a job-hunt was allegedly raped in a car in South Delhi’s Moti Bagh area.

It is Delhi’s shame that the national capital has witnessed at least five incidents of  rape in a given week. As per police December 11 alone accounted for at least three cases of rape in different parts of the city. While three minor girls were allegedly raped by their family members, two of them were assaulted by their fathers. In the first incident, a seven-year-old girl was allegedly raped over a period of time by her father in northwest Delhi’s Bhalswa Dairy. In the second case, a 12-year-old girl was allegedly raped by her father at a hotel in Delhi’s Paharganj area where t he family had come from Bi har and had rented a hotel room. The man allegedly raped his daughter when his wife was away.

A 16-year-old girl, who had come to  Delhi reportedly to look after her injured uncle and aunt, was allegedly gang-raped by three men, including the landlord of the house where her relatives were living in east Delhi's New Ashok Nagar area on the 16 of this month. As per the police, the girl was finishing the last chores of the day when one of the accused, allegedly put a handkerchief on her face and abducted her along with two other men around 9-9.30 pm. They then took turns to allegedly sexually assault her while she was not in her senses.

In a shocking incident in outer Delhi’s Shahbad Dairy a 30-yr-old man recently raped a 4-yr-old girl whose mother had left her alone at home for few minutes as she went to buy grocery. On her return she found her daughter missing. After a frantic search, she found the accused sexually assaulting her daughter. He fled when she raised an alarm and the hapless mother rushed her bleeding daughter to a nearby hospital where doctors found that the girl had suffered severe internal injuries on her private parts.

A Class 10 student was allegedly gang raped at Kalkaji for two days by two persons in a flat at South Delhi's  Kalkaji area. The accused, Karan Singh and Sanjay Kumar, gang raped her even while two of their associates, Mahesh and Kala, filmed the entire act on mobile phones for blackmailing her. A two-year old toddler was allegedly raped by her 60 year old neighbour, Kalicharan, last month in front of his five-year-old grandson.

The list is endless and it’s stinking. The latest statistics of crime against women reveals the barbaric backward realms India has marched into.

Incidents of rape in Delhi have steadily increased from 706 in 2012 to 2199 in 2016. However, what is most alarming is the huge drop in the conviction rate of rape. In 2012, the police had secured a 49.25% conviction in rape cases, which fell to 35.69% in 2013 and 34.5% in 2014. Last year, the conviction rate was a mere 29.37%. The drop appears not just in terms of percentage, but also even in absolute numbers over the last two years – from 747 out of 2166 cases in 2014 to 645 out of 2199 in 2015. All this, despite a series of reforms put in place since 2012, six fast-track courts set up to handle rape cases, sensitization classes arranged for 40,792 Delhi cops till date and launched Operation Nirbheek, in which police visited girls from more than 5000 schools to speak to them about safety. Over 1.83 lakh girls were trained in self-defence, gender sensitization classes were arranged for 40,792 Delhi cops till date and launched Operation Nirbheek, in which police visited girls from more than 5000 schools to speak to them about safety. Over 1.83 lakh girls were also trained in self-defence. Yet t he existing six Fast-track courts set up by Delhi government and high court, following the  Nirbhaya case, reportedly has over 1,600 pending cases.

Mainstream and non-traditional media should have a more gender balanced view of the news and cover more stories about gender violence. The government of Delhi should make sure that hospitals and dispensaries across the capital are adequately equipped to deal with rape cases. Delhi’s public transport should be made safe for women commuters where marshals are deployed in buses to keep sexual harassment at bay. With a strong political will the government should implement laws that ensure the protection of women and girls. There should be state-policy level drawn up syllabi for an integrated sex education to be made compulsory in all schools across the country. Human rights activists and NGOs must get in touch with local women’s organization and support the survivors of sexual violence.

The mothers and teachers in India have a great role to play in freeing their sons from the deep-rooted grip of patriarchy that keeps women subdued under its monstrous thumb of male chauvinism. Every Indian mother should teach her sons to respect every girl and woman and grow up as a proud feminist who defends the rights of women. And every school boy in India ought to be taught the sublime words of the Father of our Nation on women: “If nonviolence is the law of our being, the future is with woman. Who can make a more effective appeal to the heart than woman?" [ Mahatma Gandhi (Young India, Oct. 4, 1930)]

(Published on 26th December 2016, Volume XXVIII, Issue 52)#