As India is trying to come out of the shock of the cases in Kathua (Jammu and Kashmir) and Unnao (Uttar Pradesh), there are more such incidents being reported almost on an everyday basis. Here are the more recent ones:
· Raebareli (UP): A young girl was raped last year at Unnao. She has been fighting for justice. She was burnt by the same rapist who was on bail, when the girl was on her way to the Court. Her survival is a question mark.
· Delhi: I n Dwarka Sector-23, a six-year-old girl was brutally raped and left on the roadside.
· Noida (UP): A 21-year old woman was molested by her friend and then gang-raped by five men at a park in Sector-63 of Noida.
· Bareilly (UP): A 17-year old girl was raped by a Prantiye Raksha Dal (PRD) Jawan on the terrace of the girl’s house at Budaun village in Bareilly district.
· Bareilly (UP): In a shocking incident, a teenager was allegedly gang-raped in the ICU of a private hospital in Bareilly district.
· Rajasthan: The police have arrested one person in connection with the brutal rape and murder of a six-year-old girl in Rajasthan's Tonk district.
· Kalaburgi (Karnataka): A government school teacher sexually abused his girl students under the pretext of conducting special coaching class.
· Hyderabad (Telangana) : Priyanka, 27-year old Veterinary doctor was brutally gang raped and then burnt alive on the outskirts of Hyderabad.
· Coimbatore (Tamil Nadu): A young class-11 girl student was raped by six men in front of her lover inside a park in Coimbatore.
These barbaric incidents at various parts of the country have once again put the spotlight on India’s poor track record in protecting its women, almost seven years after the brutal Nirbhaya case, in which a young medical intern was gang-raped and tortured in a moving bus in South Delhi. This event stirred the whole nation. After that brutal incident, everyone had a hope that such a tragedy will never occur in future. To our great disappointment sexual abuse incidents have increased in the recent past. The venue of the sexual abuse is not limited only to certain remote or isolated place. It occurs inside Educational Institutions involving teachers and students; worship and spiritual places like Temples, Ashrams and Churches involving self-made gurus, sadhus and priests; Work Places involving the directors, executives and employees; Hospitals (including ICUs) involving doctors/medical staff; Children’s Homes involving the wardens and persons in-charge of such Homes. The most shocking revelation is that even a home where a family lives is becoming an unsafe place. A father, uncle, brother, male relative or family-friend can be a sexual predator!!
In the last six months, (between January 1, 2019, and June 30, 2019) 24,212 cases of child abuse have been registered in India, which means 4000 cases in a month, 130 in a day and one in every five minutes. These are just the figures of the last six months given to the Supreme Court by the High Courts. These figures reflect the abominable condition of our society, which does not even spare its children. India has the world’s largest number of child sexual abuse (CSA) cases. According to a report , one girl in every five and one boy in every ten faces sexual abuse globally. Is it not frightening? For every hour passing by, two children are sexually abused in some part of India. Most of them are under the age of 16 years. The litany of brutal acts of rape, torture and murder carried out against children across the country seems unending. It is hard to envisage how adult men can rape infants and children, but the recent acts of extreme violence and exceptional brutality are too horrific to comprehend. To the sexual predators, it does not matter if their victim is a 6-month-old child or a 60-year-old woman.
The crime statistics, collected by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), especially those on sexual violence, tend to suffer from under-reporting. In fact, some studies have found that reported crime rates and actual crime rate could have a negative correlation, due to other issues like education, legal infrastructure etc. India’s average rate of reported rape cases is about 6.3 per 100,000 of the population. This average rate, which is not very high when compared with the rest of the world, suffers from under-reporting.
The Supreme Court has directed to establish special courts in every district for the hearing of sexual abuse cases. The SC said that these specialized courts would only hear sexual harassment cases related to children and also directed the Centre to set up these courts within 60 days. Can we improve this situation just by setting up special courts? In every incident t he ‘victim-blaming’ keeps going on, but we never try to understand the real reason behind this. What about the moral degradation widespread in our society? In the era of ‘women empowerment’, women from all walks of life are still vulnerable, why? Today most people, including the political leaders in India have got used to considering a sexual abuse report as just one of the news items and forget very easily. “Rape is a day-to-day affair”; “Chalta hai”; “We are helpless” are the common mindset. This is the greatest irony today.
On 30 November Anu Dubey, a law student sat alone near the Parliament building with a placard that read: “Why I do not feel safe in my Bharat?” She was forcibly taken by the Police and after an initial inquiry she was sent out with a severe warning! With courage she expressed her concern about the growing rape incidents from 2012. Inspired by Anu, there are many women groups sitting around the Parliament area these days raising their slogans against the State and Central governments. One of the women activists said, “Many rapists are sitting inside the Parliament and we are afraid of them.” College/University students and the general public were out on the roads in Delhi demanding punishment to the rapists. Seeing the public fury, the women Parliamentarians opened their mouth inside the Parliament and demanded for ‘public hanging’, ‘mob lynching’ and ‘death penalty’ even when they knew very well that there are hundreds of death penalty cases still pending and the rape accused criminals are safe either inside the jail or outside on bail with the ‘blessings of the politicians’.
General public, women activists and NGOs can make a big hue and cry when such tragedy occurs. They do take out a rally, hold meetings, conduct hunger strike and light candles for the rape victims. Of course, such initiatives do create awareness among the people on the burning issues of sexual abuse. Beyond this level, they are not able to proceed. Hence sexual abuses are never ending. The culprits are not those who committed the sexual abuse. The real culprits are the political leaders. It is the view of many people that most of the rapes are ‘induced’ for a political agenda and mileage! The politicians, bureaucrats and government machineries continue to live in their own “comfort zones” unconcerned about these tragedies. They all enjoy various types of ‘high security services’. The women and girl children in their families are well protected.
The political leaders, lawmakers and the people in the judiciary must wake up from their ‘deep sleep’, come out of their ‘comfort zones’ and become more empathetic. What is required is a thorough overhauling of the current legal infrastructure in place to deal with these cases in a quicker and more efficient manner, along with other remedies of promotion of basic human values, awareness-building programmes, sex education, and socio-economic-political development etc. Shall we all initiate a concerted effort and make sure that every girl child/woman in India is safe?(Published on 09th December 2019, Volume XXXI, Issue 50)