Asian Life & Times - SALT
Women & Sexual Crimes Its time to talk!
By Roopa Bakshi
all the evils for which man has made himself responsible, none is so
degrading, so shocking or so brutal as his abuse of the better half of
humanity; the female sex" Mahatma Gandhi
It did not require a poll
or a survey to tell us, Indian women, that we dont have it right in our
country. We have known it for long. A recent poll conducted by TrustLaw, a
legal news service by Thomson Reuters Foundation, ranked India the worst
place for women among the G20 nations citing three reasons -
female infanticide, child marriage and
slavery. The report overlooked the biggest under-reported crime against
women in India today - sexual molestation, assault, and rape and the
incidence is escalating. It outnumbers any other crime in the country.
A couple of months ago,
in July of this year, a young woman a student walked out of a bar at
9.30 pm in the city of Guwahati, in the north-eastern Indian state of Assam.
It was a summer evening, the streets were bustling with people and traffic.
A gang of twenty-odd hooligans surrounded her, dragged her by her hair, tore
off her clothes, molested her smiling before a street audience, while a
cameraman from a local TV channel filmed the disgusting and horrific abuse
for the entire 30 minutes that it lasted without calling the police.
No one did - they all watched. The police
arrived on the scene too late the young girl had already suffered the
humiliation, trauma, and the violation. The girl cried out for help no one
offered. The video of the gruesome assault went viral in no time for the
wrong reasons. This happened on the busiest road of Guwahati, in a country
which takes pride in calling itself the largest democracy and the oldest
civilisation in the world. The beasts fled at the sight of the police but
their laughing, sickening faces were on the web for all to see. It would be
several days before the state machinery began churning its wheels and a
few weeks before they rounded up all the criminals. It was national shame at
its worst. Samar Halarnkar, the noted journalist and columnist, commented:
"This is a story of a dangerous decline in Indians and India itself of not
just failing morality but disintegrating public governance when it comes to
women. Men abuse women in every society, but few males do it with as much
impunity, violence and regularity as the Indian male."
Now that most of the
Guwahati molesters of the young victim have been arrested, it is time and
the right opportunity to make an example out of them in terms of meting out
the strictest punishment possible. These guys should not be spared. By
giving them the maximum punishment possible, a strong message needs to be
sent out countrywide that any form of violence against women will not be
They need to be shamed and humiliated
publicly and then thrown behind bars. Women have lost confidence in the
authorities, which have failed in bringing such criminals to justice in the
past and have failed even more in providing a safe public environment for
women. Sexual crimes against women in India are increasing relentlessly. The
Guwahati incident exposed the brutal and sadistic side of the molesters
they were apparently enjoying every moment of what they were inflicting on
their victim. What happened in Mangalore to a group of girls a couple of
years ago was no different. Every day, newspapers carry stories of rape,
abduction and dowry deaths and many more tales of humiliation.
A very sad truth in our country is that
women are responsible for their own safety they are on their own, with
very few safety nets.
Violent and sexual
assaults against women remain high even in western nations despite strong
gender equality but India appears to have real issues of violence against
women sexual as well as domestic. Sexual harassment is part of everyday
life. Crowded streets, buses and trains are notorious for gropers.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau in
India, there was a 19.4% increase in kidnapping and abduction of women, and
9.2% increase in rapes from 2010 to 2011. These are alarming figures,
considering the bulk of cases that go unreported. Actual figures would be a
There is no single answer
to the why for this pervasive male behaviour. Sociologists, psychologists,
behavioural scientists all have propounded various theories, but very few
seem relevant in the Indian context. The reasons are far more deep-rooted,
and complex. Traditionally, very little value is placed on women millions
of little girls lost to female foeticide and infanticide are ample proof of
that. Centuries-old belief system has viewed women in secondary roles, as
second-class citizens meant to cook, clean, and raise children.
Post-independence, the constitution brought women more rights than ever
before, gradually they became more visible in public life but only from a
miniscule segment of urban society. Very little has changed for the vast
majority of female population in rural India. And even less has changed in
the way most men perceive women. But a lot has indeed changed for the urban
woman many more are employed, they dress with the times, are more
independent, not marriage-focused, have disposable incomes and want to
live life on their own terms. This freedom of thought is interpreted by the
vast majority of males (both rural and urban), still entrapped in their
feudal values, as a wrong signal. A departure from the traditional
dress-code for women is interpreted as a departure from morals, a drink at a
bar even worse. The editor-in-chief of a television channel recently
twittered that prostitutes form a major chunk of girls who visit bars and
night clubs". This
is the perception of a supposedly educated, urban male the rest should not
come as a surprise. Progressive thought has never been mainstream.
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