Yesterday, I slept with an uneasiness after hearing two news. First, the encounter and next, the 23-year-old rape victim was set ablaze by a gang of men, including the alleged rapist, as she made her way to court to attend a hearing in the case, in Unnao district of Uttar Pradesh.
As soon as I woke up today and as a habit the first thing I do, I opened my phone, the first news I saw was that the Unnao rape victim succumbed to her injuries. The mood turned gloomy for obvious reason and immediately after that a message popped up in my facebook messenger. A female foreigner friend of mine writes to me, “Nowadays rape is BIG news in India, i dont feel safe for coming to India.....im tourist,” and she pastes a few links of the recent rape news published in some of the famous news portals across the world.
Yes, this is how I started my day.
Honestly, I didn’t know how to react but I feel the recent rape cases since the Nirbhaya incident of 2012 had shaken and moved the conscience of the country. Statistics say that India is ranked 93rd in rape incidents per 100,000 citizens in different countries. There are 1.8 rapes per 1,00,000 of the population in India but due to the size of the population, the size is a staggering 32,500 cases in a year. It makes around 90 cases per day!! Though my friend’s country and a lot of the 1st world and developing countries including Sweden, USA, Australia, Belgium are way above the ladder just within the top 20 countries of highest rates of rape. So, this is not a problem with our country, it is a worldwide problem.
Though we are celebrating the “encounter” of the four accused in the Hyderabad rape case and this has led to many people including the victim’s family say that "justice" has been delivered but this cannot be the norm. Police are not to pronounce verdict and do justice, justice should always be delivered by the court. Let me elaborate on this. Police make a lot of mistakes and those mistakes are corrected when the case goes to the court. Even from lower courts to higher courts. Remember the last year’s Ryan School’s case or the Arushi murder case. There are plenty of such examples. So the police are just an agency to keep control of the crime, they are not above the crime and absolutely not to pronounce a verdict. The encounter specialist cannot be the hero of society. Rape is a heinous crime and it is the duty of the government and the judiciary see that the rapist is convicted and punished and justice is served at the shortest possible time. Retribution cannot be a social norm at this stage of civilization.
One good thing that is happening in India is that the rape and sexual violence against women in India have received more attention since the widely-reported gang rape and murder of a student in the capital, Delhi, in 2012. The conscience is awakened. Almost every year people are found on the streets protesting for quick justice.
But, the question remains that why is INDIA in general so happy about the Hyderabad incident? It is because the general populace lost its faith in our sluggish judiciary system. What is celebrated today is actually the failure of governance, judiciary and the system as a whole. The sentiment of the people by large reflects the distrust and disappointment of the system. It is an expression of power emanating from a sense of deprivation, neglect, denial, rejection on one hand and loss of fear for pain and punishment on the other. Our justice delivery system has completely failed to give any justice. It re-confirms that justice delayed is justice denied. Such a sluggish justice delivery process cannot be the norm. If this continues to happen then there will be more such incidents of “encounters” or public lynching.
This is a serious national illness. The real culprit may have died in "encounter" today, but in an encounter tomorrow the innocents may be killed. Again, how many encounters will take place across the country to kill all rapists? If around 90 rapes are committed in a day, then 90 encounters every day all through the year!! Moreover, will the encounter killing of the rapists stop rape?
No, it won't. If it had then it would have stopped after 2004 when Dhananjay Chatterjee was sentenced to death and hung, the first hanging in India in 13 years for the rape and murder of Hetal Parekh, a 14-year-old schoolgirl, in 1990. It is high time for the government to ponder upon with immediate effect how can they deliver justice within the shortest time so that the citizens of the country can have faith in the judiciary. Crime in India has become an investment-free business and a conviction rates less than one percent, even after a decade or more. People now committing a crime with impunity safe in the knowledge that punishment is unlikely. The system should be such that the criminal fears the police, the police fears the society that is people and the people fear and respect the system.
It is also high time for society to start educating themselves. Society needs to treat their sons and daughters with equality. We do not have to teach the sons to give respect, we together have to respect women. Violence against woman is integrated into almost all culture and religion of the country. So, men find legitimacy in female abuse, oppression and exploitation. Hence, the socialization of violence starts at home. We need to change the culture and the ethos of our society. In a country, where the dowry system exists, it is very tough to educate respecting women. The dowry system dehumanizes women by treating them as property — goods that can be exchanged. So, each dowry that’s paid reinforces a system where women are viewed as second-class citizens. Centuries-old beliefs and cultural distortions have resulted in this culture of rape and it includes marital rape. Rape is all about power, not sex and for sure no pleasure involved. A rapist uses actual force or violence — or the threat of it — to take control over another human being, the second class citizen.
So, all the people those who celebrated the “encounter” should pledge to treat women with equality, give respect to women, eliminate the custom of dowry – then maybe we will have a future with no or minimal rape incidents.