This time it was not the office cab; it was not the dress; she was not “that kind of girl”; she was not travelling alone. If anything, she had taken all the precautions that we as women have been conditioned to take. Yet, she got raped. Not just gang-raped, she has been assaulted and brutalised in such a manner that belies any kind of sense. And while the usual cacophony starts, blaming the police, the Government, demanding the resignation of the Chief Minister – the real issue gets submerged.
The issue is not about lapses in the implementation of our laws (because on paper we have the strongest of legislations), it is about requiring a change in our mentalities – and an overhaul of the mindset of the society. With every passing day people have started losing their basic values and respect for others.
This needs to be arrested and reversed. No law or police can do it. The civil society has to do it. It is also about gender sensitisation and education – of learning to look at women as human beings with a mind and voice of their own, rather than as senseless, voiceless objects.
As the mother of a four year old, this recent case becomes all the more scary as she travels to school in one of these chartered buses every day in which the incident occurred. As a woman who has driven around Delhi even at late hours for many years now, I now notice myself making certain conscious decisions – never have the windowpanes down even if the weather is pleasant, always ensure that the doors are locked, and – even though it is illegal – talk to people on the handsfree when driving late in the evening, so that in the eventuality of any mishap my family or friends know where to find me.
As recent incidents from across the country have shown – whether of the young girl being raped by her father and her step father for over a year in Kerala, the Park Street rape case in Kolkata, the various cases of assault and rape that have been seen in Haryana, or the case of the five year old being raped in Karnataka – it is not about how old you are, where you live, what you wear, what you eat, or even who you are with, it is about sick people with sicker minds who see the violation of the most basic rights of a woman as a triumph of their masculinity.
It is about men who feel a sense of pride in filming their supposed acts of triumphs and circulating it to friends and public spaces like Youtube and Facebook, and most importantly, it is about our family structures, wherein men are told from childhood that they are the ‘stronger’ ones, that they need to ‘control’ their women in various manners – whether it be their mother, daughter, sister or wife – that they need to assert their ‘authority’.
It is also about the woman being made to feel unloved, unwanted and uncared for from even before she first opens her eyes to see this world. It is about her being made to feel ‘weak’ and always under the ‘protection’ of others, especially the men in the house. It is about her being made to feel a burden. It is about her acknowledging this ‘protection’ when she ties a Rakhi on her brother and he ‘promises’ to protect her all her life. It is about Indian society where deification and vilification of the woman occur together, within the same four walls and no one bats an eyelid. When men cannot respect the women in her homes, can we really expect them to respect the woman out on the road?
A simple glance at rape figures as per NCRB figures is very disturbing. 23, 338 cases of rape were reported from across India just in 2011, with the highest cases being reported from Madhya Pradesh (3396), West Bengal (2356) and Uttar Pradesh (2040). Delhi has the highest number of reported rape cases amongst the major cities, with 298 of the 500 odd cases being of women in the 14-30 age group.
A survivor of a rape is raped over and over again – by her family, neighbours, society, where she is always pointed out as “that girl who got raped”, by defence lawyers who, in true Hindi film style, are more concerned with where the hand of the accused was, or her sexual habits or the number of male friends she has – rather than address the real issue. As a society we need to introspect on where we stand today and what is the kind of world that we want to leave behind for our children.
The problem will not just disappear with even more legal red-tape, more police, CCTVs or even the death sentence. After all Dhananjay Chatterjee was hanged for raping a young girl in Kolkata. Has rape stopped since then, either in Kolkata or elsewhere? Sexual offenders need to be given the strongest of punishments – even more than death. They need to be chemically castrated, and “I am a rapist” inscribed on their bodies. And they need to be exhibited in public.
Why can we not teach the men to respect women, to step up and take responsibility and contribute to making society more safe? Why is the onus always on the woman to control what she wears, where she goes, when she goes, and on many occasions, with whom she goes. This is what needs to be addressed immediately if we wish a truly safe and secure society for our women and children.
Dr. Madhumita Chakraborty