Thursday, 3 January 2013

We need to look beyond Death penalty as a comprehensive solution for Rape crimes in India

I have jotted down few of my thoughts regarding rape crimes in India. My attempt is to trace the real reasons behind these crimes and to come up with mitigation steps for each of these. A strong sound discussion is welcome. I hope there will be some way to make our voices heard and even given our busy schedules we can somehow contribute to this movement through actionable ideas, through some medium.
It is really shocking for me and almost all the people I have interacted with over the past few days- The death of the 23 year old Delhi gang rape victim. I don’t write these lines to seek an apology for the mindset that the society has cultivated in me, the mindset that views that women deserve to be raped or that her actions prompted the crime in the first place or that she should properly cover her body with clothes or that she is an object created by god who has to live within the rules and guidelines decided by man. As shocked, saddened and frustrated as I am with the state of things in this country, I don’t wish to express my agony and my state of mind.
I really felt the need to write this article after a heated discussion I had with one of my close friends on death penalty as a universal solution for elimination of rape. I am of the view that a death penalty is very much needed; however that is not the comprehensive solution for this crime, for the demon lives in our minds. There is a need to eliminate that thought, reform the mindset and make sure that we learn to view women in a new light, giving them the space that they deserve. My friend was of the opinion that these actions would not have any immediate effect and she mocked at me for my inaction, for not supporting death penalty as a solution on Facebook and my supposedly peaceful approach to this problem. She took pride in the fact that she had an actionable suggestion that would show immediate results. But what really drives me to pen down my thoughts is my strong belief that death penalty is not alone going to stop these rapists. I see hundreds of activists devoting their energy demanding stricter laws, and not ready to think beyond that. What also drives me is the helplessness and the frustration after hearing such cases being reported in Delhi itself in the midst of all this chaos, in the past few weeks (not to mention the reports from the rest of the country). According to the latest figures released by Government of India, a rape happens every 20 minutes.
While I too have the demand for stricter laws I am of the opinion that we need to open our minds a bit and force the government to engage in conversations with social bodies, political parties and public forums to address the real problem. So I aim to call the attention of all people out there who want a genuine change, but who are not ready to accept that the each one of us are a part of the problem and that the change should start from the individual and from the society that we are a part of. I aim to highlight the need to look beyond death penalty as a universal solution for rape and to explore few steps that the government, the social agencies and the society as a whole has to take to cure all of us of this terrible illness that has infected our mindsets from time unknown.
To come up with effective mitigation steps, first we need to understand the real reasons behind this crime.  I will be focusing on this in this post. According to me, the reasons for rising rape incidences (Or rather it is that such instances are being increasingly reported nowadays) are the following:
  1. The discrimination starts from the womb. Most states in India have a skewed sex ratio because of the preference for sons and the illegal practice of female infanticide. The situation seems to be the worst in Haryana, where there are just 830 girls per 1,000 boys. Is this also a reason why increasingly brothers, uncles and neighbors turn rapists?
  2. The patriarchal society that we are a part of. How in the world can we claim that we are independent, when our women do not enjoy the kind of freedom we men enjoy? Even though our women are increasingly being a part of the bread earning cycle and taking up roles which was traditionally alien to them, even today they have to go through discrimination and harassment that was a part of their routine
  3. Our girls are not informed about the factors acting against them in our society. Parents and elders have painted a rosy picture from childhood and they have not had the courage to talk to her about these. They do not have the requisite skills or courage to deal with such situations or atrocities
  4. However much we attribute these crimes to the unquenchable libido of the male species, there is more to these crimes than sex. It is more about teaching these women a lesson for their arrogance, for their audacity of emerging out of the confinements of their homes and making their voices heard, for making their opinions matter and for sharing an equal space
  5.  Most of the times these rapists are known to the victim( we can hear so many cases these days where the rapists are fathers, brothers, uncles ,neighbors and even grand fathers). Most of the times, these cases do not come out in the public and no complaint is raised, and thereby adding to the low conviction rate. Hence these crimes keep proliferating
  6. We as a society are also a reason for increasing instances of these crimes. The society views these victims as outcasts and makes them go through much mental agony and torture. No one cares to hound the culprits. We somehow seem to conclude that the victim would have dressed inappropriately and she would have attracted unnecessary attention and hence it serves her right .Finally these victims have no choice but to end their lives and the culprits go about their duty of raping 'aberrant' women. Time we reflect upon this before we ask for change in laws
  7. No provision to ensure stricter policing and fast track justice in such cases. It is high time we understand that justice delayed is justice denied.
  8. Our politicians and police force are not gender sensitive or lack the basic knowledge to deal with such instances. In most cases, they tag the victim responsible and do not show the seriousness or need to ensure justice. No one cares about justice for rape victims in India to be frank enough. We think that it is un avoidable and that it is the women who should remain indoors, thereby not inducing the almighty male species to attack her
  9. We do not have effective post trauma care frameworks in place. The victim needs courage and support to bring the culprit to the docks
Probably there is scope to add more onto this. I will list down my suggestions to counter each of these drivers in my next post.

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