Rape, Rape, everywhere... Not a way to tackle?
This question is around all of us and is bothering all of us as it can happen to me, our mothers, our sisters and our daughters at any time and anywhere. But why no way to tackle it? What has failed? The question has been asked, deliberated, debated and answered for years through women centric laws, making sexual offences rigorously punished but why that answer is still not a solution to this grave crime is what is disturbing us. Post-Nirbhaya, the period where India witnessed huge public outcry after the rape death of a young woman in the capital city of the country, as a consequence of pressure created, we could make commendable amendments in the rape laws of our country. But why all pain went in vain is the question.
First of all let’s unpack the anatomy of this strange crime called rape. Basically rape is an offence not just against body but also against dignity of the victim. It is a crime which is happening when a power game plays. In this crime unlike other crimes there is an explicit exhibition of domination and extreme control over other’s body (victim) and senses by others (culprit). The culprit spends enormous energy to overpower the non consenting rape victim who will be resisting tooth and nail as a private defense to save her. Now the recent amendment in rape laws has widened the definition of rape also.
Now let us look into certain specific instances such as a man raping woman, an upper caste male raping lower caste woman and an employer raping employee. In the first case the patriarchal mindset comes into picture. In other words, male feels that it is his right to do what he likes as he sees women as a mere sexual object to use according to his whims and fancy. The woman on the other side is customized to think, she must be submissive to male, making her feel that she has no option other than to suffer. In the second case, the caste system prevailing in our society plays its major role, where the rigid structure of caste has set the hierarchies to exploit the lower caste. In the third case monetary vulnerability or fiduciary relationship comes into picture, forcing the victim to surrender against her will even if she consents. So in India rape can happen in such different colours making it a complex crime to be merely tackled by law.
Now coming to the recent case happened in Hathras ,a village outskirt of UP, which shocked every soul who has some sane senses. The victim supposedly a Dalit girl was gang raped by upper caste males in the rural outskirts where caste system is so predominant. Here the victim was a vulnerable woman and a Dalit too. These two combinations along with failed criminal justice system helped the perpetrators to burn all evidence by charring the body when the world went to sleep violating the constitutional right to life which extends to dignified last rites too. Brave journalism could reach out to show how ruthlessly a poor victim was reduced to ashes.
Here all the stakeholders from Home Minister, who is the CM himself in Uttar Pradesh who is giving directions to executive which is the police officials and District Magistrate forcing them to surrender to such illegal orders given by superior officers forgetting their oath taken while joining services as a whole is making a mockery to the entire criminal justice system. If timely FIR was registered and proper investigation was done, now in this case that is impossible as several material evidences from the body cannot be obtained as the victim’s body is charred, this outcry we see in the streets and social media barring the pandemic scare will not be happening. More strange is that the victim’s family is not allowed to access legal aid as they are illegally confined and the media and other people who wish to talk to their family is stopped with State apparatus, which is totally unconstitutional by all means.
Finally some ray of hope has come from Allahabad High Court which has taken suo moto cognizance of the matter. But now the question that lies is , are we not again falling prey to an impulsive reaction to such a horror as we did while Nirbhaya, Kathua, Unnao etc happened where we utterly failed to fix the accountability of stakeholders responsible to these tragedies.
Unless we have brave survivors to fight, fearless investigators who can independently investigate without political interference, diligent public prosecutors to aid judges, passionate judges to seek truth and deliver justice, honest journalist to mobilize genuine opinions and mindset, active public participation for creating awareness for gender sensitization, laws made to fight such crimes will remain paper tiger making this country not for woman to survive with dignity.
(The author is Assistant Public Prosecutor, Mahila Court, New Delhi)