Rape is considered to be a heinous crime, one of the worst things a human can do to another. Society is unanimous in its condemnation of the act, and the convicted.
Unfortunately, this condemnation and abhorrence for the act by society is not a deterrent, and neither is the law and order apparatus. Rape happens, and with alarming frequency. The where, why and the how of it are as varied and numerous as can be.
Recently, a couple of days back, on a moving bus in New Delhi, the national capital of India, a 23 year old girl was gang raped. By the bus driver, the conductor and fellow passengers, 6 accused in all. The victim was not only raped, she was beaten up and otherwise brutalized.
She has been shifted to a city hospital and the doctors report that it is a miracle that she will live. Currently she is on life support as she is having trouble breathing for herself. Although conscious and able to communicate, the medical team has her on suicide watch and round the clock monitoring for any change in her fragile condition. The accused have been detained under sections 365 (kidnapping or abducting), 376 (2)(g) (gang rape), 377 (unnatural offences), 394 (hurting in committing robbery) and 34 (common intention) of the Indian Penal Code. One of the accused has confessed to the crime and has requested the death penalty for himself. The victim was not alone, she had a male friend with her who was thrashed by the accused and thrown off the moving bus.
While the wheels of justice shall turn and the perpetrators of this atrocity shall eventually be brought to book, it does not do much to mitigate the trauma and the sense of violation being borne by the victim.
In a country like India, which is a land of paradox at the best of times, this is one of the most confusing and anger inducing dichotomies as far as treatment of women is concerned. On the one hand you have cultural and mythological deification of women, with a place of reverence bestowed upon the fairer sex, and on the other hand you have this, this.. abject mistreatment of women. People undertake long arduous pilgrimages to pay their respects to Goddesses at shrines all over India, walking days and weeks to reach the Goddess and to make their obeisances, and then some of these same people go against everything they profess to believe in, and commit this heinous act.
There is stringent legislation in place with severe punishments for this crime, yet it goes on unabated.This particular crime, has brought to light a lot more issues with the way we function as a society and as a nation.
Multiple things went wrong, not just the law against raping people:
There is a law which states that no vehicle will have tinted glasses or films on their windows, so that cops can see if there is crime in progress as the vehicle goes by since they cannot stop each vehicle to check. This bus in question, had tinted glasses. Now a bus simply cannot come onto the roads without a permit. Before granting a vehicle a permit, the transport department of the city is supposed to inspect the vehicle and thereafter keep on inspecting it every month. How then did this rapemobile ply the roads of the capital?
Thats not all, one only has to look out the window to see that majority of the vehicles have tinted glass windows. What purpose the law if one lacks the will to enforce it.
There is a service which the delhi police supposedly provides, female police officers on buses and trains after sundown, specially in the late hours when the number of people commuting decreases. What happened to that, on being asked of this when this particular story broke, there was no comment from the police.
There were apparently other people on the bus when the teasing started, and they chose to disembark at the next stop, rather than confront the perpetrators.
The media went to town, in what is widely regarded as a probable election year. The Delhi government is under siege, with protests quickly devolving into pitched battles between the law and order machinery and protestors who started pelting stones at the Chief Minster's Residence. There are of course political undertones to this as well, with opposition parties out in full force with their youth cadre's leading the stone pelting. The law cracked down on the protestors and water cannons etc were used to disperse the rioters/protestors. Arrests were made, so were complaints of police brutality.
One rape that hit the media, has everyone up in arms and in a tizzy for various reasons, righteous anger, political opportunism and 10 seconds of sound byte fame. What then of the many rapes which occur all over the country, most not even getting reported due to the stigma attached to being raped. Peer and family pressure causing most victims to hang their head and swallow their pain instead of reporting the crime. With an insensitive media which has in the past published or aired details and photographs of victims when a news item gets top billing. What are they trying to do, are they trying to prevent future victims from coming to the fore and lodging complaints by setting an example of how a life can be ruined just because someone dared to complaint? The accused are given the courtesy of walking about with hoods over their face to protect their identities till the sentencing, but why is the victim's face and history splashed all over the media.
Thankfully in this case, the media so far seems to have retained their senses. Although a particular TV news channel had their camera crew and reporter chase the victim's mother on the hospital grounds trying to get her to comment. On being accosted by hospital staff the reporter said she was just dong her job. So very sensitive to the plight of a raped girl and her family.
Sometimes, it is just not worth it to wake up in the morning.