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Curbing Rape: SOS TO GOVT & SOCIETY By Dhurjati Mukherjee, 18 Sept, 2013 Print E-mail

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New Delhi, 18 September 2013

Curbing Rape


By Dhurjati Mukherjee


“What is wrong with the system?”; “Have social values withered?”; “Why is rape on the rise when Special courts are there?” are telling questions being asked by the courts today. These crop up as part of their observations while dealing with rape cases across the nation. There is also Delhi fast-track court’s recent judgement which needs to be quoted: “The increasing trend of crimes against women can be arrested only after the society realizes that there will be no tolerance from any form of deviance against women”. Indeed, the spurt in crimes against women, specially those related to rape, is a cause for serious introspection.


While various forms of sexual assault have become a critical social problem, statistics reveal that conviction rate for crimes against women, specially rape has been very low and the country’s average is a little over 24 per cent, while the conviction rate for IPC crimes against the opposite sex stands at just 21.3 per cent, which means almost four out five accused walk free!  Rape cases have risen from 16,075 in 2001 to 24,923 in 2012, the rates of conviction have dipped from 40.8 per cent to 24.2 per cent in the corresponding period.


As per data of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), the conviction rate among the bigger States ranges between 10 and 16 per cent for Gujarat, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and West Bengal. The all-India average would have been lower but for the impressive rates recoded by some North-Eastern States, specially Mizoram, Nagaland and Sikkim and surprisingly Uttar Pradesh. It is significant to mention here that several studies in India and abroad have revealed that a majority of sex criminals are repeat offenders.


Sociologists and psychologists have been delving deep into the causes for such wanton increase in these crimes and pondering as to the reasons thereof. However, it has become somewhat difficult to apportion specific reasons, more so because educational levels and awareness have been on the rise and society has become ‘modern’.


There is a large section which feels that with the Indian society getting westernized, the younger generation is losing out on traditional values. Thus, women today are being treated as sex objects even in educated urban societies and have become susceptible to the lust and greed of their male counterparts and face sexual assault. However, the same cannot hold good for rural India, which has not been invaded by the materialistic culture. Traditional morals and values are still ingrained here, so where does the problem lie?


While answers are being searched, the protests are growing. Apart from political parties and different sections of society, who have publicly come out on the streets, the Supreme Court too has voiced serious concern over the spurt in rapes and wondered if something was wrong with the social system, while recently hearing the plea of a father whose dalit girl had been raped.


“What is wrong with the system?” the bench of Justices R. M. Lodha and Madan A. Lokur wondered at the hearing on August 26. “We would like to know whether police is not investigating the cases properly and whether the criminal justice system is not working swiftly . . . These cases are happening more in the metropolitan cities”, it observed, referring to the gang rape of the photo journalist in the country’s financial capital Mumbai and the December last gang rape in the nation’s capital, Delhi of the trainee paramedic in Delhi, who succumbed to her injuries.


The apex Court also questioned whether social values have eroded. “It (rape) is far worse than any other crime and why it is increasing when special courts are there for this crime?” is a moot question.


Keeping in view the spurt in rapes, gang rapes, various forms of sexual harassment, the Court very rightly treated this writ petition as public interest litigation and directed States and Union Territories for framing rehabilitation schemes for rape victims. It also directed the administrations to respond within eight weeks which, no doubt, clearly reflects the apex Court taking the matter very seriously.


In a similar vein, Justice Sathasivan pointed out in a judgement (delivered on August 27) that “rape is an offence against society and is not a matter to be left for the parties to compromise”. He also indicated that even if the offender marries the girl after rape, he would have to undergo punishment.


The Juvenile Justice Board in its verdict (delivered on August 31) sent the juvenile involved in the December gang-rape him to three years in a “place of safety” at a reformatory. A section observed that something is wrong with the system that allowed an offender to walk free after three years after committing such a heinous crime. Some women and child activists have objected to the amendment of the current Juvenile Justice Act as they argue that reforming young offenders is more important than punishing them.


The problem has quite justifiably raised a hue and cry across the country with women activists demanding action. Even UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, like other politicians, couldn’t hold back and has stated that legislation for women’s empowerment wasn’t enough unless implemented effectively. “We should end all acts of violence against women and initiate steps so that women feel safe and become fearless, empowered and are given respect”. In fact, the Justice Verma Committee recommendations need to be strictly implemented in letter and spirit to provide security to women.


Undeniably, changes in the law against women need urgent attention. But even more important than legal changes are the ones needed in society’s values and morals. However, the issue defies simple solutions and requires intervention and action at multiple levels – by the State, society and individuals in public and private capacities. The most effective way of bringing this about is the recognition by India’s political parties to mobilize women as a vote bank and ensure their safety and security through better policing and tougher laws and locating the source of women’s insecurity in the sphere of law enforcement.


The challenge rests foremost on the law enforcing agencies. While a separate wing needs to be set up immediately in all States, manned preferably by women officials and having units in all districts and sub-divisions, harsher punishment is also called for, specially to those who are habitual offenders. Apart from this, the issue needs to be handled through public awareness campaigns from the State to the grass-root levels where non-governmental organizations and community-based organizations should be actively involved. Nothing short of these being organized on a war-footing would suffice.--- INFA


(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)



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