Look Beyond Rape Law

Vishal Sharma
Rape and brutalization of a Delhi girl has left the entire country aghast at the severity of the crime. The nation’s conscience has been tugged at in the past as well, but this time it is in tatters. Delhi’s youth have predictably rebelled against the perceived administrative intransigence and slow moving wheels of the criminal justice system. Protests, peaceful initially, have turned violent in the face of no worthwhile engagement from the political and administrative leadership. It was expected, for, in vacuum lumpen elements always step in to make hay. Police, which was left orphaned, had to do what it does best in these situations, that is, use force to restore calm. Though it seems it has gone overboard, it may be naïve on our part to apportion all the blame on to it. It works on the direction of the political leadership. When there was no fiat from the above, it went by its instincts. Thankfully, relative to Delhi, protests in other parts of the country have been a great deal saner.
In all the violent brouhaha that threatens to sweep the swathe of the rape induced narrative, the key issue of rape itself faces being marginalized. Those who partook in the feast of violence during protests not know what great disservice they have/ may end up doing to this cause. Unless of course theirs was only an agenda driven intervention. Facts in this case though would emerge only after heat and dust surrounded with the rape aftermath subsides. None the less, already, the tone and tenor of the debate has shifted from the weak rape laws, poor judicial accountability, weak moral underpinnings and gender insensitization to the poor law and order handling of the protests, administrative incompatibility between Delhi CM and Lt Guv, Delhi Police’s unique position of being controlled by the Home Ministry and not the Delhi Government so on and so forth. The prejudiced folks, who wanted to ride through the groundswell of legitimate protests, have successfully created the red herrings to deflect and deflate the hurricane of the street anger. Will they succeed this time also, as they have in the past? Well, time will tell. However, the heterogeneous mix of the state, where it has been well nigh impossible to rally people behind any one issue for long in the past, creates a host of alibis for the vested interest to exploit. And we need to keep in mind that such a framework of collusion and complicity still exists.
I want to address a different but an important dimension of this problem. I am on a moral as well as the existential plane involving man and woman. To me it does not matter whether you have capital punishment on statutes or not for sexual offence. A pervert would not fear facing death for sexually invading a woman because there isn’t any morality left in him to tug at his conscience. To him rape represents a certain way of life founded on a pathological disdain for the weaker sex and cause and effect of his actions in the actualization of his dark desires have no material and metaphysical value. Nor would the certainty of the punishment conceivably alter the course of crime or crime per se in any material way. It is naïve to assume that perpetrators of crimes indulge in crimes in the fond hope that law won’t ever catch up with them. They sure as hell know when they are doing a crime what they will be in for. Be that as it may, this is not to suggest that stringent rape laws and certainty of punishment should not engage our law makers.
The act of rape, at a fundamental level, has some kind of relation with the way we are. As a people, our orientations are such that outsides our homes we treat women no better than objects. We ogle at them. We stare at them in the most inappropriate manner. We tend to be disconcertingly close to them at the slightest opportunity available. In public transport, they are felt up, touched and probed. Our women can’t travel alone during nights and in secluded places. They almost always need a male escort. When they travel alone in auto rickshaws, the drivers have one eye on the girls sitting in the back seat and the other on the road. This is a disturbing narrative of the victimization of women in our society. Equally, this is also a reflection on the way men in our society have been brought up. One natural deduction from the foregoing is that men have failed the women in our families as much as the latter have former. Moral upbringing in our society has been hollow and until such time we treat our neighbour’s wife, sisters and daughters in the same manner as we do ours, complete cleansings will elude us, stringent laws notwithstanding.
It is inexplicable that in a society where women are worshipped, such heinous crimes can be committed against them. India is perhaps the only country where god also has a female gender. It is perhaps also one of the few countries where people visit their places of worship almost through the day. And it is surely a country where people worship as if it is work and work as if it is worship. In such a country where divine has colonized the mundane so much, perpetuation of crime against women is mystifying. That crimes still happen indicates that the malaise is much deeper and linked also to the man vs women competing interface in this day and age where both are fighting for supremacy.
It is now a given fact that corridors where men have traditionally enjoyed unqualified sway are being increasingly colonized by the women. From political to commercial space, the citadels that have long been the exclusive preserve of man, women have moved in with elan and confidence. This stalking of men in their own dens has dented their composure. And the growing violence against women is an act to force them to submit. In another sense and the one that is easily relatable, this is one species’ riposte to another-you stay within your confines or you will be subdued. Since the battle involves supremacy over the best of the world that is on offer, it is preposterous to assume that men will concede beyond a point. A host of woman welfare legislations, which are pending clearance by the Parliament for long, are a case in point. Even when they are enacted at some point in time in future, they would only so much as represent three-quarters of the women’ aspirations. Don’t tell me that laws to be authored by men for women will set up an egalitarian paradigm.
It, therefore, falls to the womenfolk themselves to stand up and be counted. It is their fight, which they have to desist from outsourcing unlike in the past. It is better not to have a welfare law than to have one, which is at best either half or three quarters as good. The trouble is that there is so much ghettosiation of the mind of the female species that they will fall for even the crumbs thrown at them. That worries me, particularly, because I find that even in the instant rape and assault case, the demand made is limited to tweaking the rape law. It has not transcended beyond and demanded a new woman welfare dispensation to be authored and operated exclusively by women.


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