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Climate of impunity blamed for growing rape menace in India

Cases of rape, especially of minor girls, continue to rise and a numbed India asks: What is the government doing about it?

Image Credit: AFP
A young girl taking part in a candlelight vigil in Ahmedabad, in support of rape victims following high profile cases in Jammu and Uttar Pradesh state.
Gulf News

New Delhi: As public outrage mounts over the horrific gang rape and killing of an 8-year-old girl in Kathua, Jammu & Kashmir, and the rape of a teenager in Unnao, Uttar Pradesh, reports of the rape of minors have been surfacing nearly by the week.

The rape of a young girl in Surat, Gujarat state, last week was another shock to a public already reeling from rampant crimes against children.

Child rights activists say the menace of sexual violence across India continues to grow because of a culture of impunity and an absence of the fear of punishment.

People are demanding death penalty for rapists. But one should understand the death penalty arises from disgust. It is a means of revenge. It’s not a solution. We need responsible political leaders …. It is shameful to see parliamentarians trying to protect rapists. If this is the culture that leaders spread, how can we expect justice for victims?”

 - Roop Sharma | Prominent activist


And because the officials in charge are not doing enough to ensure that victims get justice, they are actually complicit in the impunity, the activists say.

“Even as we see [many] people standing in solidarity with rape victims and their families, some are trying to politicise the issue,” Reema Sahni, a child sex abuse expert, said.

“A rapist can be of any religion. The hard fact is that he is a rapist. Our fight should be against patriarchy and we need to push this harder.”

Sahni said India already has stringent laws but, unless there is fear of consequences in the minds of potential rapists, nothing would change.

“It’s time we contained threats [made] by perpetrators against rape victims or their families, and the delays in registering of cases, but what is needed foremost is speedy justice and convictions,” the child expert said.

Accusing some political leaders of trying to shield rapists, activist Roop Sharma said, “People are demanding death penalty for rapists. But one should understand the death penalty arises from disgust. It is a means of revenge. It’s not a solution. We need responsible political leaders, who can instill faith in the minds of people. It is shameful to see parliamentarians trying to protect rapists. If this is the culture that leaders spread, how can we expect justice for victims?”

Vrinda Grover, a senior lawyer, said the answer to why crimes such as rape continue to plague society has both social and legal connotations.

“We have people in positions of power who continuously believe in not respecting the dignity of women and do not treat them as equal,” Grover said. “Then, we have a system of governance, which is both corrupt and biased against women.”

The lawyer said those sitting in positions of political power are complicit in this impunity.

On the rise

A look at the number of crimes against women in India, including rape, in three areas.

  4,189 cases of rape in Maharashtra in 2016
  107 of girls below 6 years
  241 Of girls were between ages of 6-12
  732 aged between 12-16
  1,230 Cases of rape of girls between ages of 16-18.
  Total number of girl child victims: 2,310.
  2,049 rape cases reported in New Delhi in 2017
  Cases pertaining to “assault on a woman with intent to outrage her modesty” increased by 473%
  In cases of “assault on a woman with intent to outrage her modesty” 727 in 2012 to 4,165 in 2016.
  3,273 Cases of molestation in 2017 in comparison to 4,035.

Total crime against women

(including abduction, kidnapping and bodily harm) 26,818 (2014) to 31,388 (2016); a rise of 9.3%, 32,100 in 2017

Telangana/Andhra

Rape cases in 2016 increased from 113 to 170 Attacks on women’s from 346 in 2015 to 387. 74 cases of stalking 154 cases of sexual
harassment.

Maximum cases of crime against children in 2016
Delhi: 7,392 cases
Mumbai: 3,400 cases (was 1,456 in 2015)
Bengaluru: 1,333 cases.

15,534 cases registered in which children were victims — the number going up from 13,941 in 2015, to 13,591 in 2016 in the state.

281 rapes committed by juveniles in conžict with law in 2016 (143 in Delhi, 47 in Mumbai and 30 in Pune)


“And while all this happens, the Prime Minister is silent. What we read into this is that women and their dignity do not matter to him,” Grover said, adding, “We [women] are only useful in shouting slogans and adding some flavour to a political speech.”

She said the government had no interest in life, liberty and equal citizenship of women.

As for women parliamentarians, their silence speaks a thousand words,” Grover said. “It doesn’t matter whether rapes happened during the previous governments or not. In fact, it’s an extremely horrible way of addressing the issue, as they do.”

The lawyer said even as more than half the population continued to live in fear, elections were still being won by the same politicians.

“And that’s the tragedy of Indian democracy.”

But she saw some hope, as more and more cases of rapes are being reported in the media and women are coming forward.

“People are demanding answers,” Grover said. “The society is seeking accountability and does not see this as one of those things that they should be quiet about.”

She warned the death penalty alone would not solve anything.

“Even as little girls are becoming victims, because they are more vulnerable and helpless, people are talking about death penalty,” Grover said.

“But that is not a deterrent for any crime. The death penalty is a gimmick, meant to distract our attention from the reasons why the systems are not working.

“It is not the answer, but a part of the problem. It further strengthens the state and breeds the culture of violence.”

Grover said the caste system was also partly to blame.

“The values of a casteist society have been very wrong,” she said. “I don’t think they went wrong suddenly. The Constitution of India tried to set that right, but when you have people in power who have been constantly trying to subvert the Constitution, then those who are committing crimes, know they will easily get away with it,” she said.

Timeline:

April 15, 2018: A minor girl is raped,killed and left in a cricket field near the city’s Bhestan area, Surat. The post-mortem of the body revealed that the girl was raped and tortured for at least eight days before being strangled to death.

April 14, 2018: A teenage girl is kidnapped, gang-raped and strangled to death over a land dispute in Bihar. The girl bore 52 injury marks in her body.

April 14, 2018: BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar, who is accused of raping a 17-year-old girl in Uttar Pradesh’s Unnao district, is sent to seven-day police custody.

April 11, 2018: A 17-year-old blind girl is raped at her rented accommodation in Uttar Pradesh. She was found near a temple in Mohan Nagar area here where she cried out to the public for help.

January 10, 2018: A young 8-year-old girl Ashifa is brutally gang-raped and murdered in the Kathua region of Jammu & Kashmir. 

January 2018: A 22-year-old woman returning home from work is kidnapped and gang-raped in a moving car for nearly two hours allegedly by four unidentified men in Faridabad, Haryana.

October 12, 2017: A 35-year-old woman died after a miscreant inserted an iron rod into her private parts when she resisted rape. The incident took place in Naubatpur block of Patna district.

May 29, 2017: A nine-month-old baby died when she was thrown out of a moving auto-rickshaw by men accused of gang-raping her mother, in Gurgaon. She was sexually assaulted by three men. When the victim’s child started crying, one of the men threw the toddler out of the vehicle.

February 03, 2017: An eight-month-old baby girl is allegedly raped by unidentified people in Bihar, sparking strong protests and wide condemnations.

July 24, 2016: A four-year-old girl is rushed to hospital with severe injuries after she was allegedly raped by a neighbour in Outer Delhi’s Shahbad Dairy.

April 28, 2016: Jisha, a Dalit girl pursuing graduation in law, is raped and murdered. The attack on the 30-year-old law student from the lowest Dalit caste was so vicious she was found lying dead in a pool of blood, her intestines hanging out.

March 28, 2015: A 35-year-old American national woman was raped. The victim is pursuing a PhD from Columbia University and was in India for research work.

February 20, 2015: A 35-year-old Nigerian woman was gang-raped in a moving car in New Delhi. The woman was found unconscious in the Mayur Vihar area.

August 20, 2013: Spiritual guru Asaram Bapu is booked by Delhi and Jodhpur Police for allegedly raping a minor girl of Jodhpur.

January 06, 2013: A 24-year-old man is raped a minor girl at Poovadur in Tamil Nadu. The accused committed suicide, fearing criminal action. 

December 16, 2012: A 23-year-old paramedical student, who came to be known as Nirbhaya, is brutally gang-raped by six men in a moving bus in New Delhi. She died at a hospital in Singapore 13 days later.

Compiled by Gulf News Archives

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