New Delhi: Once again, Delhi lived up to its image of ‘rape capital' after an 18-year-old woman was raped twice last week in South Delhi — first by her brother's father-in-law and then by a taxi driver and his two accomplices whom she approached for help.
The victim had gone to her brother's father-in-law, Hanuman Mishra's house after he called her and said that his wife had won a competition and she wanted someone to accompany her to collect the gift from the store.
But this was a story Mishra had weaved to trap the girl. He was drunk and raped her when she reached his house. Managing to flee soon after, she pleaded with a taxi driver for help. He took her to a secluded spot and he and two others raped her.
The incident has shock Delhi residents. But this time there were no protest marches. Perhaps because atrocities against women in Delhi have become an everyday affair.
Women activists and lawyers were outraged early this year by a Supreme Court order that let off three men convicted of gang rape after they accepted a ‘compromise formula' with the victim. They agreed to pay the victim a fine of Rs50,000 each.
A bench, comprising Justice Markandeya Katju and Justice Gyan Sudha Mishra, upheld the conviction of the accused but released them after observing that they had spent three-and-a-half years of the 10-year-term.
Easy to get away
Reacting to the order, senior advocate Kamini Jaiswal said, "Nobody can buy a woman's dignity. I am appalled by the order given by the Supreme Court, that too by a woman judge."
Another lawyer, Pinky Sharma said, "In such cases, compensation is an addition to the punishment, not an alternative. What is the point in having laws, if people can reach compromises and get away?"
Even as the courts take years to decide cases and criminals roam about the city fearlessly, women's safety seems last on the minds of the police force.
A survey by Jagori, a women's rights group and the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) has found that two of every three women in the capital have been sexually harassed at least two to five times in the past one year. Importantly, the survey maintained that 70 per cent men remained mute spectators when witnessing such incidents.
The result is that women in Delhi believe they have to be responsible for their own safety. However many youngsters prefer keeping quiet and hesitate to discuss the issue.
Most of the girls in the age group of 16 to 23 approached by this correspondent preferred to speak only on condition of anonymity. Flustered and diffident, they felt it could create problems for them either at home or society at large.
Most women said they faced unruly behaviour in crowded public transport, bus stops and railway stations. Hence they preferred travelling with a companion or in a group.
Jaspreet Khurana, a sales executive with a television company, quit her job recently. She said her boss used to pass lewd remarks.
"For some time I ignored them. But when things went beyond control, I reported the matter to our senior officer." While her boss got a promotion, Jaspreet's increment was stopped.
Many women experience similar ordeals at their office, but suffer silently either because of their economic position or for fear of being mocked at. Jaspreet claimed she was the only one in her office who stood up to to the shameless behaviour of a senior.
Beaten to death
She relates another incident. "While riding a scooty on my way back home, a man on a bike kept taunting me while we were stuck in a traffic jam. I asked him to repeat his remark. As he removed his helmet to speak, I slapped him hard.
"People were watching, but no one asked me what happened."
The recent case of drunk goons who beat a 55-year old man to death when he tried to protect his 24-year old daughter is yet another example of people not coming to help.
In another case a 30-year old call centre employee from Mizoram was abducted by five men when she alighted from the vehicle that had dropped her. She was raped in a pick-up truck and later dumped.
The capital's crime graph shows more than 45 rape cases have been reported this year. The city witnessed 489 incidents of rape in 2010 against 459 in 2009. Molestation cases increased to 585 in 2010 from previous year's 532 cases.
Ironically, the city with a 75,000 strong police force is unable to contain the crimes. Comparatively, other metropolitan cities — Mumbai and Kolkata — are considered much safer by women. That's because the men there act if they see a woman in trouble.
Psychologists agree that criminals become fearless in the absence of people raising their voice against crime. Psychologist Rajan Mitra says, "The city needs sensitive police officers, instead of stick-wielding personnel manning the police posts.
"Behind every rape there is a criminal intent. People do it either out of revenge or due to their social background. In many cases their upbringing is such that they consider all women who walk on the street as easy prey."
Meanwhile, Delhi Police Commissioner B.K. Gupta said a women's police station had been set up and training was being given to women police commandos who will be stationed at strategic locations.
"Crime against women can be controlled only by speedy trials. We are trying to get fast-track courts to deal with rape cases," he said.
The city's women are frustrated by police inaction. Aalia, a student, said, "The police can control crime when they want to. They had the will and the means during the Commonwealth Games last year. No incident was reported in the city during those days, as the force was at full attention."
Delhi Police say CCTV cameras have been set up at railway stations and shopping centres. But after the body of a girl in her 20s was found in a bag, it was discovered that the cameras did not cover certain places at the New Delhi railway station.
A lecturer at Indraprastha College, Dr Neeraj Malik, said, "Now my age protects me, but all my life I have been teased by men." Over the years, things have worsened, she says. "You broach the subject and there is an outburst among students. They face indignity every day of their lives and there's no recourse. The attitude that persists in this city is appalling.
Will money heal pain and erase memories?
The Ministry of Women and Child Development held a consultative meeting on ‘Rising Crime Against Women: Corrective Strategies'. It plans to work towards developing a ‘gender sensitisation module' for consultation of judiciary to ensure speedy trial in crimes against women. It intended finalising a scheme to provide a compensation of Rs200,000 to Rs300,000 to a rape victim.
An interim assistance of Rs20,000 will be provided to take care of the victim's immediate needs. Thereafter, Rs50,000 will be given to her for support services including counselling, medical aid and legal help. In addition, financial assistance of Rs130,000 will be given to address the woman's long term needs and as support towards restoring her confidence.