Inured to rape

Published May 06, 2013 08:54am

RAPE stalks the land. India rages against it. Delhi, that genteel city of Ghalib, has now been transformed into the rape capital of the world. As the Hindu points out, once fury abates ennui sets in, as was the case with dowry deaths a few decades ago, or with corruption recently. Can rape be combated while the opportunity is still there?

Faced with arguably as high levels of rape as in India (factoring in under-reporting), Western women protect themselves through martial arts, pepper spray and other deterrents. Self-defence has mostly eluded Indian women so far. Schools and colleges need to offer training, and parents encouragement.

If women seek inspiration, they need look no further than the Delhi braveheart, or google the ’70s for Delhi’s teenaged Geeta Chopra. They were both attacked ruthlessly, they themselves carried no deterrent, but they fought back tooth and nail.

The buck in India has stopped with a woman for close to a quarter-century. Seven women politicians have become chief ministers. Some have endured physical assault, but how effectively have they stemmed the rot?

They could start, quite literally, by cleaning house — 327 tickets for national and provincial elections over the last five years were given to people who have admitted to crimes against women, including rape. Forty-four were elected.

Why is Delhi so gruesome? The simplistic answer is that it is situated at the heart of the Hindi heartland, which is believed to be naturally more aggressive and patriarchal than the rest of India. But this can only be a partial explanation. There are, after all, so many other cities in the Hindi belt. None invites the same ignominy. To demystify Delhi, one has to examine its history post-independence.

Delhi was for long governed by the central government, which was preoccupied with weightier matters. Delhiites protested against the neglect, and a local government came into being in the 1990s. The centre retained control of the police though, whereas in other states the police reports to the local government.

This arrangement would be farcical, if it was not so tragic. Delhi’s chief minister and its police chief are at loggerheads, shifting blame instead of taking responsibility. One or the other head is likely to roll, depending upon who has stronger benefactors, but Delhi’s suffering will endure.

Delhi’s police knows where its bread is buttered, therefore it spends disproportionate resources and time in securing federal politicians. The politicos realise that Delhi is too small to decide their electoral fate nationally, so they care little about its safety, unless of course it impinges upon their own.

The Delhi police is not bashful about where it stands. On its official web site, protection of people under threat (read VIPs) is at three out of 10 in order of priority, whereas an explicit callout to women’s safety is close to the bottom at seven.

The very raison d’être of Delhi’s police must then be called into question. Transferring control to the local government should help, for then Delhi’s population would count for something at last. But federal politicians derive so much pleasure, as well as prestige, from having the police around, letting go would be traumatic. In any case, state leaders suffer from the same hubris, so the police would continue to serve as handmaidens.

As recently as the ’80s, men’s attitude towards women working outside the home was pretty schizophrenic. Some behaved paternalistically, wanting to protect someone they thought needed the money. Others believed that since she was in the market, she must be fair game.

Indian women have come a long way since then, becoming much more assertive, no longer content to always play second fiddle. Some men have adjusted to the new reality, others struggle to not perceive the rising feminine tide as anything but a threat. The inanely named eve-teasing was once crude. It has now become deadly.

Delhi, in the meantime, has exploded. Migrants throng to it, leaving behind a rustic way of life that restrained them by rough-and-ready ways. Many are single, and feel even more so, when confronted with sexes intermingling freely. In a lawless city, some become emboldened to commit crimes beyond the pale.

Rape though is not purely an indigent migrant, bourgeois woman phenomenon. The man of means is quite possibly more culpable. It is just that the system is loaded against the poor man. His case is recorded easily, his conviction is easier. He has no bribes to give, no powerful patron, no lawyer to hire. The haves always have loopholes to exploit.

Reforming the police, sensitising the courts, facilitating reporting are all necessary to tackle rape, and alleviate the associated apathy and antipathy. In the aforementioned Geeta Chopra case, angst and grief gripped the nation as today. As with the braveheart, even then the police had ample opportunity to abort the crime, if not pre-empt it.

A prime minister dripped with regret then, another does so now. The same fault lines were identified, the same solutions proposed. A generation later, India is only worse off. Teenagers were brutalised earlier, now even four-year olds are not spared. If something has changed, it is society’s mores. Alcohol is peddled by cricketers through surrogate adverts that leave little to the imagination. Films depict binge drinking by both sexes, and its aftermath. Whether pornography induces rape is hotly debated. While the explicit causation may be hard to establish, pornography is widely believed to objectify women. Some kind of restraint seems called for, but who will bell India’s glitterati?

The writer is a freelance journalist.

sunil_sharan@yahoo.com


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Comments (16) (Closed)


Rob
May 07, 2013 02:34am
Western culture has nothing to do with it. Just because a woman dresses a certain way doesn't mean guys like you can go and grope.
Nazim
May 06, 2013 10:23pm
There are several reasons for the alarming rise in rape cases. Shortage of affordable housing in Delhi for migrant job seekers in the capital city that means they can not call their wives to live with them or go for married life. There is no elderly or family set up to fear from. Corruption in police, as a result there is no harsh early punishment in courts. Religion is becoming irrelevant in once life. Law does not provide harsh punishment. Finally over population in the country.
kam
May 06, 2013 05:59pm
you are right.
Robin Akbar
May 06, 2013 10:43am
What is West to do with rape in India. Law in forcemeat is so good that young girls can jog even in odd hours of the day. Nobody dare to touch girls because police hand will reach them.
mad
May 06, 2013 04:51pm
It is all because of uneven gender ratio resulting from female infanticide in North India.
Sue Sturgess
May 06, 2013 08:41am
The only real way of preventing rape is to educate men to have some basic respect for females and boys. Part of this process is to enact, and actively enforce laws, that severely punish rapists, and provide support to victims. Rape of young boys in Pakistan seems to be one of those issues that everyone knows about and no-one talks about.
Fappy
May 06, 2013 05:44pm
I wont blame movies for violence and rape but sadly majority of subcontinent's population is sexually deprived and frustrated, that includes Indian movies, pointless tease fest.
Stranger
May 06, 2013 10:46am
Unbelievable a woman is at the centre of Delhi's top. I mean what are Sonia and Sheila doing ?For God's Sake.
Hakeem
May 06, 2013 09:13am
And that is the result of Shining India, the West made this country shine so bright that the poor 4 year old girls are now not visible anymore. I pray for rape to be eradicated from the face of the Earth. let us all pray Allah and educate our children.
Barua
May 06, 2013 11:04am
Unfortunately in India women are the first to blame rape victims. Especially in Delhi.
JP Singh
May 06, 2013 12:37pm
Rapes have always been happening and will happen. Its just that the media focus has shifted to this henious crime after the Delhi Case. Brutalisation of women and children continues unabated. In brutalisation of children its mostly close relatives who are involved. Being raped or brutalised is considered a taboo in India. We have to break out of these bond and come up hard against these crimes. Our police are like legalised thugs, law can be twisted and the Government is too busy indulging in vote bank politics squandering away tax payers money in dubious schemes. There is nobody answerable to anything in India.. All that happens is political mud slinging at the drop of a hat. We are highly corrupt, the whole system is corrupt - hence crime. We need ethnic cleansing against politicians and babus rest will fall in place.
MJ
May 06, 2013 03:43pm
In India rape is used as an institutionalized weapon to subdue the lower caste and the oppressed. It is used by higher caste men to punish and keep in check the poor villagers of lower caste every day. The police uses rape to get confessions out of accused and the army uses it as a psychological weapon on separatists in Chattisgarh, Mizoram, Nagaland, Kashmir and Manipur quiet freely, without any repercussions from the authorities. A few months ago middle class girl, representing the new shining India is raped and killed and the masses are finally and rightfully waking up. The same people who sleep every night peacefully when villages are burnt and women are raped and killed by police and the army. The rape culture has been tolerated for so long in India, and now the people are reaping what they sowed.
samar
May 06, 2013 01:49pm
Bollywood movies are not fit for subcontinent as these bring the western culture
Shahzad khan
May 07, 2013 09:22am
Rape is not the matter of india alone but of many societies.besides socio politico and econonic reasons as illustrated well by the writer,main reason which is above all given reasons is moral dpravity.morality level of many societies is touching the ebb due to fragmentation of family life,free media,more oppertunities of mixing sexes and last but not least this new technology of web on mobile phones and free availability of porns coupled with no check and education of parents and institutions about how to use this technology.result is henious crimes which r reported few on number.rape is problem of such socities where it is still considered as crime unlike those socities where two person perform this act qith their mutual assent.need of the hour is to give moral education to new generation and use of new technology and check on porns which stirs emotions.peace can not be prevailed in any society untill religious and moral laws r taught and practiced.it is crime directly related with moral depravity and can be corrected with moral values only shahzad khan advocate lahore
Srichand
May 07, 2013 05:26pm
Women are much more respected in the West than in India. Look within before blaming the West. Actually, people in the West have very high standard of true morality, not the type of morality based on shame, keeping women confined behind four walls and denying them basic human rights.
hyderphd74
May 07, 2013 08:30pm
Sir, it is always a good practice and a some what of a rule, to go over at least once, what one has written. And not give others the chance to point out the errors in one's writing. If all Pakistani advocates express themselves in this way then we should say good-by to Pakistani courts and justice !!!