“Of all the evils for which man has made himself responsible none is so degrading, so shocking or as brutal as his abuse of women.” Mahatma Gandhi said this about 70 to 80 years ago, yet this view is far more relevant today than ever. Rape, molestation, sexual assaults, gender discrimination and cyberbullying are frequently used terms in our ‘progressive India’ and why not; after all our country has recorded 88 rape cases every day in 2019. This is the figure when most cases in this country remain unreported. If women’s safety isn’t a cause for concern in our country, then I wonder what is.
Public safety, stigmatization, and less conviction rates are some of the known causes of rapidly rising rapes in India. How can the government tackle this situation? Firstly, we need to stop normalising the objectification of women, misogynistic comments, sexist remarks, and most importantly patriarchy. On a regular basis, we hear our legislature, leaders giving atrocious statements on women. A BJP MLA from Khatauli while celebrating the Centre’s move on Article 370, had expressed his ecstasy by saying, “Muslims, bachelors in BJP can now marry ‘gori’ Kashmiri girls.” What else can we expect from the government that accounts for the highest number of MPs and MLAs with cases of crimes against women?
Recent episodes of media trials and cyberbullying have horrendously mocked our system and society alike. Sensational coverage on Bollywood celebrities and attacks on Rhea Chakraborty despite that she remains innocent until proven guilty. The TRP driven witch-hunt stooped to extreme depths while assassinating the character of the 28-year-old young girl. The Maharashtra Police has claimed that over 80 thousand fake accounts were created on social media to discredit the department and Bollywood. This wasn’t about an accused receiving bashing from the public but an easy target that shifted the entire focus of our country from the state of our devastated economy.
According to official figures, Uttar Pradesh has the highest number of cases of violence against women. Everyone knows what happened in Hathras, Balrampur, Jhansi, Bulandshahr and Ballia. Hathras overall grabbed the attention due to the highhandedness and inhumanity of the local administration and the police.
The police in Hathras lodged an FIR after ten days; the victim’s statement was not included in the registered complaint. The ambulance wasn’t called in time and she didn’t get proper emergency treatment which eventually cost her life. Moreover, the police and administration officials cremated her body in the middle of the night on 29 September without the consent of the victim’s family using kerosene oil. The DM at Hathras threatened the family of the victim and they weren’t allowed to keep any contact with the outside world – be it the relatives, the media, the social activists, or anybody who could be of assistance to the victim’s family.
Even after her death, the UP government hired a PR firm and began claiming that the girl was not raped. When protesters gathered on the streets, the police followed with a brutal crackdown. Opposition leaders and media were stopped from meeting the family of the victim. The family not just has to live with the trauma of losing their girl, but their path to justice has been obstructed by the UP Government.
We cannot overlook the comprehensive mayhems committed on women on an everyday basis. Things seem to have gotten worse over the years and in fact, similar violent incidents have continued to make headlines in India. Recently we heard BJP MLA from Ballia commenting on Hathras- “Such incidents can be stopped only with ‘sanskar’ and not with ‘shashan’ or ‘talwar’. His implication appears to be that his party’s shashan in UP has no responsibility towards women’s safety.
Such thinking is hardly surprising. Former BJP MLA Kuldeep Sengar has been convicted of raping a 17-year-old girl in Unnao. Much like the Hathras tragedy, the victim’s path to justice was obstructed by the State Government. The police did not cooperate in the process; and instead her family was jailed. Nationwide protests forced the government to handover the case to the CBI; but despite that she and many members of her family have been systemically killed, in a manner that reminds us of thinly veiled villainous conspiracies of yesteryear Bollywood movies. The living may find solace in the fact that Sengar is facing serving life imprisonment.
This catastrophic thought process is not only restricted to this seasoned legislator; but millennial leaders too have failed to keep a respectable outlook towards women. A young BJP leader in his tweet mentioned, “95% Arab women have never had an orgasm in the last few hundred years. Every mother has produced kids as act of sex and not love.” This humiliated India badly as Arab population came forward to oppose this statement.
India still remembers the acrimonious gangrape and murder of Nirbhaya in Delhi in 2012. She was taken for further treatment to Singapore after her condition worsened in a Delhi hospital. ThenPrime Minister came forward to address the issue and expressed his grief. The incident caused outrage and led to new anti-rape laws in India. No one was stopped to meet the family; candle marches were held and protests were organised. A political leader who wished not to be named lent a helping hand and supported the family in the dreadful crisis, helping the victim’s brother become a pilot.
As humans, we all grieve for the victims and their families. At times, brutality makes us cry, we care and fear for the women around us. If you’re a parent, brother, friend or husband, can you put your hand on your heart and say that women are safe in our country? The answer is absolute no! As a society we are more interested in pointing out the size of clothes a woman wearing that is leading to such incidences rather than teaching our boys moral values.
Views expressed above are author’s own.