animesh kumar

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Can we stop Rape…?

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It is high time again for political brouhaha to stem in, for feminists to harp on security, and for common people to vent over the early morning news paper. It is not uncommon and very soon, like always, the cacophony would fade out and people would turn back to their hypocrisy – to their life very much compromised and settled upon the doldrums of inaction – unless we do something urgently to materialize our concern.

A young girl was raped in a police chowky – set amid the afternoon crowd of Mumbai’s famous Marine-Drive – by none other than a policeman. Her shocks gradually changed into resistance, then plea and finally into scream. Her two male companions, with whom she had come for her maiden visit to sea-shore, stood outside the chowky shouting for help. Then, after a significant time during which the girl was raped thrice, like a blockbuster bollywood movie climax, the so far sane crowd went insane and the chowky proved to be vulnerable to the barrage. Soon, the chowky met its fate. And there stood the vulture, Constable Sunil Atmaram More, Mumbai Police, brazenly zipping up his trouser. Tipsy, as he was then, constable unrepentantly shouted over the crowd with the usual police-maniac threats and repercussions.

Mrs. Y. D’ souza, who works in the near-by building, came to support the tortured and later helped in informing her family, out cried in anger “When policemen deputed for our protection do something like this, what else can we expect from others?” And the media promptly and appropriately flashed all the details on the next days’ front page. Mumbai Police commissioner, A. N. Roy, pleaded with media not to paint entire picture black while another senior officer backed him claiming this as the first incident and must not be made too much of it.

The Naked Past

Certainly, this would have been the first incident if we could forget the past statistics. For instance, in 2002, 147 custodial rape cases were come up against different police officers out of which 132 were tried and only 4 were convicted. Unfortunate events, like this, need Police to restate their vow, but often their tall claims are hid under their inaction.

India, which is suitable to gain the title of rape-a-moment capital of the world, though is not alone in confronting such vicious acts against women but is definitely slow in registering any fast change. Few sporadic events, unquestionably, brewed the masses and sometimes the litigations too but in the perspective of larger gain they proved to be futile.

Enciphered in the annals of time, who can forget the much noised Mathura case – that led an amendment in IPC almost a decade later – where a 16 year old tribal girl, Mathura, raped by 2 Policemen in Desai Ganj (Maharastra) police chowky, which dates back to march 26, 1972. The verdict of Bombay high court, that convicted the two Policemen, was tumbled by the Apex court stating that she was “habitual to sexual intercourse” on the ground of her eloping with her boy-friend. The perpetrators were let go. In another, more regrettable, Bhanwari Devi case judgement was made on the hypothesis that victim – being a “Dalit” – could not be raped by the upper caste accused. Rameeza Bi, while retuning from cinema with her husband, was raped “openly” by four Policemen in Hyderabad and her husband was beaten to death causing a relentless noise in the local community that resulted in burning the Police Station. Yet, eventually, the accused were finally freed by the court.

Why does it happen such? Even after such a mass clamor and a respectable constitution behind, the vultures in almost 77% registered cases are freed. And there is no record to incidents that go unfurrowed. “Most parents of sexually abused children who come to us for help seek advice, but refuse to get the case registered,” says Kavita Srivastava, an activist closely involved with two centers in Jaipur for victims of sexual violence. (TIMES NEWS NETWORK, MAY 07, 2005)

Is there a problem in our society or we harbor some fallacies in our very perception of rape?

What is rape?

There are two different schools trying to understand rape: sociology and biology. Sociology touts the existence of violence and control behind rape, as a construct of male hatred of women in a specific intent to harm and humiliate them, in the complete disregard of possible sexual desire. While, biology says that rape is an “evolved behavior” that led, in the past, to the increased reproductive success of some men. There are two ways that rape behavior could have evolved. It could either be an evolutionary adaptation or a by-product of other adaptations. Hence, biologically rape is deemed as a consequence of a sexual, or more prominently, reproducible desire.

Whatever! Both would unanimously agree that rape is a kind of barbarous perversion of the most shameful kind in nature. Justice Arjit Pasayat observes, “While a murderer destroys the physical frame of the victim, a rapist degrades and defiles the soul of a helpless female.” Rape, no matter how it came into existence, denigrates the obvious integrity of the victim and we as members of a mature society realize its threat, but then, how come people have dubious opinions about it? At one end, we blow hot against it while at another we promote it – Bhanwari Devi, in Rajasthan, was gang raped by the upper caste vultures when she protested against the ethnic child-marriage. Rape was used as a tool to instill fear and threat.

A seven-year long study in 1960s, in Australia, concludes that following the closure of brothels in Queensland, the conviction rate for rape and attempted rape was increased triple fold that also tripled the rate of increase in convictions for other violent crimes over the same time period. (Code to Violet – Diane Boudreau) If we follow this trail, then looking onto rape, as in separate perspective, would be foolish. It must be treated as an inter-disciplinary subject. Laws, however, always remained patron to the social repercussions endorsing rape as a bad phenomenon but never did it look into the reasons that cause it stem. The goal was to reduce sexual aggression and it was positively achieved by shielding the rapist. But, still rape ramifies like a plague. Why?

“You cannot look just to sociology or feminism or any of the other disciplines, you have to look at their intersection and try to come up with something that looks at people as whole organisms,” says Owen Jones, a law professor at Arizona State University. “There’s simply no way you can have a deep understanding of the human brain without understanding some of the evolutionary processes by which the brain was designed.” (Code to Violet – Diane Boudreau)

Sex and violence, however contrasting our prejudices might suggest, go parallel to each-other in the case of rape. Reasons might differ but the pain and trauma that victim is made to confront later remains the same.

Our Law

Laws fundamentally deal with constructing a moral and ethical code of conduct for people. Indian constitution and legislation does protect the rights of victim but somewhere down the line everything remains so vague that every new case attracts a unique kind of protest.

For instance, in the recent Shanti Mukund Hospital nurse rape case which was not just a sexual violation but a viciously gory physical assault, where the perpetrator offered marriage proposal to the victim on the ground to wipe out her stigma and re-establish her in society. And to add more to it court deferred its procession asking the victim to respond to the offer. Though, the court sentenced life imprisonment later, the consideration of marriage proposal stirred much agitation among female right activists.

The very fact that our society despises rape victims and ceases any further chances for their redemption has incarnated rape as a tool for men to anguish women. Krishna Iyer, J., in Rafique’s case (1980 Cr. LJ 1344 SC), observed “When a woman is ravished, what is inflicted is not mere physical injury but the deep sense of some deathless shame… judicial response to Human Rights cannot be blunted by legal bigotry.” But all these holy words remain hidden beneath the fuzzy subjective evaluation of dignity and integrity.

Womenexcel.com lists few flaws in our law and seeks an immediate review. Among many other, “non-uniformity of age” under section 375 and 376 and “no statutory compensation for victims” make a vital impact. Besides, they want reform in Indian Evidence act 1869. Kiran Bedi, Joint Commissioner Special Branch, supports: “The law of rape is not just a few sentences. It is a whole book, which has clearly demarcated chapters and cannot be read selectively. We cannot read the preamble and suddenly reach the last chapter and claim to have understood and applied it.”

We have statistics whaling one rape in every five minutes. Something is there in it adding vexation to the society. But it lay indifferent even after such massive brewing. I wonder when it will reach its activation. And till then, what would we do? Would we keep paying a mere lip-service to it? Venting out our, so called meditated, concern over an evening gathering? Or are we ready to act in tandem to ease rape victims, if not cease it happening altogether.

It’s high time to think: are we grown “complacent” or is it something like we are inured to the situation?

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Written by Animesh

May 23, 2005 at 11:48 pm

Posted in Candid

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