Shame on nation for crimes against women

Shame on nation for crimes against women

These are a few widespread instances of shameful crimes against women, which also include domestic violence and dowry harassment, that routinely embarrass the nation, whose political leadership would like people to believe in a perverse logic -- that it was nothing but a conspiracy hatched to defame the state governments.

Or divert the atrocity on the victim itself by asking disturbing questions: Why was the girl wearing such clothes? And, what was she doing in the pub at night? 

At least, two chief ministers, Tarun Gogoi and Mamata Banerjee, have demonstrated uncanny ability to paint obstinate human rights violations of women as conspiracies to brush aside abject state machinery failure and an issue that habitually confronts half of the population.

Physical abuse of women has been a major impediment in the growth of the fairer sex, who are willing to jointly walk the economic ramp with men to globally showcase improving fiscal health.    

The increasing intolerance towards women is also backed by the latest annual data compiled by National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). Analysing the major crime trend over the years, the NCRB comes up with an alarming feature, which is that crime against women has seen 873 per cent rise since the last 40 years. The Bureau arrived at this statistic after comparing the data on number of cases registered in 1971 (2,487) with those in 2011 (24,206). This is more than three times of the total crimes that were taken cognisance of by the authorities.

The numbers clearly demonstrate the fact that increasing affluence, better education and exposure to modern values have had little sobering effect on male psyche as Delhi tops the taint chart, containing a list of 53 mega cities, by accounting for 13.3 per cent of crime committed against women which comes to 4,489 of the total 33,789 reported cases. Bangalore comes next registering 5.6 per cent (1,890) cases and Hyderabad is close third with 5.5 per cent (1,860) cases.

As far as the states are concerned, West Bengal recorded highest number of sexual crime cases followed by Tripura – which is a cursor to another pattern that there is no class or region divide when it comes to debauched men preying on women. This is because the direction of the growth has been towards creating more chasm as a large section of the population remains socially and economically backward despite India being set to become a global superpower.

Pitched against this depressing scenario is also the fact that India has impressive icons to window dress gender equality and women’s empowerment. Women occupy key decision making positions – that of president, at least half a dozen union ministers, the ruling coalition UPA chairperson, Lok Sabha speaker, a Supreme Court judge and two chief ministers.

At this point ends the leitmotif.Experts interviewed to find out the possible ways to tackle this scary social aberration believe a holistic approach is required to bring systemic changes for containing it.

This includes giving more teeth to laws to ensure that there is adequate legal framework to punish the guilty, sensitizing police so that they treat violence against women professionally and without any social prejudice they carry and ensuring that the politicians and government are committed to promoting gender equality through policies and budget.

All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) general secretary Sudha Sundaraman, who visited Guwahati to get a first hand information about the gory incident, believes such crimes demonstrate that there is a strong backlash from the conservative section of the society against women coming into public life.
Social activists and lawyers are of the view that there is no law to deal with aggravated assault on women. Legal activist Vrinda Grover said the definition of rape should be changed immediately to grade sexual offences against women and accordingly commensurate penalty.

In February, a Delhi additional sessions judge Kamini Lau too had suggested that the definition of rape should be expanded beyond bisexual penetration while hearing a shocking case of an 80-year-old who was violated with a wooden stick.
As of now, law deals effectively with only penetrative sexual act but other forms of harassment are treated as merely outraging women’s modesty, Grover emphasised while arguing for harsher punishment for offenders.

Grover sarcastically remarked that “Women are not vote banks. Also, political leadership knows that they will not be sacked for failing to prevent or promptly acting on crimes against women but they would be taken to cleaners on railway mishaps”. 

Nov, 2011: A 19-year-old dalit girl was gang raped in Pipli village of Odisha because she was witness to mass rape of her friend. She died after battling for life in a hospital for five months. Attempts were made to shield the culprits close to the ruling BJD party. A state minister, who was the MLA of Pipli, had to resign but, shockingly, state women’s commission gave a report denying the rape.
Feb, 2012: An Anglo-Indian woman was gang raped after leaving a posh night club in Park Street of Kolkata. West Bengal’s woman chief minister Mamata Banerjee reacted saying that the incident was fabricated to malign her government. Her transport minister Madan Mitra questioned  what a separated mother of two children was doing at a night club.

March, 2012: A 23-year-old woman employed by a pub in a prominent Gurgaon mall was raped late at night while she was returning home along with her brother in a taxi. Police, displaying misplaced concern, had to abort their strange idea of not allowing women work after 8 pm, after an uproar from civil society.
July, 2012: A 19-year-old girl was molested outside a bar in Guwahati creating a huge uproar in the country. A local news channel, News Live, which aired the footage of the ghastly crime was accused of instigating the crime. Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi blamed the media while DGP J N Chaudhury, covering up police inaction, said the police was not like an ATM machine that it could quickly appear at the crime scene.

The abysmal conviction figures in such cases also warrant changes in the prosecution structure.

Criticising National Commission for Women for shoddy handling of Guwahati case, she also called for depoliticising of women commissions as those women who are close to the ruling dispensation are made members and they have no idea of the rights of fairer sex. Other activists are demanding that NCW chairperson should be removed from the post for making irresponsible remark that “women should be careful about the way they dress because such incidents (like of Guwahati) are a result of blindly aping the West.”

Former Delhi police commissioner Ajay Raj Sharma agreed that the policemen’s attitude towards women’s  problems is not acceptable. “The instances of offences against women, whether it was in Guwahati or in Delhi or elsewhere in the country, showed that the law and order situation in that area had deteriorated. When fear of law disappears anti-social elements gather courage,” remarked Sharma, a UP cadre IPS officer who was brought to Delhi police.

He was of the view that the training manual should be tweaked to make policemen sensitive to problems of women and their rights so that cops are more reactive to crime against them, he said.

The Planning Commission has been articulating the need for focused spending through various schemes to empower women and bring gender justice. Interestingly, their own finding on women’s empowerment for the 11th Plan (valid till this year) admits that many departments and ministries showed little interest in spending 30 per cent of the funds earmarked for uplift of women, who are about 48 per cent of the total population as per the 2001 census.

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