Haryana's shame

If the treatment of women is a measure of civilised conduct, many parts of India would not pass muster. Some states like Haryana have been more infamous than others in the number of sexual and other crimes committed against women, the lack of concern in society over them and the failure of the government in dealing with them. The recent surge in rape cases in the state has attracted national opprobrium, and token visits of leaders like that of Sonia Gandhi who  gave assurances of protection to a victim’s family would not provide confidence about an improvement in the situation. Sixteen rape cases have been reported in one month, and considering that many go unreported, it is not wrong to conclude that the state has become unsafe for women.

Gang rapes, abductions, forcible confinement and repeated assaults and all kinds of sexual crimes have been increasing in the state. Children, adolescents and even mentally challenged women have become victims. There have been cases of victims committing suicide after they were attacked and molested. In many cases the victims are dalits and the offenders are from higher castes or social classes. The police turn their face away and are sometimes involved in the crimes. Even when cases are registered investigations do not take place. The social status of women is low and the attitude towards them is retrograde. This is clear from the poor sex ratio in the state, with only 877 females for 1000 males. The imbalance and the high number of crimes have the same source in the lack of respect and care for women.

The response of the state government is inadequate and irresponsible. It blames the media for the reports, and the state Congress party has seen a political conspiracy in them. The reaction of the central party through the spokesperson, herself a woman, is worse. It defended the state government, saying that crimes against women had increased all over the world. So Haryana is not special, and the government is ‘discreetly’ ensuring the safety of the victims’ families. Can it not do it openly? One most unacceptable and objectionable solution, coming typically from the khap panchayats, is to lower the marriage age. The endorsement of the suggestion by a former chief minister, Om Prakash Chautala, shows that the political leaders and the panchayats have the same mind set. In effect it means that attitudes will not be reformed, but the law has to be relaxed.

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