Thu, 16 Jan 2014 12:45:00 GMT | By Priya Bala/ India Syndicate

Another rape, more outrage: Still no country for women

The rape of a Danish woman in Delhi has set off the usual reactions – outrage and anger directed at the system

Another rape, more outrage: Still no country for women (© Corbis)

The rape of a Danish woman in Delhi has set off the usual reactions – outrage and anger directed at the system. But making this country a safe place for women cannot be the responsibility of the government and the law enforcers alone

A Danish woman was gang-raped in New Delhi and the nation is outraged again. The shameful crime makes the front page because it happened in the capital, minutes from Connaught Place to be precise, the victim was a foreigner and it occurred in the middle of the day. In shock value it’s right up there.

I reassert the point I made when we took stock on December 16, a year after the Delhi gang rape. The ‘big stories’ grab attention and cause a surge of demands for action – futile for all their well-meaning concern. While the media zooms in on some incidents of sexual violence against women, every day, rape, assault of women and children occur across the country. A few are reported, like these from the first two weeks of this month alone:

Jan 5

The Nalgonda police have arrested Ramavath Harish Nayak, accused of sexually assaulting 12 minor tribal girls and nabbed N. Srinivas, the caretaker of the DAWN 132 Hostel, run by Village Reconstruction Organisation, an NGO.

Jan 5

Home Minister K.J. George visited the nine-year-old girl, who was allegedly sexually assaulted off Begur Main Road in Electronics City, at St. John’s Hospital in the city on Sunday.

Jan 7

An 11-year-old girl was allegedly raped by her neighbour in Jayanti Pura in Pandavapura taluk.

Jan 8

A man allegedly raped a 45-year-old woman with the help of his wife in neighbouring Medak district.

Jan 8

A minor girl on Wednesday lodged an FIR against a fellow villager at Benipatti police station in Bihar`s Madhubani district charging him with raping her for months by promising to marry her

Jan 15

A minor girl was allegedly abducted and later raped by a 30-year-old man in Pattan of north Kashmir's Baramula district.

Thus it goes, on and on

The big picture also proves this. According to a report earlier this month, “Bihar has registered an increase in crimes against women last year as compared to the preceding period... Latest crime figures collected from the state police headquarters reveal that a total of 10,898 cases of crime against women were registered in the state last year till November.

The figure was 9,795 in 2012 and 8,141 in 2011. There has been a spike in cases of rape, kidnapping, sexual harassment and atrocities for dowry in the state during 2013 vis-a-vis 2012.”

According to a November 2013 report from Mumbai: “In the past year, reported rape cases in the city have gone up by 57 per cent in comparison to 2011-2012, says a recently released report by Praja Foundation... Rape cases went up from 187 in 2011-12 to 294 in 2012-13 – a 57 per cent rise; 554 molestation cases were reported in the city in 2011-2012, with the figure going up to 793 in 2012-2013.”

And from Delhi: “According to new government figures there have been 1,330 rapes in Delhi in the 10 months since January compared with 706 for the whole of 2012. Sexual assaults increased more than three-fold from 727 last year to 2,844 this year. Sexual harassment, known in India as ‘Eve-teasing’, kidnapping of women, and attacks on brides by husbands and in-laws also increased significantly.”

But if you are a woman in India you don’t need these damning statistics to know that all the public rage over the Delhi gang rape and the revised rape laws haven’t made it possible for us to shed our fear. Now, another woman, a foreigner, has been raped in the capital.

The outrage, by the public, by the media and its panellists, is understandable. But the shrill cry that the government and the law enforcers have failed – how effective is that? After the Delhi gang rape, stricter laws to tackle rape and sexual harassment have been put in place. The trial was fast-tracked and exemplary punishment meted out to the rapists. Still, crimes against women continue unabated. Laws and law-enforcers alone can’t stop that, because you can’t police every nook and corner of the country and shadow every woman.

A complex mix of demographics, social conditioning and the essentially beastly nature of some men ensure that law enforcement alone cannot protect the Indian woman from sexual crimes.

We interviewed several outstanding women for the ‘Her Courage’ special on msn india in the wake of the Delhi gang rape and they provided deep insights into this scourge. Top cop Jija Hari Singh attributed the escalation in sexual crimes to large-scale migration of labourers from places where women are viewed as chattel to the big metros where they see free, independent women going about their work. Films and TV do their bit, fuelling the basest instincts of this repressed population with their item numbers and advertising that project women as objects of desire.

The accomplished dancer Madhu Natraj said that you might expect the rarefied realms of fine art to be free of sex crimes. But the dirty, groping hands of powerful men like ministers and their cohorts reach there, too.  It’s a point that been repeated often enough to become a cliché: rape isn’t about sex, it’s about power.

For centuries, our social system has condoned, even encouraged the man’s right to assert his power over the woman. Violating a woman’s body against her will was an act of control. That is how it is till this day. This primitive, bestial approach to women cuts across social strata. It drives the illiterate auto driver, the ageing minister, media persons -- even the seemingly righteous ones -- and, now we hear, lurks also in the hallowed portals of the judiciary.

Sociologists, educationists and psychologists cannot emphasise enough the need for sensitizing male children from a very young age to treat women as equals, as human beings deserving of respect and dignity. Sensitize, they say. All 655 million of them? How? Try as one might, it’s hard to see the glass as half full in this situation.

Women in India, even those who come here as tourists, will be harassed, molested and raped as long as the Indian male continues to see her as a sexual object, a lesser being he can exercise his power over.  So, until that radical change happens, the women out there can only keep at the karate and continue to carry the pepper spray.

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