Updated: Thu, 20 Mar 2014 12:15:00 GMT | By Priya Bala, India Syndicate

The Delhi gangrape and after: No country for women

More than a year ago, a young woman was raped by a gang on a Delhi bus. Thirteen days later she died. The nation was outraged and demanded action. The accused were tried by a fast-track court and sentenced to death. It was the first time justice had been meted out so speedily. The criminal law was amended to deal sternly with sexual assault. All big steps in the right direction to ensure the safety and dignity of women. So, can the Indian woman now go about her life and work without fear? The answer, bitter as it may be, is ‘No’

The Delhi gangrape and after: No country for women (© Reuters)

The day I sit down to write this piece the page 1 headlines in The Times of India look like this:

‘Justice Ganguly misbehaved despite my protests: Intern’

‘Ukhand addl secy held for sex assault’

‘DRDE scientist surrenders’

Prabhat Garg,a DRDE scientist accused of harassment by a research scholar, surrendered in Gwalior on Tuesday...

That’s on a single day. The incidents made it to the front page because the offenders were ‘high-profile’.  Meanwhile, every day, splattered across the crime columns are reports of rape, sexual assault and molestation of women. Here’s what the most perfunctory search of the papers through November and the first week of December threw up:

Dec 3: Police today detained for questioning two employees of a backwater island resort at nearby Pozhiyur in connection with rape of a 40-year-old Bangalore-based IT professional there last month. The woman, a professional working with an IT company, was allegedly raped by two persons in the star-category resort in the wee hours on November 28.

Dec 1: Wadi police have registered an offence of rape against 32-year-old Chandan Turkar for allegedly physically abusing a six-year-old girl inside the bathroom of his residence ...

Nov 27: Thammaiah, 23, a cab driver, has been arrested for raping a teenage girl...
Nov 26: A 17-year-old girl was allegedly gang-raped by four men in suburban Borivali last night...

November 26: A 16-year-old girl was allegedly gang-raped by three persons in the HAL locality...

Nov 19: A school girl was raped on her way back from a free laptop distribution function in Faizabad...

Nov 7: A 20-year-old girl has alleged she was abducted and gang-raped by five persons...

Nov 4:  A 16-year-old girl was allegedly gang-raped in suburban Goregaon here by four of her friends, police said...

Another November report from Mumbai provides a larger picture: “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.“

The reports tell the shameful truth. But I 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 altered the reality for women in this country in any significant way.

I know this is so, because I feel it. Because my college-going niece gets groped in broad daylight at a bus stop;  because I see the way men leer at women in the Bangalore metro;  because I have been plagued by obscene calls and reporting it to the 1091 helpline number didn’t help; because I’m afraid to hop into an auto rickshaw after dark.

Stricter laws to tackle rape and sexual harassment and exemplary punishment are laudable steps in the right direction. But are they enough to ensure the safety of women? No. 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.

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