AFTER NIRBHAYA, UNNAO, HYDERABAD INCIDENTS HAVE LET US DOWN
In William Shakespeare’s famous drama Julius Caesar, Cassius, a nobleman, speaking with his friend, Brutus, confides in the latter that in the best interests of the public, Julius Caesar must be stopped from becoming the monarch of Rome. Cassius tells him “The fault, Dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves, that we are underlings.” How apt is this quotation today! The solution to the increasing number of rapes and atrocities on women lies in us, not elsewhere!
This was my intro while writing about the Nirbhaya rape case in 2013. Unfortunately, since then despite the public outrage, rape and molestation cases have been on the increase and also more violent. The recent Telangana rape incident and the murder of Unnao victim on Saturday shows nothing has changed. Delhi is now considered as the rape capital of the world. Foreign countries like the US and the UK has sent advisories of caution to their tourists. In these countries there are crimes and rapes, but by and large, the public is aware that the ‘big brother’ is watching and the perpetrators will be caught sooner or later. Is it the same position in India where the criminals have no fear of the authorities?
The public outrage following these unfortunate incidents is huge as it should be. Asha Devi, mother of Nirbhaya went on record on Sunday about her frustration in demanding capital punishment for the Nirbhaya rapists and justice is yet to be meted out to Nirbhaya. In the meantime there have been many high profile rape cases allegedly involving some politicians and god men. The way some Parliamentarians clapped their hands in support of the police encounter of the four alleged Telangana rapists and the public support for the encounter shows the frustration about the slow justice to the rapists. However, many apprehend that police encounters often end up in misuse,
After the Nirbhaya incident, the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 was passed and is held as one of the most concrete steps taken by the Indian government to curb violence against women. After the Telangana and Unnao incidents there has been clamor for more stringent punishments. The question is do we need more laws? What are needed are not more laws but stringent implementation of the existing laws by the police, government, law enforcement agencies and awareness campaign by women’s organizations. The cases drag on for years. In the meanwhile, the perpetrators get emboldened and attack from three-year-old children to 80-year-old women in their lust. Many women still do not go to the police to report these incidents for lack of faith in the system.
The spate of atrocities against women is indeed a wake up call for the judiciary. The States and the High Courts must support the Centre’s proposal to set up 1,000 special courts to fast track nearly 1.67 lakh rape cases of which the victims were nearly 1.6 lakhs victims were innocent children. It is also important to note that the conviction rate is only about 32 per cent. The other perpetrators are roaming free. Building up weak cases by the investigating agencies results in culprits getting away scot-free. In short, there is failure on every count of the criminal justice system. The police have not been prompt in dealing with the rape cases, the prosecution has failed to get the perpetrators convicted, and the courts do not have enough judges to take up the cases. All these need to be addressed with top priority for gender justice. Centre and the state governments need to address the women’s safety as the public has lost confidence in the system.
The support for the police encounter in Hyderabad shows the need for priority to restore the faith in the system. It is a sad commentary that despite Supreme Court’s observations that judicial reforms were needed urgently, the government is dragging its feet. Archaic laws need to be amended. It is bizarre that when a child of two or three is raped and is unable to give evidence, the culprits go scot-free because the mother’s evidence is considered secondary evidence. How can a two-year-old child give evidence of rape? The onus of proof should not lie with the victim. It is this kind of incongruity within the legal system which needs to be addressed.
Last but not least there is need for change of public mind set.
There should be no stigma attached to the rape victim and the society should strongly support the victims. The moral fabric of the country is tearing up slowly and this needs to stop. There is no doubt that the system needs some shaking up. The children should be taught to respect women in a country where the Shakti cult is still relevant.
The aftermath of Hyderabad and Unnao incidents must make us introspect and introspect urgently to put fear of god in the minds of perpetrators and provide justice to the victims.