21 May 2018 08:16 AM

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RASHMI OBEROI | 31 JANUARY, 2018

Can It Get Any Sicker?

Even politicians like Haryana Chief Minister have made sexist and misogynistic comments


The latest distressing case of assault on an infant has shocked all of us and naturally made national and international headlines. The extent of the injuries have horrified many and prompted them to wonder whether we have reached a new low.

But wondering will get us nowhere as a hard look at the statistics, compiled by the government, shows that such crimes are not uncommon. And worryingly, their numbers are rising rapidly.

According to the latest National Crime Records Bureau data, 2016 saw 19,765 cases of child rape being registered in India - a rise of 82% from 2015 when 10,854 cases were recorded.

While the 2012 gang rape and murder of the 23-year-old student on a bus in Delhi sparked days of protests and forced the government to introduce tougher anti-rape laws, including the death penalty, not much has been done to act on the same. Punishments meted out are not swift or harsh and naturally don’t act as deterrents against culprits committing a crime.

There was a tendency earlier to hush up and not discuss such violent crimes but now there is a drastic change in attitudes - sexual attacks and rapes have become topics of living room conversations, and it is heartening to see women refusing to lie low but come forward and fight out for their rights. The latest barbaric incident comes at a time when a series of sexual assault cases have already thrust into focus the utter lack of protection for women and girls, both in public and private spaces.

Over the past several weeks, multiple assaults on women and girls have been reported from five towns in Haryana itself. The crude and frighteningly brutal nature of these attacks had the society reeling in shock and despair at its inability to prevent such crimes. Brutal rapes have been reported in our country on a near-daily basis and reports of ghastly sexual assaults have risen in recent years. This shows the complete breakdown of law and order.

Sexual assault crimes are not new to our country as a majority of women live in fear and have harrowing stories to tell thanks to a deeply conservative and patriarchal society where many families prefer sons over daughters. In fact, the government recently declared that more than 63 million women and girls are statistically ‘missing’ by being deprived of food, health care and schooling.

Data also reveals that families have more than 21 million unwanted girls, a calculation based on analysing the gender of last-born children. Even though gender-selective abortions are banned, but the practice of aborting female foetuses persists. The birth of a son is celebrated, while a daughter's birth can be a time of mourning, as parents fear the debts they'll incur for marriage dowries. The ugly truth is that girls are threatened even before they are born, and then every second after they are born. Regressive male attitudes have made it a living hell for them.

“Abuse, molestation, torture and rape of girls have become the sad order of the day, which has shamed humanity,” says rights activist Kavita Krishnan. “The entrenched violence against women and the failure of authorities to protect them is sad.”

In the midst of this outrage over the savage rapes and killings, statements by authorities have only added fuel to the fire. RC Mishra, a director general of police, stoked controversy with comments about the rape-murders, which were construed as being insensitive.

"It's part of society. Such incidents have been taking place forever," Mishra reportedly told a news agency. Even politicians like Haryana state's Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar have made sexist and misogynistic comments in the past, raising doubts about their resolve to tackle the problem of acute insecurity faced by women in the country.

I am still wondering whether the series of attacks in recent weeks will prompt authorities to do some soul-searching regarding their failure in this area and mull over as to how they could best ensure safety for women and girls in our country.

Have the higher authorities become so insensitive that they are resorting to turning a blind eye against such ghastly crimes?
 

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