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RASHMI OBEROI | 29 MAY, 2017

Fighting for Survival as a Woman

RASHMI OBEROI


Is there a single day when our news is not full of crimes against women? It’s downright depressing when you open the newspapers or scroll through online news updates or switch between various news channels. The ticker on the telly only speaks of rapes, murders, molestations and heinous crimes against women on a daily basis.

Are we as a nation not failing our daughters time and again? There seems to be no hope in sight…no change…no punishments…no legal reprieve… When will crime against women end in this country?

We need harsher punishments…and swift justice…not legal battles that linger on for years and years. Perpetrators must be punished immediately…as soon as they dare to commit a crime and are caught. Swift justice is the need of the hour. Nirbhaya’s case sparked national protests and a conversation about violence against women, in India and in the rest of the world. The rape crisis in India is worsening and there still isn’t a national registry for sex offenders.

I remember, in 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had highlighted the plight of gender-based violence in his first Independence Day address. He had spoken of hanging his head in shame and there was this one sentence of his that was aimed at the female gender but in actuality he had disregarded the real problem that needed to be dealt with. He had addressed every parent about questioning their daughters about where they were going and with whom. The solution does not lie in that but in parents questioning their sons about what they are up to and with whom!

Despite the international furore in 2012 and ensuing cases of gender-based violence in India, the deadly sexual assault in Rohtak last week is not an isolated incident. Many other rapes have been reported even after that. A 22-year-old woman was dragged into a car where three men raped her in the early hours, before throwing her out of the moving vehicle speeding towards Delhi, local media had reported. In Kolkata, a 75-year-old woman was reportedly raped in her home by a neighbour late at night. Criminals seem to seek out and predate on women who live alone.

Crime data from the Home Affairs Ministry’s National Crime Records Bureau counted 34,771 female victims of reported rapes in India in 2015, almost one every 15 minutes. In more than 90 percent of the cases, the perpetrators were known to the victim.

A panel of doctors recently met in India to discuss the case of a 10-year-old rape victim who is seeking an abortion. The girl was repeatedly raped by her stepfather who has since been arrested and detained pending a full police investigation. This is where justice should be fast and effective and the punishment lethal.

Women in India have been victims of violence for many years in almost all societies, regions, cultures and religious communities. A frightening number of women in our society are victims of violence such as domestic, public, physical, social, emotional and mental. Violence against women is clearly seen getting worse over the years without any positive change.

Unfortunately, we are also seeing a rise in female infanticide, the dowry system and bride-killings which are other monstrous forms and acts of violence. A large number of women are also facing discrimination when it comes to educational opportunities. Many have to deal with sexual abuse, rapes, forced and unwanted marriages, sexual harassment at public, home or work place, unwanted pregnancies at small intervals, bride-burning, wife-battering, domestic violence, negligence of old women in family, etc.

In order to reduce the number of offenses and crimes against women in India, another Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) law, 2015 has been made by the Indian government. It is done so to replace the earlier Indian juvenile delinquency law of 2000 especially after the Nirbhaya case during which an accused juvenile was released. In this act, the juvenile age has been reduced by two years to 16 years from 18 years in cases of heinous offenses.

Violence against women in India is a very old social issue which has taken its root deeply to the societal norms and economic dependence. This issue of violence against women rears its ugly head from time to time in the form of brutal gang-rapes, abduction, acid attacks, honour killings, brutal behaviour by husbands and in-laws etc. Sadly, we have an inefficient legal justice system, weak rules of law and male dominated social and political structures.

According to research it is found that violence against women begins at home in the early ages especially in the rural areas and mostly by family members, relatives, neighbours, and friends. Because of the practice of female infanticide, the number of girl child has been very less in comparison to the male child (almost 940 women to 1000 men according to the 2011 census). India's skewed gender ratio is due to a deep-seated cultural preference for sons that has led to millions of female foetuses being aborted over the years by pregnant women after undergoing foetal gender testing. Such a huge decrease in the percentage of female child is because of the sex-selective abortions and negligence of young girls during infancy.

Crimes against women increased 34 percent over the last four years, with cruelty by husbands and relatives being the most widely reported crime, according to the latest data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). The rate of crime against women – defined as crimes reported divided by total women population – has gone up from 41.7 to 53.9. The higher rate could be explained by increased crime, but it could also be that more women are confident enough to report crimes against them.

Promises to address gender gap are far from reality. In India, women do not seem to enjoy all the rights to freedom provided under the Constitution of India. According to a report by National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), a crime against women is recorded every 1.7 minutes in India. Every 16 minutes a rape case is recorded in this country and every 4.4 minutes a girl is subjected to domestic violence. The worst being when infants and children have been subjected to rape and sexual exploitation.

Acid attacks also known as vitriolage is a violent attack especially on women. Every year around 1500 people are attacked in this way across the world. Reports indicate that out of them, 80% are women and 40% to 70% are below 18 years of age.

Among 53 cities, Delhi (11449 cases) has accounted for 21.41 per cent of total crime against women in these cities followed by Mumbai (2946 cases; 5.51 per cent), Bengaluru (2608 cases; 4.88 per cent), Ahmedabad (2449 cases; 4.58 per cent) and Kolkata (2399 cases; 4.49 per cent). Our national capital Delhi has reported 29.41 per cent of rape cases, 35.1 per cent of kidnapping and abduction cases, 15.76 per cent of dowry deaths, 25.76 per cent of molestation cases and 28.3 per cent of incest rape cases among 53 mega cities, the NCRB report said.

Have you noticed that when you step into our courts there is a sign outside that says: ''Temple of Justice '' but in reality it is more like, “Hell of Justice”!! This is because over here, there is no automatic and fast justice. The system is flawed and distorted. It reeks of being ‘fixed’ and ‘favoured’ and mostly tilts towards the rich and powerful.

So isn’t it quite within her rights for a wronged woman to ask: Why is our legal system so slow? Why do we have to always fight for our rights? That which can be wound up in a couple of hearings is just dragged on for years… Isn’t that senseless? And this in a nation that apparently is known to worship women and Goddesses and her country is known as ‘Mother India’… Where has it all gone wrong?

Will the struggles of these women ever be heard? Will they ever find justice in their time? Isn’t it their right to get a fair probe and at least ensure that the perpetrators are being punished?

Tick Tock… Time is just ticking away…!!

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