The nation is shocked… and outraged. Rightly so. The condition of the victim is deteriorating and my heart goes out to her and so my prayers. Large scale protests have rocked the capital and it seems finally the insensitive administration would be forced into action – action much bigger than a mere knee jerk reaction of catching the culprits in this case and announcing a relief grant for the victim. Things may finally become better… better in general for the women in the country. As we stand here on this perhaps a historic juncture, let us take a moment to sanely reflect upon what can be done to reduce rape.
Suggestions have flown in in plenty. One set recommends a stronger punishment ranging from death penalty to castration to life imprisonment (current punishment is 7 years rigorous imprisonment). Another set suggests improving the ‘moral’ fabric of the society by preaching against ‘lust’ in our school books or marrying men early.
But to proceed with prescribing a solution we will have to examine why rape happens. We will have to look into the mind of the rapist when he is about to commit it. Not all rapes are alike. The most common ones are those committed by a relative, friend, family member or neighbor. Then another type is those committed by strangers where our case in question would fall. Finally another kind is the rape of lower caste (particularly dalit) women committed by higher caste men.
Although the motives and circumstances behind each are different but perhaps there are two points common to all. The first is the lack of fear in the mind of the rapist that he may get caught later and be made to serve the entire sentence. This is hardly surprising given the largely poor state of law and order in the country. Even in Delhi itself, there were 654 rape cases reported last year and there was only 1 conviction! (Source: Reply by the minister in the parliament recently). If the accused happens to belong to the influential strata of the society, forget about him being caught at all. The entire machinery will work to shield him and instead further victimize the victim. After all, we all remember only too well… no one killed Jessica. And in Pipli in Odisha, ultimately the victim and her father had to commit suicide as the police took no action against the accused who happened to be the son of an MLA. In Punjab the additional sub inspector was shot openly by a politician affiliated to the ruling party in the state as he tried to defend his daughter from some molesters.
Anyways, the point to note here is that the would be rapists are often just not scared of being made to serve out the entire 7 year sentence. They think they won’t be caught or even if they are caught, they would be acquitted. If somehow we can create this fear in their mind that they would definitely be caught and convicted soon for the 7 year imprisonment, it would act as a credible deterrent. After all 7 years is no mean punishment. Changing it to death penalty, life imprisonment or chemical castration (where only the male hormone is suppressed using drugs and no part of the body is actually cut off or made dysfunctional) would be meaningless if we are unable to create this fear of conviction in their mind. Thus the crux of the problem is the conviction rate and not the harshness (or leniency) of the punishment. Just think about it… if only 1 out of 654 rape cases actually see the conviction, how much of a deterrence a punishment – which can be administered only after conviction – can have. Think about it – most rapes are committed during wars or in situations where law and order ceases to exist and one know one would never be held accountable for his actions. Now why are convictions so low (and lengthy)? Lack of forensics is a major reason. Police apathy is another (specially if the accused belongs to the influential strata of the society). Slow courts are another reason. So perhaps today what we need are more forensic labs and special courts in each district dedicated to hear rape cases. The problem of accused wielding influence still remains but then it is a difficult one to crack.
The second common reason behind rapes is that women are seen in our society as feeble, meek, unable to cause any harm. Such tendencies are often stronger in a rapist’s mind and he thinks he can thus easily exploit her. Just think for a moment… who can dare to rape Priyanka Gandhi even if she has no security cover around her. There is a dog generally sitting outside my house. Sometimes when I go out and he is sitting in front of the gate, I merely shoo him away. Why? Because I know he cannot harm me. But had a tiger been sitting outside my house I would never dare to even think of stepping out :-P Why in India we only hear of men raping women and not the other way round? Well the point is, the male dominant character of our society has got a lot to do with the rapes. This needs to change and surprisingly I haven’t seen anybody even talking about it.
Finally a note on ‘lust’ factor. There is a problem however. Lust is functional. It is natural. Just imagine if men cease to have lust for women and women cease to have lust for men what will happen to the society. Lust accounts for the sexual attraction (towards the opposite sex generally) and this is how a generation reproduces. Moreover there is no evidence to suggest that lust is a dominating cause behind rapes. Everybody lusts. I do… Most women also lust for men. But neither I nor most women rape. A rape is mostly not an act of sexual expression. It is one where the dominant feelings are that of humiliation, power, domination. Sex is but a mere medium. If suppose God had somehow created human beings such that sex was not possible, then too a rapist would have found alternate means of humiliating, dominating, expressing our power over the other. So reprinting our school books may not be such a good idea after all.
This may be a turning point for the safety of women in our society. I merely hope that we focus on things which matter. Lets have some sanity please before we act.