Not Sensation but Sensitivity

    19-Oct-2020   
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Crimes against women cannot be prevented through legislation alone. Media must stop sensationalising rape cases for the sake of TRPs
 

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Despite all public outrage over rapes and execution of the accused, particularly in the gruesome rape incident of Nirbhayain New Delhi seven years ago, and the encounter deaths of all the accused in the rape of 26-year-old veterinarian Priyanka Reddy in Hyderabad followed by gruesome murder and burning of the body to obliterate traces of happening, yet rapes continue to take place as before.
 
Media sensationalism of incidents and public outrage and furore cannot per se redress the deteriorating situation. Political leaders appearing at the doorsteps of survivors to gain photo opportunity do any good.
 
Furthermore, public outrage fails to arouse the conscience of people particularly lawmakers, judiciary, police forces and even society. No wonder, every gruesome rape fades away into background sooner than later.
 
Ironic but true, when the victim is a Dalit woman like in the recent case of Hathras, vicious selective politics breakout. Its aim is simple – playing selective politics for the sake of consolidating and advancing highly divisive vote bank politics.Politicisationleads to creation of caste conflicts.
 
Most rapes go unreported because rape survivors fear retaliation and humiliation. The situation is not different the world over. Indian parliamentarians have stated that the rape problem is being underestimated because many cases are not reported, even though more victims are going public about it.
 
By the criteria of rape rate per 1,00,000 (National average 4.2%), the status includes: India (32,033 at 4.9%); Chandigarh (112 at 20.7%); Rajasthan (5,997 at 15.9%); Delhi (1,253 at 13.5%); Kerala (2,023 at 11.1%); Haryana (1,480 at 10.9%); Assam (1,773 at 10.5%); Himachal Pradesh (359 at 10%); Uttarakhand (526 at 9.6%); Goa (72 at 9.4%); Arunachal Pradesh (63 at 8.6%); Jharkhand (1,416 at 7.7%); Chhattisgarh (1,036 at 7.2%); Punjab (1,002 at 7.1%); Mizoram (42 at 7.1%); Meghalaya (102 at 6.3%); Madhya Pradesh (2,485 at 6.2%); Odisha (1,382 at 6.2%); Telangana (606at 4.7%); Tripura (88at4.5%); Andhra Pradesh (1,086at 4.2%); Maharashtra (2,299at 3.9%); J&K (223at 3.5%); Sikkim (11at 3.5%); UP (3,065at 2.8%); West Bengal (1,069at 2.3%); Manipur (36at 2.3%); Gujarat (528at 1.6%); Karnataka (505at 1.6%); Bihar (730at 1.3%); Tamil Nadu (362at 1%); Nagaland (8at 0.8%); and other states.
 
In comparison to 2018, crimes against women have increased significantly in 2019 - one case of rape is reported every 16 minutes in India. In 2019, an average of 88 rape cases has been reported in India every day.Among metropolitan cities, the national capital of Delhi continued to have the highest incidence of rape at 1,253 cases in 2019, while Jaipur had the highest rape rate (per 100,000 population).
 
As per media reports of rape cases of the last 10 years, two-thirds of total rape cases in India are reported from Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, UP, Haryana, Jharkhand, Odisha, Delhi and Assam. Of the total reported rape cases in India, four out of five rape victims are from these 10 states - Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Kerala, Assam, Haryana, Jharkhand, Odisha and Delhi - the latest available data of NCRB shows.
 
The total number of reported rape cases in these 10 states has almost doubled in the last 10 years -- from 12,772 in 2009 to 23,173 in 2019. The rest 26 states have reported almost the same numbers as they did in 2009.
 
Rajasthan tops the list of the worst state for women. While the state reported 1,519 rape cases in 2009, it went up to 5,997 cases in 2019 with 1313 minor girls - a four-time increase as per the NCRB data.
 
Kerala is the second poor performer on the list. The state has reported 1,455 more cases in the last 10 years. The number of recorded rape cases increased by 256 per cent in the state - from 568 in 2009 to 2,023 in 2019.
 
The third most hostile state for women in India is its capital - Delhi - with a three-fold increase in the cases over the 10-year period. Though reported cases in Delhi has been much lower among the 10 states, the increase is of 167 per cent - from 469 rape cases in 2009 to 1,253 cases in 2019.
 
In the neighboring state of Haryana, the number of reported rape cases has more than doubled in the last 10 years. In this period, the state has seen almost 145 per cent increase -- from 603 in 2009 to 1,480 in 2019.
 
Similarly, Jharkhand has shown a decadal growth of 97 per cent, with 719 cases in 2009 to 1,416 in 2019.
 
Uttar Pradesh reported almost double rape cases in the last 10 years - from 1,759 in 2009 to 3,065 in 2019.
 
Of the total 32,033 reported rape cases in 2019, 11% were from the Dalit community (percentage of Dalit population being 16.2% of population). If so, rapes of other castes are more percentage-wise than the Dalits.
 
On an average, the rape vulnerability of women in India has increased almost four-folds over the last 10 years. In 2009, while nearly three women were raped every day in these states, this number went up to 11 for these 10 states in 2019.
 
Using a small sample survey, Human Rights Watch projects more than 7,200 minors – 1.6 in 100,000 minors – are raped each year in India. Among these, victims who do report the assaults are alleged to suffer mistreatment and humiliation from the police. Minor girls are trafficked into prostitution in India, thus rape of minors conflates into a lifetime of suffering. Of the countries studied by Maple Croft on sex trafficking and crime against minors, India was ranked 7th worst.
 
Data shows after the Nirbhaya case, the government came up with the stricter laws but it seems that these laws did not act as a deterrent for most of the perpetrators. The weak implementation of the law has resulted in a higher number of rape cases in some of the states. The recent Hathras case has shaken the nation once again, and firm execution of the law is in demand.However, about one in four rape cases in India only result in convictions (27.8% in 2019).
 
Law takes its own course. Judiciary blames the police; and the police blame the judiciary and rape victims, accused and political leaders.
 
Be that as it may, the crime rate registered per lakh women population reflects a differentreality. For the crime rate stood at 62.4 in 2019 in comparison with 58.8 in 2018, as per NCRB. A majority of cases under Indian Penal Code were registered under ‘cruelty by husband or his relatives’ (30.9 per cent) followed by ‘Assault on women with intent to outrage her modesty’ (21.8 per cent), and ‘kidnapping and abduction of women’ (17.9 per cent).
 
When compared with the crime rates against women at the global level, India cannot be denigrated by media, particularly rapes, with such headlines as “Pandemic”.
 
For example, the ten countries with the highest rates of rape (number of incidents per 100,000 citizens) are: South Africa (132.4); Botswana (92.9); Lesotho (82.7); Swaziland (77.5); Bermuda (67.3); Sweden (63.5); Suriname (45.2); Costa Rica (36.7); Nicaragua (31.6); Grenada (30.6).
 
Furthermore, the United States has a rape rate of 27.3%. Even in the United States, rape is grossly underreported due to victim shaming, fear of reprisal, cases not being taken seriously by law enforcement, and possible lack of prosecution for the perpetrator. Only 9% of rapists in the US get prosecuted and only 3% of rapists will spend a day in prison. About 97% of rapists in the United States will walk free.
 
In contrast, India’s rape rate is 1.80 (95th position out of 120). Is it, therefore, fair to denigrate India as a country unsafe for women? Media must introspect and stop sensationalisingrapes for TRP sake.
 
As per global data in public domain, it isestimated that approximately 35% of women worldwide have experienced some form of sexual harassment in their lifetime. In a majority of countries that have data available on rape, report that less than 40% of women who experience sexual violence seek help. Less than 10% seek help from law enforcement.
 

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Women ages 16-19 are four times more likely to be victims of rape or sexual assault and female college students ages 18-24 are three times more likely to experience sexual assault. About 70% of rape is committed by someone known to survivor. Getting exact data on rapes is a challenge as women rarely report sexual assault cases against them. While many countries have laws against the act of sexual assault and violence, many of them are insufficient, inconsistent, and not systematically enforced.
 
Finally, many of the countries with high incidence of rapeshave failed to look beyond just legislation to fix the problem with India being no exception. These countries need to look at the deep, systematic dysfunction of their cultures and social norms that have not prevented and do not prevent sexual violence.
 
The deductions out of the NCRB data glaringly expose the realities of status of rapes in India. One, Chandigarh and Delhi, most highly educated and considered highly civilised citizenry, are leading percentage-wise. ArvindKejriwal, the Chief Minister of Delhi, may take note of it and activate his cadres to spread cultural and social norms to respect mothers and sisters instead of sermonising.
 
Similarly, the Congress-ruled state like Rajasthan (Jaipur as capital) and the Communist-ruled state like Kerala and their national leadership or high commands must spearhead their campaigns in their ruled states against rapes and crimes against women instead of selective denigration based on case and communal basis.
 
Next, the judiciary and the police must ensure expeditious delivery of justice (time-bound – not to exceed 1-year) to have impact on the society. After all, “Justice delayed is justice denied”. Labeling such inhuman and barbaric crimes as juvenile acts is utterly idiotic and stupid.Time is running out; patience is also running out among people.
 
Finally, let me reiterate and recount the punishments that must be awarded to rapists: Rape is rape – It is a violent and criminal act committed by the strong against the weak and meek. None should have any doubts on the above score.
 
Even in the United States, rape is grossly underreported due to victim shaming, fear of reprisal, cases not being taken seriously by law enforcement, and possible lack of prosecution for the perpetrator. Only 9% of rapists in the US get prosecuted and only 3% of rapists will spend a day in prison. About 97% of rapists in the United States will walk free 
Rape, particularly gang-rape, accompanied by murder is plain and simple murder. How can it be treated otherwise if we claim to be a civilised nation of 5,000 years cultural vintage? It falls under the “rarest of rare cases”. Accused must be hanged time bound.
 
Gang-rape of minors, particularly below 5-6 years age, is also a most gruesome act done by a perverted individual. Gang-rape committed by a group of criminals against minor and setting fire on private parts and burning the victim to death is more gruesome and the most despicable criminal act. It should also be viewed as an extraordinary cruel offence worse than murder. Accused must be hanged time-bound. Gang-rapes and rapes committed on foreign tourists is yet another occurrence nowadays. Castration for all other forms of rape not followed by murder and punishment must be the order.
 
Let me once again highlight that Indiansociety is many layered ranging from Stone Age to Space Age humans. Universal laws cannot stem all sorts of crime. Otherwise, it will be business as usual for the rapists on the ‘prowl’. The genuine fear of law, at least, will reduce the rate of rapes. But, mindset of society needs to undergo a dramatic change which the political leaders and civic society activists must carry out sustained propaganda. Then only, rates of rapes can be minimised; but not wholly eliminated.
 
(The Writer is a Hyderabad based commentator on contemporary Bharat)