Thursday, 10 January 2013 16:14 GFP Columnist - Dr. Stephen Gill
Women are part of the human body. If one part of the body suffers, the whole body suffers. The main source of rapes in India is the electoral practice. Democracy in India is mainly by the elite and for the elite.

The rape on the 16th of December 2012 has rocked India. The victim, a 23 year old medical student, was brutally beaten and molested by six men. She was raped in New Delhi in a moving bus that had tinted windows. She and her male friend were beaten up with iron rods, and thrown off the bus on a highway. She received injuries on her face and stomach. When doctors could not stabilize her condition, she was airlifted to a hospital in Singapore where she died. She was able to give her statement twice before death.

Her death prompted soul-search in a nation where sexually assaulted victims are condemned. This stigma discourages victims from going to receive justice for fear of exposing their families to ridicule. Under such circumstances, police are also to be blamed because they shirk their duty of registering cases. Police often let the victims and families sit in their stations for hours day after day which is disgraceful after going from one hospital to another for examinations, finding lawyers and facing the shame.

Police officers in India expect bribes just to register a case. It is widely known in India that police officers normally arrest innocent persons and use the tactics of falsehood and torture to get consent from them. These improperly trained and improperly educated police officers usually have the backing of people in power. This corruption and attitude of society forces women to be silent. If any case of any brave woman reaches court, she gives up in frustration because such cases drag on for years.

Sonia Gandhi, president of the Congress, the ruling party of India, demanded speedy action in this case. The Government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is to be congratulated for setting up a toll free hotline to give fast help to rape victims. India needs also fast-track courts for rape-related victims because the judicial system is notoriously slow and discouraging.

Indian culture puts women on a pedestal of goddesses, but the streets and work places of these goddesses are not safe. Kavitha Rao from Canada on January 2, 2013 in The Nation states that “Every Indian woman has one thing in common: they have almost certainly experienced some kind of sexual harassment. If you are an Indian woman in a public place, you are forever on edge, looking out for men standing too close, wondering if that grope on a crowded bus was accidental.

There is also violence against women in dowry related cases. Only a few such domestic violence incidents are reported. Then there are incidents of kidnapping, and acid attacks.

It is estimated that in India every 22 minutes a woman is raped and every 58 minutes a bride is burnt in dowry matters. Associated Press states that “women face daily harassment across India, ranging from catcalls on the streets, groping and touching in public transport, to rape”.

It was reported in the media about “A global poll by the Thomson Reuters Foundation in June found that India was the worst place to be a woman because of high rates of infanticide, child marriage and slavery.” Faiz Jamil, a reporter with the BBC from Delhi writes for CBC News of January 4, 2013 that “since 2009 when I started my work, I’ve read almost daily about these kinds of crimes happening around the country, and these are just the ones that are reported.” It has been pointed out that just New Delhi, where 18 million live, a little more than half of the population of Canada, has the highest number of sex crimes in comparison with other cities of India. Rape cases are reported on average one in every 18 hours. Delhi is said to have earned the title of the rape capital of India. Indian media reports such cases nearly every day. It is noted that one in three rape cases is a child. Asia News of December 30, 2012 reports that the possibility of a rapist being convicted is less likely in India.

Moreover rape is on the increase in the country.

A latest rape has caused epilepsy to a child. This case from Ahmedabad is affirmed by the The Times of India of January 2, 2013. The victim was brutally assaulted by her neighbor when she was only ten years old. Her rapist was sentence to a ten year jail sentence but the trauma did not leave her. “Three to four times a week, she suffers from epileptic attacks after which she remains unconscious for a long time. It is difficult to imagine that just two years back she was a bright, happy child who used to love going to school.” The Hindu of January 2, 2013 informs that “The National Human Rights Commission has issued a notice to the Superintendent of Police of Karnataka’s Bidar district, returnable in four weeks, on the rape of a five-year-old girl allegedly by two men who are yet to be arrested.” It is stated that “She was sleeping in her house when two unidentified persons took her away to a farm land and sexually assaulted her.” There was an attempt to rape a sixteen year old girl in another part of the country. She was burnt by the rapist on the day when attackers in Delhi were being driven to court. Days after this brutality, another woman was raped in a neighboring state and dumped in Delhi.

However, the police are a cog in the wheels of corruption. The main source is the body of law-makers. This toxin organ of the nation’s body needs healing badly that can be done easily through ballots, and the implementation of laws. Corrupt and convicted citizens should not be allowed to run for public offices. To change it, the country needs a revolution and that revolution can be by women themselves. Several law-makers and others in public offices are the gods of corruption. One way to make the streets and working places free from danger for women is to deny criminals the ability to contest elections. Indian parliaments have criminals who know how to exploit police for their own benefit.

The Canadian Press reported on January 6, 2013:

“On Friday, the court dismissed a petition asking it to suspend Indian lawmakers accused of crimes against women, saying it doesn't have jurisdiction, according to the Press Trust of India. The Association for Democratic Reforms, an organization that tracks officials' criminal records, said six state lawmakers are facing rape prosecutions and two national parliamentarians are facing charges of crimes against women that fall short of rape.”

“According to the Election Commission, every one of India’s leading political parties has fielded candidates accused of sexual crimes against women in the past five years, and two members of India’s parliament are facing rape charges.”

It is also important to hire more women police officers. At present there are hardly any women seen in police uniforms on the streets of India. Women feel more comfortable in making a report to female officers. Charanjit Kaur, the sister of another rape victim in another part of India said that the male police officer on duty asked vulgar questions when they approached him for help. He asked her to describe graphically what and how it happened in detail. The victim committed suicide because there was no one to listen to her. There is a long list of victims who committed suicide because of the justice system that causes shame and frustration.

Rape is a terror and terror is the extreme form of fear. Rapists should be treated like any other terrorist. Raping women is terrorism and terrorism is a mindless attack on humanism.

The rape of Mathura in the late 1970s is a classical example of injustice. The constable who raped her in the police station was acquitted because he said that she had consented that was manifested by lack of injuries and her alarms within the police station. Just to rape a victim in a police station under such circumstances is the misuse of authority, but the law did not take this fact into account.

Asian Centre for Human Rights has urged the government to declare the 29th of December as the National Day on violence against women to bring more awareness in society. It is not the time for India to hide its weaknesses. Rather this is the time to bring this growing cancer in society onto the table of the public view to get rid of this toxin. There should not be any shame in discussing this subject publicly. On the other hand, it is a shame to hide it and let it develop further to eat into the bones of peace of nearly half of the population.

The sad part is that there are hardly any debates on the family environment in which rapists are nourished. It is also sad that no one talks and takes action for reforming the political system to get rid of criminal law-makers. It is again sad that there is no talk of reforming the judicial system, except that the justice should be fast and more reachable. All these reforms are left to the elected politicians and convicted law-makers who find ways to remain in power.

What India needs is the implementation of the laws. It is a question of human rights. Women deserve to be treated equally before laws. They have every right to be peaceful and free to move around the streets safely. Representatives are elected and governments are formed to save the citizens from external aggressions as well from internal fears. These women who are attacked have the right to take their governments or elected leaders to court for their physical and emotional damage from sexual assault. There must be ways to hold the government or the state responsible and accountable for failing to protect citizens.

Movies are also to be blamed for portraying women as sex objects, and providing violence for entertainment. It includes stories as well as photography and songs. There are then videogames. Another culprit is the family environment. To raise a family, couples are not required to read even a single pamphlet about parenting. There are laws for teachers, babysitters, for adopted parents, but nothing for the spouses who want to have children.

Rape is a terror and terror is the extreme form of fear. Rapists should be treated like any other terrorist. What India needs is to bring down the status of women as goddesses to the status of a human. Women are human who also feel pain when they are tortured. It has been hinted that the glorification of a violent masculinity is largely responsible for attacks on women, though I don’t see any heroism in rapes. Raping women is terrorism and terrorism is not heroism, but a mindless attack on humanism.

Women are part of human body. If one part of the body suffers, the whole body suffers. There is no peace in personal life as well as in the life of a nation if any part would suffer. The main source of this suffering is the electoral system that suffers from elitism. Presently, India has more or less the democracy of the elite.

To change this elitism it is necessary to eliminate the law-makers who use their caste, religion or language to come to power. The electorate should elect those who are the best for the job, not because of their affiliation to the same cast or religion. The electorate should read the pages of their past to know if they were involved with corruption, particularly with sex-related scandals.

The step that the Government of Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh has taken by establishing a toll-free hotline is the first and the right step in the right direction. Every child in every family and school should be encouraged to memorize the toll free number, and the steps to take in an emergency. However, for a lasting health of the nation, the electorate should be careful in electing the candidates who are involved with rape-related cases. If somehow they get elected, they should be forced to resign through peaceful public demonstrations, and any available legal way.

Image: Indian activists belonging to various rights organisations hold placards while they stage a demonstration in Bangalore on Dec 21, 2012, condemning the recent gang rape in New Delhi. — Photo by AFP

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