Rapes in India and social justice for women


rape in India

India has gained widespread attention around the globe as the ‘rape capital of the world’ after the horrific gang rape in Delhi and the recent rape and murder of two sisters in Utter Pradesh. Rape is not an isolated phenomenon that occurs only in India, but the level of abuse towards women in India will surprise anyone. The media attention that followed the Delhi Gang rape seemed to have enlightened the sleeping politicians of Delhi for some time, but as usual nothing happened there after.

The ethos of an ancient social system that considered and treated women as Goddess is no more a part of Indian psyche. The complex system of caste and class that defined and redefined the status of women in the social environment has done grave injustice towards the fairer sex. The greatest Hindu epics of all time, Ramayana and Mahabharata, even planted the seeds for the creation of an inferior gender class. Modern psychology has found its reasons for women being raped by analysing human mind, but that won’t comfort the victims who were denied their  dignity.

In India a new rape case is reported every 20 minutes and the conviction rate for rape is around 24%. Though the statistics are nasty, the truth is that, 90% of the rapes are not reported in India, which will take the actual figure to something we will find difficult to contemplate. Conviction is a distant dream for many victims as many factors get to play in the saga. A country like India where the executive and judiciary are equally corrupt, the word justice, is defined by your influence and ability to bribe the officials.

What makes India, the rape capital of the world?

India’s social system is the biggest culprit behind the mistreatment of women. This is exacerbated by the corrupt elements that fail to protect the weaker sections of the society. There are many dimensions to rape cases that caught the world attention recently. We will have a deeper look into two of the recent cases.

Badaun gangrape and murder

Two cousins from the Dalit Maurya community were kidnapped, gang raped and hanged from a tree in Katra Sadatganj, a small village in Uttar Pradesh. This triggered a massive outrage in India and around the world.  In detail this is what happened in Badaun.

The family found the girls missing and suspected a possible kidnapping by the upper-class people.

The family report to the police station. But the police refused to file a complaint as the complainants are Dalits and some elements in that Police Station have connections with the perpetrators.

The Police tell the family that they found the girls hanging in a Mango tree nearby, again refusing the file a case writing it off as a suicide.

Villagers gather at the spot and allege that the girls were first gang raped and then hanged from the tree. The also allege involvement of one police constables and four others in the incident.

Angry over police apathy in registering the FIR, the villagers protest by blocking traffic with dead bodies on Ushait-Lilawan Road and also demand suspension of all the policemen posted in Ushait Police station. They demand a visit by the state Chief Minister.

By then the media took over the matter thanks to the social media which in effect has transferred the power to the people. Now the Government and the local administration have to act.

Such incidents are common occurrence in India and if it has not caught the media attention, this gruesome rape and murder would have been written off as suicide. If the family dared complain again, they also would have been wiped off from the planet earth.

Now looking into the reasons behind this murder and rape, we have to consider many factors, which include the lower status of woman in society, the lower status of the community these girls are from and the highly corrupt system of administration.

The Dalits or the lower cast Indians numbers around 300 Million. The prevalent cast system in India has resulted in the mistreatment of dalits over many centuries. The statistics says that at least two dalits are murdered and have their homes tortured every hour in India. The common crimes committed against Dalits include, parading them naked through the streets, abusing the women and children, evicting them from their land, forcing them to eat faeces, and burning down their homes.

Government policies have improved the situation of Dalits considerably. But still their social and economic backwardness are haunting and preventing them from claiming their rightful place in the society. Instead of waiting for the Government handouts, it is time the dalits unite and make a movement that will forcefully correct the social injustice done to them. Wherever militant attitude is required to be shown, it has to be shown. Sixty seven years after the Independence, if Dalit’s are still in this pathetic situation, it is time they jettison their trust in the laws of the land and take the law in their hands.

A very good example in this regard is Kerala, the southernmost state of India. This is the same place which Swami Vivekananda once called, a lunatic asylum.  Vivekanda said: ‘Was there ever a sillier thing before in the world than what I saw in Malabar? The poor ‘Paraiah (he meant backward class people)’ is not allowed to pass through the same street as the high caste man, but if he changes his name to hodge-podge English name or to a Mohamedan name, it is alright. What inference would you draw except that these Malabaris are all lunatics, their homes so many lunatic asylums and they are to be treated with derision by every race in India until they mend their manners and know better.  Shame upon them that such wicked and diabolical customs are allowed.’

A hundred years later, Kerala is a shining example for social justice. It will be interesting to know, how they achieved it. The difference between Kerala and the rest of India is the awareness of its people about their rights. In Kerala every section of the society is organised in some way or the other and they never spare a chance to fight for their rights.  The strength of Communist party in the state is one good example for this.  The people of Kerala also extend their thanks to the Naxalite movement once gripped the state. The naxalite movement in Kerala was inspired from the uprising of Naxalbari village of West Bengal in the late 60’s.  The naxal movement that eliminated land lords that ill-treated the kudians (Those who work in the fields for low wages) of the land, was ushering Kerala to an era of new hopes and light. A light that will transform Kerala forever and the future generations will reap the benefits. The fear factor that generated by the naxal movement was creating a new social order of equality in Kerala. Keralites were fully aware that if they don’t fight for themselves, no one else will.  The work undertaken by Christian missionaries in Kerala are also worth mentioning.

The north India is ripe for such a revolution.  The Maoist movement gaining strength in the North East has born out of necessity rather than financial and moral support from China. The future generations will only blame the inefficient and corrupt administrative system for all its social ills.

It is important for every under privileged sections of society in India to organise and empower themselves to fight for their rights.  If the situation demands, they may have to take arms to assert their rightful place. If the Government is not in a position to protect them, what else can they do?  India as the world hails is not a shining example of democracy, but a lost case and a failed state.

To address the issue of the lower status of woman in the society, apart from introducing stricter laws for crimes against women, policies directed at empowering women to achieve greater financial and educational milestones are required. There are many Government projects and policies in place to provide education and employment to the fairer sex in India. But the prevailing situation once again proves that those measures have not succeeded as planned and more needs to be done.

Nirbhaya Gang rape case in Delhi

The Incident

On 16th December 2012, a 23 year old psychotherapy intern was standing at the bus stop with a male friend, a software engineer. A chartered bus pulled over and a man on the bus told the girl that the bus was headed towards her destination. The couple boarded the bus and the time was around 9:30pm. The bus was taking different route than the intended one and the two passengers got suspicious. Soon after, the six men in the bus started taunting the two on how they were out together at night. This led to a scuffle between the boy and the rest. This is when two of the accused took her to the back of the bus even as her friend was hit on his head by Ram Singh, the main accused and the driver of the bus. While he fell unconscious, the 33-year-old bus driver went to the back of the bus and first raped the girl. She told the cops that the accused were threatening to throw her off the bus while she was being subjected to the torture. The nightmare lasted for around 30 minutes which left both the boy and the girl unconscious. Finding both the young woman and her friend unconscious, threw them out of the bus at Mahipalpur on the outskirts of Delhi, after taking off their clothes and belongings.( A times of India Report) .She died in hospital on 29 December.

The six accused were back to work as usual the next day as if nothing has happened the day before. In this case, it is obvious that the culprits were not worried about the consequences of raping a girl. Usually rapes are not reported in India for the fear of losing dignity and statistics suggest conviction happens in only 24% of the reported cases. Cultural stigmas, police apathy and judicial incompetence have long made it difficult for women to report rapes. It is not the lack of laws to address the issue, but the inefficiency of the law enforcement, the issue here. The general public has lost their trust in law enforcement agencies. In many cases it is been reported that, the victims were abused by the law enforcement officials after reporting a rape case. The situation gets even worse if an influential person is the accused.

Leaving the legal side of it and moving to the social changes in India that contributed to an increase in rape cases, many different issues surface. Some of the best known reasons put forward by experts in this field are as follows.

  1. Patriarchal traditions lead men to use rape as a tool to instil fear in women. Even though India is changing this mindset is not changing.
  2. The rapid growth of India’s cities and the yawning gulf between rich and poor are exacerbating the problem of sexual violence, with young men struggling to prove their traditional dominance in a changing world.
  3. India is at a cultural transition point. The cities are in the grip of western culture while the villages hang on to traditional values. The greater societal freedom that is availed to the new generation has resulted in dating instead of the conventional arranged marriage and also has removed many barriers of interaction between males and females. This has removed many earlier societal controls against rape.  Old values and new freedom has created a mismatch of perceptions in young
  4. Five or six decades back boys and girls used to get married at a very early age and this has addressed the sexual urge of the young. The situation has changed considerably in recent years many postponing marriage to the mid-thirties and not many avenues available to satisfy their sexual urge, many resorting to make good an opportunity.
  5. Human psychology and instincts for survival plays a big part too. Human rape appears not as an aberration but as an alternative gene-promotion strategy that is most likely to be adopted by the ‘losers’ in the competitive, harem-building struggle. If the means of access to legitimate, consenting sex is not available, then a male may be faced with the choice between force or genetic extinction. . “In short, a man can have many children, with little inconvenience to himself; a woman can have only a few, and with great effort.” Females therefore tend to be more choosy with partners. Rape is seen as one potential strategy for males for achieving reproductive success. They point to several other factors indicating that rape may be a reproductive strategy. (courtesy: Wikipedia)
  6. Psychopathic rapists are another point of concern.  People who are more aroused from rape than consensual sex and another case is opportunistic rapists who switch between forced and consensual sex depending on circumstances. These two types of rapists need to be isolated from society for the rest of their lives, if they are convicted once.

The change in average age of marriage from early twenties to the mid-thirties and lack of avenues for healthy interaction between the sexes are the major reasons for increased incidents of rape in India.  One typical example can be derived from the situation that exists in two states in India. Kerala comes back to picture again. It is almost impossible for a female to travel in public transport in Kerala without being molested. It is equally impossible for women to travel alone after 8’0’ clock at night in Kerala. Kerala is the most unsafe place for women in India. In Kerala, woman walk in public places with a sense of fear for being groped, eve teased and subjected to lecherous stare and obscene comments. The woman doesn’t feel safe in the streets in Kerala. A recent survey showed that 73%of women feel unsafe in Kerala. .  It is blamed on the highly conservative nature of Kerala society, where healthy interaction between male and female are nearly prohibited.  At the same time 73% of woman surveyed in Gujarat felt safe to walk in the streets alone. The liberal nature of Gujarati‘s in nurturing healthy interaction between girls and boys and comparatively lower age of marriage pointed out as the main reason for the standout result.

Human Trafficking in India

The most heinous crime committed against girls in India is the business of trafficking minor girls and selling them as domestic slaves and prostitutes. Girls as young as 7, are kidnapped from their homes to work as prostitutes in brothels across India. India is a source, destination and transit country for child trafficking. What worse fate one can expect other than being taken away from their homes at the age of 7, locked up and made to work as prostitutes for the rest of their life. It is a tragedy with no parallels. Children from poor rural communities are lured with the promise of a better life in the city or kidnapped from their homes or sold by friends and relatives to middle men who later sell them to brothels.

As the Police and other Government agencies aid and abet the criminals, the innocence of millions of children across India are lost to these criminal profiteers. Many NGO’s are working to put an end to the situation with minimal success. Before concluding this article, I would like to add a few words about one shining light,  Anuradha Koirala of Nepal.

Wikipedia entry for Anuradha Koirala

Anuradha Koirala is a social activist and the founder and director of Maiti Nepal – a non-profit organization in Nepal, dedicated to helping victims of sex trafficking.

Currently, Maiti Nepal operates a rehabilitation home in Kathmandu, as well as transit homes at the Indo-Nepal border towns, preventive homes in the countryside, and an academy in Kathmandu. As the name suggests, Maiti Nepal (“maiti” meaning “mother’s home” in Nepali) has been a refuge for women rescued from the brothels in India. The women can stay in the homes run by Maiti Nepal until they are able to return to their homes or if not accepted by their parents they may stay until they become able to live on their own.

Maiti Nepal also works on reuniting the rescued women with their families, patrolling Indo-Nepal border with police and other law enforcement authorities and also rescuing trafficked women from the brothels in India with the help of Indian authorities


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