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Why a strict anti-rape law won’t suffice??

Post gruesome gang-rape and murder in Delhi last December, there has been a wide outcry to formulate stringent anti-rape laws. Various organizations/individuals have demanded for exemplary punishment to the perpetrators. India has an average rape conviction rate of 26%, which is close to a quarter. Apparently, we need to ramp up our judiciary. At present, the problem with judiciary is that rich and powerful don’t fear it and poor and powerless can’t trust it.

While judiciary has agreed to fast track the Delhi gang rape case, it lacks the claws to punish the main accused as he is a juvenile. If a minor can commit such a crime, he is culpable enough to face trial as any adult criminal. Reduction of juvenile age form 18years to 16years is being debated; legislation to this effect might be formulated in coming parliament session. Immunity given to juvenile needs to be revoked with immediate effect. Making an exception in juvenile laws in rape cases is the need of the hour lest we make juvenile offenders omnipotent and hand out license to commit rape and molestation. Judiciary has passed on the baton to the legislature to legislate stringent laws and plug in the loop holes. Subsequently an ordinance to hand out capital punishment in rape cases has already been accepted by the Union Cabinet. Many of us believe that capital punishment has not been deterrent enough, hence chemical castration has been proposed as the right punitive measure for such inhumane crimes.

It’s high time now that we have deterrent laws in place and above all ensure that such laws are implemented.
Wait!!! Will it suffice??
Will strict antirape law serve our purpose? Unfortunately the solution is not that simple. As per UN rapes statistics, in 2010, 22172 rapes were reported in India as compared to 84,767 rape cases in United States of America. Given the fact the population of India is 1,241,491,960 which is approximately four times of US population, India doesn’t appear to be the ‘country of rapists’ as has been projected media in recent times. But is the picture really that rosy? Answer to it is a big NO.

Research reports from Jagori states that while almost one-half (45 percent) of women in Delhi say they have been stalked by men in public, only a scant 0.8 percent of these women even bothered to report such harassment to the police. Almost three-fifths (58 percent) of women who have been so abused said they didn’t even consider notifying police because they felt the cops wouldn’t do anything or would blame the women themselves. Whether the other two-fifth who considered reporting the case to police, could actually accomplish this mission is in itself a matter of research. As per these stats, it is safe to assume that optimistically 20% of rape cases are reported. Quarter to this, i.e., 5% are convicted. Hence all the public outcry, judiciary ramp up, legislature’s agility are catering to minority of cases and hence is more of an eyewash than a real antidote to rape cases.

We don’t need a quantitative improvement in judiciary and administration, rather we need qualitative facelift. We don’t need new laws; we need proper implementation of existing laws. We may increase the number of Police PCR vans at night to ensure safety to women, but the crux to the problem is, if I am in trouble, will I feel safe to approach Police at night? Probably not!! This trust issue has to be addressed first. Why a majority of rape cases are not reported? We as society and police administration are solely responsible for this. We see rape as social stigma and isolate the victim. We harass the victim and not the culprit. Same is true for police. Police is not sensitive to crimes against women; rather they are utterly insensitive to such crimes. Last December, a gang-rape victim in U.P was allegedly raped by the inspector in charge of the police station where she had lodged her complaint. This is not an isolated event, even the justice Verma  committee formed post Delhi gangrape has reported a gang-rape by Delhi Police which was witnessed by four trafficked children. Report states that these kids saw the girl being forcibly dragged inside the PCR van that was driven inside a jungle.This also explains why a majority of cases are not reported. To ensure safety to women; we must ensure that victims feel safe to approach police.

Society has to change its outlook. Massive outcry post Delhi gang-rape reflected that we are still sensitive or are courteous enough to appear sensitive. But just a night before, the gang-rape victim Damini and her friend were abandoned by the road side: naked, injured and raped. Victim yearned for help by the busy roadside for almost an hour but no one stopped-by to help. Police PCR vans that arrived, took another half an hour to decide upon in whose jurisdiction this incident actually occurred. Adding insult to injury, none of them lifted the victim to the van lest their clothes are blood stained. While we were insensitive the other night, the very next day we were all in the streets demanding justice. Those who just passed by were now busy pretending that they cared. The police also claimed they were sensitive and agile. But the true faces of society and the police were exposed. What followed was just a cover up.

Our indifference to help the victim can partially be attributed to our obsolete criminal laws. We fear that if we help the victim, we will be forced to be a witness in the case and subsequently harassed and grilled by the snail paced judiciary. The person volunteering to help a victim should not be forced to become witness in the case. Moreover, witness should not be harassed but appreciated for helping the judiciary.

So, to curb ‘crime against women’ we need to look at the bigger picture. Politicians, legislators, administrators and society- everyone has to do their bit. Legislators and administrators should show greater will to sharpen the claws of judiciary. Judiciary should ensure that laws formulated are implemented and justice is neither delayed nor denied. Police should be made more sensitive to crimes against women. We as society should shun apathy and embrace empathy, only then can a strict anti-rape law serve any purpose, else we will continue to be the land of rapists!!!

About the Author:

An omnivorous reader, an experimental writer, an impulsive activist, founding member of WakeIndiaNow(or WIN as we call it), a wannabe entrepreneur, an engineer(I have a degree to prove it :P), a tech enthusiast and above all an Indian.

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