At the periphery of safety, when will women in India walk freely?
Despite women’s increased visibility in public spaces, better education and work opportunities, and changing social attitudes, women continue to experience physical and emotional violence, both within their homes and outside. Women across the land are facing and surviving violence, it is in the lower class, middle class and working class also in the rural areas as well as the urban areas. Every society, when confronted with conscience-jolting and abhorrent acts of depravity, reacts with acrimonious anger and abhorrence.
The cry for tougher laws to deter crimes against women has all gone in vain from the law-and-order side. The lawmakers do not even bother to discuss basic women-friendly safety protocols to deter opportunistic crime such as proper lighting in public spaces, reliable public transport and protection from the police officials during odd hours at night. The lawmakers are trusted with the safety of the women and the atrocities against them keeping aside all the rooted social and cultural dimensions but have failed to do so in numerous ways. The prevalent blindness towards gender inequality already has many tragic consequences and will continue to do so.
Recently, the Supreme Court stays Bombay HC order on ‘skin-to-skin’ contact for sexual assault under the POCSO Act. Immense criticism and controversies were evoked on the judgment of the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court, which held that groping without ‘skin-to-skin’ contact does not amount to “sexual assault” under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.
In this case, the perpetrator 39-year-old man in Nagpur had lured the minor to his home under the pretext of offering her fruit and pressed the 12-year-old victim’s breast and attempted to remove her salwar, at which point the child screamed and was swiftly rescued by her mother. The accused was convicted by the trial court under Section 8 of the POCSO Act, with IPC Sections 354 (sexual assault and criminal force to outrage the modesty of a woman), 363 (kidnapping), and 342 (wrongful confinement). However, the High Court says since he groped her without removing her clothes, the offence cannot be termed as sexual assault. The sessions court had sentenced him to three years of imprisonment for the offences under the POCSO Act and IPC section 354. The sentences were to run concurrently but the High Court acquitted him under the POCSO Act while upholding his conviction under IPC section 354 therefore, he got only a year of imprisonment and was fined with Rs.500.
Such kind of controversial judgement by the lawmakers of the country has sent massive wavelengths of hatred and anger across the country. While many leaders and people have been working consistently for the women empowerment the lawmakers of the country have been failing constantly in issues regarding women and their safety. Recently in Uttar Pradesh rape case, the member of the National Commission for Women (NCW) Chandramukhi Devi made a very controversial comment that the rape culture can be put to an end if the females “Don’t step out”.
The 42-year-old Uttar Pradesh Anganwadi worker was gang-raped allegedly by mahant Baba Satya Narayan, his driver Jaspal Singh and disciple Ved Ram when she had gone to the temple around 6 p.m. She was brutally raped then murdered, her leg fractured and a hard object, probably an iron rod was inserted into her private parts. She was later dumped at her house around 11 pm and the trio claimed that she had fallen into a dry well.
According to the victim’s family when the women did not return home for 3 hours, they approached the Ughaiti police station to file a complaint however, their pleas were unheard. The station in-charge refused to listen to them and said that he would take the matter the next day. The FIR was only registered 2 days later and only after the post mortem report was out. The post mortem report revealed that the women had sustained multiple injuries and several severe injuries in her private parts. The autopsy report also disclosed that the private parts were brutalized.
Senior Superintendent of Police Sankalp Sharma the disciplinary action has been taken against the policemen of Ughaiti police station for negligence. The two accomplices have been arrested but the priest is still on the run.
Member of National Commission for Women (NCW), Chandramukhi Devi went to meet the victim’s family in Badaun and later on, while speaking with the reporters she said that the gangrape and murder could have been avoided had the victim not ventured out late in the evening or had been accompanied by a family member. Also adding that women should keep track of time and should not step out of the house late.
“Rape culture” is described as a sociological concept for a setting in which rape is pervasive and normalized due to societal attitudes about gender and equality. Rape culture includes behaviours like victim-blaming, slut-shaming, sexual objectification and refusing to acknowledge the harm caused by sexual violence. Whenever a rape happens the media does a full cover story and all the influencers and politicians will always have lots of things to say about the culture and if the rape victim happens to be a child, they will do a candle march. After a while without even the justice served the news usually dies and people continue with their lives, well this is the sad truth of our nation. When the NCW member herself is saying openly in media that women should not step out to avoid rape then the sad news is that the women will never be safe in this nation.
What have our leaders done for the safety of women in Sikkim? What more can be done to avoid such brutal events? How important it is for sex education to introduced in the school education system?
The number of rape cases in the past and then the question arises about how many of them have been reported and how many have of them have been silenced because of the fear. The number of cases recorded is for sure lower than the cases happening mainly due to the social fear and victim-blaming culture. Why is there no campaign or self-defence classes for women in Sikkim? When will the leaders take such important actions seriously, maybe they are waiting for such a scenario to happen in Sikkim for them to take proper actions towards women safety? How long does it take for an FIR to lodge and how long does it take action is also a very important question that the officials should explain the public? How long does it truly take for justice to be served? The officials for Women’s Commission of Sikkim have denied answering such basic queries regarding the safety of women and why did they do so? Is it because they are pressured from the leaders or is it just pure negligence towards the women of our state? How will such brutality towards women end? When will be women be safe?
By Sangay Palmu Bhutia