Sunday, 13 November 2011

Shamed and Scarred... The story of Rape cases in India

The Times of India last Sunday came up with a Special Report harping on a dangerous statistic. There has been an increase of 792% of rape cases in the last two decades. I,as usual, did my bit of research on the subject and the results were horrifying. According to the official statistics,in every 22 minutes, one woman in India suffers sexual harassment, either in the form of rape or molestation.

The definition of Rape is given in The Indian Penal Code, 1860. As per Section 375 of IPC, a man is said to have committed the offence of rape with a woman, under the following circumstances:

1) Sexual intercourse without the victims' will or consent

2) With her consent, when her consent has been achieved by putting her under dire threat of life or any other person's life at threat, whom the victim deems as important.

3) With her consent, when the man knows he is not her husband.

4) With her consent, when she, at the time of giving her consent was suffering from intoxication, induced or otherwise, was suffering from the unsoundness of mind and was not in a position to understand the implications or consequences of her consent.

5) With or without her consent, when she is under sixteen years of age.

For a sexual act done in the above circumstances, penetration is taken as sufficient enough to constitute an act of rape.

In most of the rape cases in India, the alleged culprits have been known to the victim as someone from the family or as distant relatives. Additional DCP and Delhi Police spokesperson, Rajan Bhagat is inclined to blame social factors more for the rise in sexual violence such as the culture of anonymity in Delhi, women being raped on the pretext of marriage and the fact that a high percentage (97% approx.) of rapists being known to the victims.

Also there has been a shift in the socio-economic status of both the rapists and their victims. Earlier, where, most of the cases would be from rural heartlands of India, where illiteracy, patriarchal families, dis empowerment of women etc played a major role, victims and culprits, in the past two decades have been hailing from urban middle class, literate backgrounds. This is an even greater cause for concern, as these men know and are fully aware of rape as an offence and its legal as well social consequences.

Experts in the field of women studies point out a glaring fact. Even countries which are way down compared to the GDP growth rates from India, treat their women better than India. Female literacy in India is at 74% compared to 96% of Iran 99% in Sri Lanka, 100% in Libya, 93% in Tunisia and 93% in Kenya. 33% of women are economically active in India as compared to 59% in Bangladesh and 61% in Sub Saharan Africa.

So what does it say about a nation that's well on the path of being an "economic Superpower", a nation which is trying for a permanent seat at the UN, a nation that could well take over China as the next military "Super power"...does India's development elude its women? Many countries which may be economically more depressed than India, may also be less aggressive towards their women. Within the nation itself, more developed regions such as Punjab are also more violent towards women.Data on women and girls released by Washington based Population Reference Bureau, earlier this year, shows that 47% of Indian women between the ages 20-24 were married by the time they were 18 years of age, a figure far higher than the average for Sub-Saharan Africa.

According to Vibhuti Patel, Prof. at Mumbai's SNDT Women's University, in Africa, starvation levels are same for both men and women, while in India there tends to be a hierarchy of food distribution within families, with men and boys being fed more nutritious food, and women being fed the last and the least.

Most of the experts believe that India doesn't lack in policy or legislation for women but in implementation. For instance, despite having an inheritance law, women are often forced not to exert their rights.. in a startling revelation, the National Family Health Survey III, found that over 40% of the 1.25 lakh women surveyed in 28 state and the capital said, they had experienced domestic violence. More shockingly, 54% of the women - and 51% of the men felt it was justified.

Unfortunately the problem with India, is these reports gets written and published, with a few like me, taking to probe a little further. But again tomorrow comes, and they stop being on our consciousness, they just become stats, millions keep suffering day in and day out. Wish more women and men share and read this. Unless this keeps banging on our consciousness, we are equally guilty as the rapists. We keep raping our consciousness.