Every time she walked the empty streets; she turned occasionally to see is some one was stalking her, if anyone was following her. Not until she reached the safety of her house, did her breath become normal. This is how most women walk the streets, praying that they reach home safely, without getting eve-teased or stalked. Even at home she can’t feel 100% safe; that’s the situation today.
India is a country which preaches about how to respect woman as mother and sister. In ancient India, women were revered and respected. But today India remains one of the countries with the highest number of molestation and rape cases. Statistics report a staggering 20000 cases of rape and harassment of women in 2008.
There have been cases of molestation of girl children as young as six months to women over sixty years. Statistics show that on an average a woman is raped every hour in India. Only one in 69 rape cases are reported and out of it only 20% of those reported result in convictions for the rape accused. Rapes happen across the social strata in India. Nobody is spared, neither the rich nor the poor. Many at times these cases are hushed up in the name of family honour or out of fear of the perpetuator, who often happens to be of high position and influence, or in many cases, an acquaintance. Also there is the stigma attached to it and the ostracization of the victim from the society for no fault of hers.
How much ever we might talk of women empowerment and gender equality our society still remains largely gender-inequal. In case of a dispute or a fight or a legal battle it is always the women who are silenced and asked to surrender. Even when she is the victim the society points its finger at her and screams – it is because of you and your ways that you landed with this fate. Women who venture out alone or do something out of the box are looked at with suspicious eyes. The victim of sexual harassment is often silenced by her own family members out of fear and shame and the victim is denied justice.
Even if a complaint is filed, the accused is often let free or released with minimal punishment. The trial lasts for decades and many at the times the victim and the family would like to get over with the tragedy and are forced to drop the charges. It is a sad fact the even the media-hyped molestation cases like those of Ruchika Girhotra and Priyadarshini Matttoo cases have taken such long time to deliver the verdicts. While the accused roam free with head held high, it is the victim who has bear the brunt of the society and feel ashamed. It is the victim who is the loser, sometimes even in front of the judicial system. Why is the victim further is victimized and tortured mentally when the bloody accused walks free and enjoys life?
In addition to it, there are also the honour killings of female family members if they marry out of caste or fall in love with a person of a different religion or caste. The number of dowry related harassment of women is also high in India. This ill — treatment meted out to women is encouraged due to the fact that the chances of getting away with this crime are high and that women can be taunted and easily silenced up.
Strict and swift punishment of such crimes and proper awareness and change of attitude of the society can only help prevent the rising number of crimes against women in Indian society. Only when we have a crime — free society can we say that we have achieved gender equality and women empowerment and this only can lead to development and prosperity for women are the ones who rock the cradle and rule the world.
The writer is a correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz.