By Arpita Raj and Indu Pandey:
This December is the same as the December of 2012, the same bone-chilling winter, the same night and somewhat the same status of women. Today also women continue to be brutally raped not just physically but also mentally and socially. At present, how many of us know about the laws made exclusively for women? It’s essential that we stop ignoring all the things that happen around us.
On December 16, 2013, a 23-year-old physiotherapy student was brutally gang-raped, beaten, tortured in a private bus in Delhi. To prevent identification, the media called her ‘Nirbhaya’ (fearless), but later on, her parents decided to declare her name – Jyoti Singh Pandey. Her friend, Awindra Pratap Pandey was with her at the time of the crime. He was badly beaten and thrown out of the bus by the perpetrators.
There was a total of six men accused of committing the heinous crime. They were all arrested and charged with murder and sexual assault. One of the convicts, Ram Singh, died in the trial period and the others (Mukesh Singh, Vinay Sharma, Pawan Gupta and Akshay Thakur), were awarded the death sentence by a trial court in September 2013, and six months later, the high court upheld the sentence. All four approached the Supreme Court, which stayed their execution in 2014. The juvenile defendant, Md. Afroz was released on December 20, 2015. Pandey’s parents are still struggling and regularly attending court proceedings to get justice.
Both, nationally and internationally, the incident was widely covered, it sparked an outrage among the masses and was condemned by people across the country. There were protests, marches, and rallies in Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh demanding the strengthening of women’s security and justice for the victim. In Paris, a march was held outside the Indian Embassy and a petition that demanded adequate actions to be taken to make India safer for women was handed over.
India’s Daughter, a documentary based on the December 16 gangrape was directed by Leslee Udwin as a part of BBC’s ongoing Storyville series and broadcasted in the UK on March 4, 2015. Another major work on the same incident was Indian – Canadian filmmaker Deepa Mehta’s film, “Anatomy of Violence” (2016).
The Nirbhaya Trust was made to help women who have experienced violence, find legal assistance. The Government of India has set up the Nirbhaya Fund to address violence against women, and the fund is governed by Department of Economic Affairs of the Finance Ministry. However, as of March 2015, very little has been spent on women’s safety.
The protests in December 2012 resulted in the setting up of a judicial committee that had to amend laws and ensure that investigations and prosecution of sex offenders happen faster. The committee was asked to take suggestions from the public. The root cause of crimes against women, the committee concluded, was failure on the part of the police and the government. A few amendments made in the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 has included offences like acid attack, stalking, sexual harassment and voyeurism.
The measures taken by the government after the December 2012 incident included the installation of GPS devices on all public buses; appointment of female police officers; the number of PCR vans have increased; introducing home guards in DTC buses; installation of CCTV cameras etc. These measures, so far, have not been implemented well.
Result so far:
On August 30, 2016, the Minister of Home Affairs, Rajnath Singh released the annual report of ‘Crime in India 2015’ which indicates a 3.1% decrease in crimes against women (from 3,37,922 cases in 2014 to 3,27,394 cases in 2015).
As per the National Crime Records Bureau, a total of 34, 651 cases of rape were reported in India in 2015. In 33,098 of those cases, the offenders were known to the victim. Out of all the states, maximum cases (4,391) of rape were reported in Madhya Pradesh. Among union territories, the highest number of rape cases (2,199) were reported in Delhi.
Many cases go unreported to protect the family’s ‘dignity’, protect the survivor’s reputation, etc. In Kerala, a total of 910 cases of rape were reported in the first six months of 2016. The number of rape cases reported in the previous year was 1263.
The question is, how many of us are aware of the laws that exist to protect us from sexual offences and physical torture that are mostly of a gendered nature. We are not so confident about our rights because of our ignorance. I spoke to a few female, as well as, male students who were 20-22 year-olds. I had asked them about the December 2012 incident and wanted to know if anything had changed with respect to how they made sense of the world around them, post the incident. Shikha Yadav, a 22-year-old said that she had no knowledge of the amendments that were made to the existing laws (the ones mentioned earlier in the article). Sonali Srivastava, another student, said that her parents would advise her to not go out at night. According to Mayank Bharadwaj, an engineering student, women should be equipped enough to protect themselves. He was of the opinion that the government should morally educate people and also appoint more number of judges to take care of the increasing number of cases. Another student, Arun, was aware about certain law. He thinks severe punishment should be awarded only after the convict is proven guilty. He was concerned about women who falsely accuse men of rape to settle personal grudges. Both Mayank and Arun agreed to the fact that there were no laws or adequate checks against false rape accusations and this needed to be checked. All the respondents had a deep sense of fear and a lot of anger and emotions in their minds.