An 8-year-old girl is kidnapped and gang-raped for eight days inside a temple in Kathua, Jammu and Kashmir.
On the eighth day of gruesomeness, the culprits strangle her with her scarf and mutilate her head with a stone before dumping her body on the roadside.
And while Kashmir is watching this charade of barbarity, Unnao is mourning the loss of the father of a rape survivor, also a minor. The father was allegedly beaten to death as the culprits desperately attempted to shut the case down. The CM is quiet on the issue – and the alleged culprit, a Member of the Legislative Assembly, is loitering around with pride as he is the political leader of the ruling party. The rape survivor has no recourse.
One might think there must be a missing law or something that gives the rapists such confidence that they commit rapes without fear.
There does exist the POCSO or The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act. The POCSO Act 2012 was formulated in order to effectively address sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children. Any suspect arrested under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, CANNOT be granted bail. The goal is to keep the suspected paedophile in prison even before the evidence is collected, just to be safe.
Clearly, looking at the rape incidents in Kashmir and Unnao, it does not look like a failure of the law but a failure of the system that enables the law. And recent incidents suggest that the system does not enable the law but the rapists.
Media and TV are all fired up accusing the BJP government of obstructing justice as they are supporting the protests in support of the alleged rapists of Asifa. Despite three of the rapists belonging to the local police department, the DGP of Jammu and Kashmir has acknowledged their crime and is doing their best to do the right thing. However, a bunch of lawyers/goons tried their best to stop the police from filing the chargesheet. The lawyer for Asifa’s family, Deepika Rajawat, has also been threatened with rape, the lawyer who is fighting for a rape victim- how ironic is that!
While Mehbooba Mufti’s claim to introduce a new law to ensure death penalty for those raping minors across the state is a good starting point, what use would the law be if the lawyers of the country are not letting the police even file a chargesheet, let alone begin the investigation of the crime?
The person accused by the Unnao rape-survivor is also a senior leader in the ruling political party. Not only have his people and he (allegedly) gang-raped a girl and murdered her father, they have also issued threats and constantly laughed in the face of law when questioned about the crime.
The Prime Minister of India, Mr Modi, is silent on these pressing matters. So are all the women ministers who hold high positions in this ruling party. Rahul Gandhi was silent for a while but held a vigil last night and publicly shared his remorse and disgust at the event and the way it is being dealt with.
Polarisation and politics have always been there.
In the case of any incident that happens, the opposition party always pounces on the opportunity to say how awful the current government is – and how differently they would have done things had they been the ruling party. Kind of reminds me of my childhood when my mother made my sister responsible for looking after the toys – and if some went missing or were broken, I would tell mother that all the toys would have been intact if she had given me the responsibility.
It’s the same narrative on the news channels over and over – the same ‘your religion is awful’ rhetoric. Sometimes, it is Hindus vs Muslims; at other times, it’s ‘rich against the poor’.
In the system that India has, everything plays a part – your race, your religion, income levels, education, associations to the ruling party, caste, gender and status.
Asifa was a Muslim girl belonging to a nomadic tribe called the Bakarwals, and the majority of the people around their locality were Hindus. It is believed that the rape was committed in order to imbibe fear in the minority community to drive them out of the area. She was denied a funeral and the culprit’s community members threatened further violence if they tried to bury her in the land of her fathers.
In the Nirbhaya rape case too, when a documentary was being made, one of the rapists was asked why he did what he had done. He admitted with pride, “To punish the young woman for being out at night.”
In all sorts of wars, when the men of the defeated army are killed and captured as slaves, women are not only enslaved but also raped brutally. Gender plays a huge role in determining your oppression too.
The thing about rape that our system, our people, our media and our intellectuals still don’t get is that rape is not about sex; it is about power.
And the reason this myth is so prominent is because it allows for victim blaming. It allows the rapist (the dominant) to transfer the blame to the victim and get away with it.
Our system has enabled these criminals by allowing this myth to prevail. In the Nirbhaya case, the victim was blamed for being out in the night with a male friend. But in the Asifa case, there is no such ‘blame’ that could possibly justify what happened to her (not that it did in the Nirbhaya case either). Hence the desperate attempts to obstruct justice by the ones accused.
What is a system if not the culmination of the law, the judiciary, the police and the masses?
Is either of these playing their part fairly?
Only last month, Karnataka’s former Director General of Police made a comment about Nirbhaya’s mother that will probably be the greatest facepalm moment in the history of the Karnataka police. He said that if the mother of the rape victim looks so ‘fit and smart’, for certain, the daughter would be attractive too. Later, he issued another statement to justify the prior one:
“I’m sorry that my statements have been twisted. I meant that Nirbhaya’s (name by which the 2012 Delhi gang-rape victim is known) mother looks very smart and good in her physique. Her daughter, Nirbhaya, must have also been a beautiful girl. I think that beautiful people need protection so they don’t become victims in the future,” Sangliana told the media.
This apology is like ‘sorry I killed and ate your pet cat, but it was only because she looked healthy and meaty’.
These are the words of the DGP of an entire state. A DGP who thinks that beauty attracts rapists.
Let that sink in. The highest authority that can be in the police force of an entire state thinks that his words are a compliment to a mother whose daughter’s intestines were yanked out of her body with an iron rod, while her murderers are still alive.
Imagine how many decisions this man with this mentality would have made in his entire tenure in the Indian police force! This is the problem with our system – it has people like these in senior positions.
Another MLA said, “It is impossible to rape a mother of 3 children,” while defending the accused in the Unnao rape case. Forget about the concept of consent, I don’t think he even knows the difference between rape and intercourse.
The phrase ‘beti bachao’ itself is part of the problematic system.
It implies that unless someone is not your ‘beti’ or daughter, you don’t care about her. It is the old patriarchal tactic of keeping women subjugated. It is also indicative of the attitude towards ‘saving’ women; an attitude with the idea that women are weak and need saving.
Why isn’t the phrase ‘beta sudharo’? Because if the men of the nation stop committing violence against women, the so-called ‘beti’ of the nation wouldn’t need saving, right?
So why does the system focus on this superficial ‘saving’ of the beti? Why not fight the root cause of the problem right where it begins?
They won’t, because it is easier to trap and subjugate women than to punish the rapists and teach them a lesson. Whichever government, whatever the religion and caste and background of the rapist, it is a system that enables oppression of women – the common denominator/victim of every crime. This is India after Asifa, an 8-year-old whose only crime was to be born a Muslim and a female.
If you are a survivor, parent or guardian who wants to seek help for child sexual abuse, or know someone who might, you can dial 1098 for CHILDLINE (a 24-hour national helpline) or email them at email@example.com. You can also call NGO Arpan on their helpline 091-98190-86444, for counselling support.