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Why We Need To Stop The ‘Hang The Rapist’ Rhetoric

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I was a school going child when the brutal Nirbhaya rape case happened in Delhi. From TV debates to the discussion at home, I have always heard everyone saying “hang the rapist”.

The ones who raped the woman were not rich brats, neither do they belonged to the family of politicians and hence, they were finally hanged after the multiple attempts by the defence lawyer to save them.

The government on its part too passed a bill in the parliament toughening the laws against sexual harassment, rape, eve-teasing etc., it was indeed an appreciable step but not enough.

8 years later, now I am a postgraduate student of JNU, and in Hathras, a 20-year-old woman has allegedly been gang-raped by four men and there are even reports of her tongue being cut off.

Stopping such incidents of rape needs two sets of reforms; in the first category comes political and administrative reforms and in the second category comes the social reforms. Representational image

In 2012, it was BJP that was on the streets of Delhi and now it is Congress who is flooding the village with its supporters. But two things have remained the same; firstly, women are still being raped and brutally murdered every day. Secondly, the curious set of creatures who sing only one type of tune every time such cases comes into the media light, and the song is “hang the rapist, hang the rapist”.

Today, we will talk about this wonderful set of creatures and why they need to be told that “you are nothing more than privileged and even more than that, an ignorant human being, who either needs to shut up or be a part of a long struggle, rather than just give sweeping statements and then continuing to watch your daily soaps or news channels.”

Stopping such incidents of rape needs two sets of reforms; in the first category comes political and administrative reforms and in the second category comes the social reforms. Both these two sets of reforms affect each other and need a long struggle to be introduced and implemented. Let us talk about each of those reforms in some detail.

The administrative reforms that India needs to curb rape incidents or any other criminal activity include primary police and judicial reforms. Coming to the police reforms, after independence, the leaders of our nation wanted police to be accountable to the elected members so that they won’t turn autocratic in character.

But, the end result was increasing political interference in the working of Indian police, the career of honest officers were destroyed and the corrupt ones promoted to the top.

In the year 1996, the former DGP of Uttar Pradesh, Prakash Singh filed a PIL in Supreme Court asking the court to simply implement the police reforms according to the recommendation of National Police Commission of 1979, the Supreme court in its 2006 judgment (Prakash Singh vs Union of India) came out with a list of police reforms and most of them remain unimplemented in all states, either ruled by our dear Yogiji or by Pinarayi Vijayan.

Thus, police are still under the malicious control of politicians and various actions of our brave Delhi and UP police in recent days are evident to this.

What About Judicial Reforms?

Coming to the judicial reforms, the judiciary of India is overloaded and understaffed. According to some figures, there are about 414 vacancies of judges in the high court and for the district courts, the numbers go as high as 5000 or even more.

Thus bringing us the problem of long litigation and the curious case of undertrial people, interestingly, some of the suspects end up in jail for several years in just simple cases like theft waiting for their case to be heard in courts. The courts especially at district level lack proper infrastructure and the management practices are non-existent.

In the case of social reforms, in most of the places, Indians are still living in medieval dark ages. We don’t need to mention here the enlightened opinion of many citizens of this country, who still think on the cases of rape that “taali ek hath se nahi bajti” (you can’t clap with one hand), and it is not only amongst illiterate people, our so-called educated folks are not far behind in this.

One close friend of mine was shamed by her mother for trying to pursue an independent choice for her career, saying “acche ghar ki ladkiyan zabaan nahi ladati” and her mother is a double MA and a teacher in a government school.

We still lack gender equal spaces and couples are scared to a point that they feel they have committed a crime.

The reader may wonder at the moment why I am talking about this old rhetoric. My objective here is to remind you all especially my “hang the rapist” folks that you are not going to change anything by just sitting in front of the TV and shouting these lines.

It will require a long struggle to change the things from the way they are today. You will have to keep questioning your beliefs and biases you have, have to fight against the systematic patriarchy, casteism and other beliefs that your family has and which it passes on to every coming generation.

You have to ask your leaders why there is no mention of administrative reforms especially the police and judicial reforms in their manifesto and why they are afraid to implement these important reforms.

We cannot expect a person to fear committing a crime if he gets the death penalty at the age of 65  for committing rape at the age of 20. You don’t need to hang the rapist, you just need to instil fear. If you commit a crime, you will be punished at the earliest and cannot escape through loopholes.

Until all of us are ready to fight this long battle for administrative and social reforms and many other battles, rapes will keep happening and we all will stick to our TV sets with the same tune “Hang the rapist”.

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