December 21, 2015. Today is a sad day for Indian women everywhere. The man who raped and gouged the life out of Jyoti Singh - the young woman better known as Nirbhaya who was raped in a bus by a group of morally depraved men and allegedly tossed over to the ‘juvenile’ with a rod who assaulted her beyond repair three years ago - is out of jail. Nirbhaya was thrown out naked into the cold and left to die. She did. And in some ways so did India.
I have no clichéd suppositions that we are a culture that celebrates women and, therefore, Indian men must continue to worship the female form rather than molest it. That our temples and ancient sculptures made voluptuous, semi-clad women famous worldwide is quite another matter. Don’t even mention the Kamasutra. But condoning such a crime because of age is quite simply unacceptable.
Leaders’ Foot-In-the-Mouth Disease
For three years I have heard ridiculous comments made by all sorts of politicians and lawyers defending and even justifying rape. These are men, who we women are equally responsible for having put into a seat of power. The others were appointed to a government post by some paper god in a public exam. Who knows what kind of corrupt moral breeding politicians conceal when they clamour and clang for our votes.
Perhaps we don’t ask before we elect. Has anyone ever analysed the psychological parameters for sailing into the Parliament? Would you really have voted if you knew that a certain ‘he’ thought a woman deserved non-consensual sex just because she was a wife? Or in his head, a ‘spaghetti’ strap blouse meant “Come Rape Me”?
It is a fact that people capitalised on Jyoti’s and her family’s suffering and eventual death. It became an earning opportunity for TV airtime. Apart from her parents and those who truly loved her, I doubt anyone actually grieved for long. There were questions without answers and ultimately arrests without justice. It has been politics all the way. And ratings and rantings.
Jittery That ‘He’ Is Out
Some of the accused in the Nirbhaya case are still in jail, one even took his own life, but the juvenile criminal walks free. Defended by feeble laws that have forced the courts to rule in his favour. If we were a country that could afford rehabilitation of criminals at any age (what’s a juvenile age today really?) and we could put taxpayer’s money towards sustained counseling to sexual offenders, I would have felt a tad better. No, he’s out there now. Beware.
Good people all over have tried to make sense of this horrific incident by hoping, writing and praying for justice and a national change of heart about the juvenile law. But now we are told that we can be old enough to rape under 18 but not old enough to be punished. Take it or leave it. Well, we’ve lumped it.
We must sigh through the hopelessness of misplaced priorities. Law enforcement, counseling and social security do not even make it to the list. We ignore the very things that make our young into criminals: no dignity of labour, no jobs near home and no equal voice in society.
We Indians don’t need sex until we are married, it is presumed. If promiscuity is a crime, is it more or less offensive than a violent sexual act? We have hordes of moral police but we are short staffed at the crime branch.
We have babbling political mouthpieces but we are very strapped for lawyers who will gladly serve the needy with due respect. Our ‘leaders’ in civil society like panchayats negotiate settlements in favour of offending males. There has been a documented offer of Rs 1500 to a raped 11-year-old in a village near Visakhapatnam so she would shut up and tend to her wounds and let the boy get on with his life. Her’s is over anyway.
There’s something seriously wrong with our men. Perhaps they just can’t handle not feeling unequivocally superior to women anymore. And maybe, just maybe, our rape laws are out of sync with the times.
(The writer is a media professional)
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