Where does one start while talking about crimes against women? The chain of horrific incidents is so long that one wonders if it is a democracy we live in. While the nation reels under shame and horror of the Badaun rape of two sisters, another report has come out of a similar incident of sexual assault on two sisters in Etah district, again UP. Two girls from Jharkhand have also reportedly been raped in Delhi by a person who offered to get their railway tickets confirmed.
While the authorities should take immediate action, and hang their heads in shame, the law-makers have gone on to make a spate of insensitive remarks. In April, Mulayam Singh Yadav said “boys will be boys”, that sometimes they commit mistakes, but such “mistakes” should not invite death. His son, UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, after Badaun, shot back at a reporter and said, “But you are safe.” He could not fathom that people can be safe and be agitated about what is happening to fellow citizens. The CM should be agitated more than anyone else, common sense suggests. He did not stop there. Agitated that he’s been put in the dock, he said if you “google” the term “rape”, you’ll see that it happens everywhere. So boys will be boys, rapes happen at all places, so let’s all sleep in peace. To wake up next morning and read 10 more horrific stories.
This insensitivity cuts across party lines. Chhattisgarh home minister Ramsewak Paikra said “nobody commits rape on purpose”, that it happens by “mistake”. A few days ago, MP home minister Babulal Gaur said “sometimes rapes are right and sometimes wrong.” Tomorrow will they come up with ‘rape as right’? If mentality of legislators is this, what do we expect of the common people?
These comments are not lackadaisical; they are deep rooted. Remember the President’s son’s remark that it’s the “dented and painted” women who protested crimes against women? This gender apathy runs through our society. There is an urgent need to run gender sensitisation classes for our leaders. Of course, there is an urgent need to address the problem at the grassroots level as well, and introduce courses on gender sensitivity from primary school, to do away with the baggage children carry.
It is a culture of impunity that is creeping in. Such impunity exists in places torn with civil war for a long time. In Congo, violence against women is a tool of revenge. But this country has apparently been in times of peace. How has this culture crept in? It has, because there has never been ‘times of peace’—the feudal mentality has ensured that women are kept subservient through violence. In the Badaun case, there is evidence that the two women were made an example of, because they belonged to the lowest caste. There are indicators of nexus between local fiefdom and police, belonging to the same caste. Whatever these wars, it’ll always be women who will lose lives and dignity.
The 2012 Delhi rape sparked protests in the capital. But what happened after that? Where has all the anger gone? Were we angry because it was close to us, and felt threatened? Was it because the media wanted us to be angry? What was the outcome? An anti-stalking law which can be used for witch hunt by the police? Death to perpetrators? How many perpetrators will we hunt and hang? We need safety first—not just from rapists, but from patriarchal leaders and policemen as well.
Just a year after the Delhi rape, a 16-year-old was gang-raped in Kolkata. When she went to complain, she was raped again, by the same men, and burnt. The police could provide no security despite the threat perception. She succumbed to burns. Her body was forcibly cremated by the police. Raped twice, burnt twice, but no outrage. How many Delhis, Kolkatas, Badauns before we are outraged, before we demand a complete overhaul in the system that promotes impunity?
Follow her on Twitter @ArchanaDalmia
Dalmia is chairperson of Grievance Cell,All India Congress Committee