Even as the death of the Delhi gang-rape victim ‘Damini’ reminds us of the sexual violence in the country, Damini’s case is not the first of its kind. In June 2012, a Dalit girl from Pipli, Orissa died of septicaemia and severe respiratory and cardiological complications after being gang-raped: cops, doctors and politicians were involved and a BJD minister resigned. Even as Damini fought for her life in Safdarjung Hospital, a 42-year-old woman was gang-raped by three men and dumped in Kalkaji. Last Wednesday, an 18-year-old rape victim from Punjab committed suicide, refusing to marry one of her rapists. A sexual assault on a 19-year-old housewife in Gujarat, the gang-rape of another 19-year-old in Hyderabad, girls gang-raped in Meghalaya, Tripura and Nagaland in the past few weeks draw a disturbing picture of male anger towards women. Saumya was thrown out of moving train and raped and murdered on the railway tracks in Kerala --she got justice when a fast track court sent her attacker to the gallows. However, three men were arrested last week in Kerala for gang-rape. A 17-year-old was kidnapped and gang-raped near Chandiposh in Orissa, the second incident this week. The streets of India have become the hunting ground of sexual predators -- in Mau, Uttar Pradesh a 32-year-old woman was gang-raped at a bus stop and cops initially refused to file a complaint. Khaps notwithstanding, rape is not considered a rural issue any longer -- in a survey of Delhi women, 70 per cent said they faced roadside harassment, 50 per cent were harassed in public transport and 42 per cent faced harassment at bus stops. The law is not a powerful enough deterrent to rape. The maximum sentence for the crime, if convicted, is from seven to ten years of life imprisonment. Those found guilty of gang-rape or the rape of a pregnant woman, the maximum punishment is 10 years. A cruel twist to the Damini gang-rape case is that the minor involved, allegedly the most brutal of the six rapists, will walk free soon because the law does not permit a juvenile to remain in a correction home for minors since the Juvenile Justice (JJ) Act disallows adults to be kept in juvenile remand homes. Meanwhile, he will turn an adult in a few months and cannot be sent to Tihar Jail since the Act prohibits him from being imprisoned in a jail meant for adult criminals. The conviction rate for rape in the last decade was only 26 per cent.
When the soul of India died at 2.15 pm on Saturday at Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore, the candle flames of protest lost their fight to the demons of dread. And the law or the lawmakers are only denting-painting their platitudes.