Nirbhaya and Now Uber: Has Anything Changed, Any Lessons Learnt?

Published: 15th December 2014 03:46 PM  |   Last Updated: 15th December 2014 03:48 PM   |  A+A-


NEW DELHI: Another rape, again an outcry. Two years since the Dec 16 gang rape nothing much has changed, borne out by the fact that a serial offender like the Uber taxi driver operated undetected and was able to commit his latest rape without compunction.

Activists and women say that more needs to be done and demand that rape offenders are denied bail and greater sensitization is inculcated among the police and men.

"On paper we have got a new law; but what we need is its implementation in letter and spirit; because despite having such strong laws, things have not changed. Not that such cases have suddenly increased, it is only that the women are no longer silent," women and child rights activist Bharti Ali told IANS.

"It is high time we implement what we have got along with enhanced victim protection. A lot of times when lawyers talk to victims about the cases, on many occasions, they retract.. We also need better skills at investigating, the lack of which is why the conviction rate is so low," she said.

Uber cab driver Shiv Kumar Yadav, who raped a business analyst in his taxi Dec 5, has admitted to having targeted several women earlier. Police said he was previously accused in three more criminal cases in Uttar Pradesh's Mainpuri district, including rape.

Mamta Sharma, former chairperson of National Commission for Women (NCW), feels nothing has changed since the Dec 16 gang rape that shook the nation.

"There has been no change in the last two years - be it in the public, or the government. The government has done nothing until now to ensure that the women of the country are safe. All they have done is on paper, in slogans," Sharma told IANS.

"There is a major fault with the judiciary which at times gives bail to offenders. There should be no bail in rape cases.

"What we also need is police sensitisation and public awareness programmes. These programmes should be directed at boys from schools and colleges along with the public at large," she said.

Feminist activist Kamla Bhasin feels that there has been some positive change since Dec 16, 2012, but only at the level of police, law and media. "But all of it comes after the crime has been committed, " Bhasin told IANS.

"I am more concerned about what is happening to our men - sons, fathers and brothers - that they continue to do such criminal acts," she wondered.

"There is an entire billion dollar industry that objectifies and demeans women, while making the men feel more powerful. It will take a long time for such things to change; this is not a short-term thing," Bhasin added.

"It is high time we stopped telling women what to wear, what to eat and where to go.. We now need to ask our men what is happening to them and why are they not stopping it from happening. They need to reflect on it and bring a change in the mindset," she said.

According to Delhi Police data, rape figures have gone up in the city - with 11,683 cases of crimes against women registered between Jan 1 and Oct 20 against 10,064 cases registered in the same period last year - an increase of 16 percent.

Journalist Tanushree Bhasin, 26, feels now there is more talk about gender issues "and that is definitely a good thing".

"But as far as institutional changes are concerned, we haven't seen any major initiative to make Delhi a safer city. So long as repeat offenders such as the Uber rapist are allowed to operate without check, we won't be able to make serious headway," Tanushree told IANS.

"A mindset change which recognizes rape as a serious criminal offence that is never the woman's fault is what is needed to bring about a change."

Priya Relan, 28, home maker, put the matter succinctly: "It has been two since the incident, but 'Nirbhaya' is still seeking justice -- each day with a new face. The authorities responsible for our safety have done nothing, forget averting rapes, but even reducing them."

After the Dec 16 gang rape, the government set up the Justice J.S. Verma committee to suggest easier trial and enhanced punishment. Many of the panel's recommendations were adopted in changes made to the anti-rape law.

In the aftermath of the 2012 gang rape, six fast track courts were set up which disposed of 400 cases this year and around the same number last year.

But still over 1,000 rape cases are pending in the Delhi courts.


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