BENGALURU: Safety of women post the infamous Delhi gang-rape case in December 2012 has become a mandate for political parties to win elections.
The Union Government has instituted the Nirbhaya fund for safety of women and gender sensitivity has been incorporated in police training to handle such cases.
Besides, a much tougher stance (capital punishment) as per law in dealing with the accused, should have acted as a deterrent to prevent perpetrators from committing crimes against women.
Unfortunately, none of this has helped in minimising crimes and violence against women.
In fact, according to a former prison psychiatrist, “Many of the rape accused don’t even believe that they have committed a heinous crime.”
That an innocent joyride by a boy and her female friend on the ‘safe’ roads of Mysuru could turn out to be a nightmare would have been the last thing on their minds.
The 22-year-old girl was gang-raped and the boy beaten and left unconscious by five criminals, including a juvenile, who have now been arrested.
On the same day the Mysuru incident occurred, a 30-year-old woman was raped and murdered when she was out grazing her cattle in Tumakuru in broad daylight.
A few months ago, a young Bangladeshi woman was gang-raped by her compatriots over some financial issue in Bengaluru.
The three cases that have come out in public domain since May this year add to the crime statistics against women and hang heavily ove Karnataka’s safety records.
Beyond these three horrendous instances is a long history pertaining to crimes against women across Karnataka — 10,227 cases in 2019, 10,761 cases in 2020, and 4,401 cases till May 31 this year.
These include 484 rapes and 10 gang-rapes in 2019; 461 rapes and eight gang-rapes in 2020; 205 rapes and six gang-rapes in 2021, but do not include the latest such crimes that have shocked the state.
As per the latest National Crime Records Bureau report, released on September 29, 2020 an average of 87 rape cases were registered daily in India in 2019.
Cases registered under crimes against women rose by 7 per cent in comparision to the 2018 data.
Crimes against women cannot, however, be understood or addressed by the sheer rising graph of first information reports (FIRs) invoking sections of law that cover violence, including sexual assault, against women.
Laws have been periodically repealed to make them more expansive, comprehensive and stringent, covering every aspect of indecent behaviour against women and children, post the Delhi gang-rape case.
The Criminal Law Amendment Acts, 2013 and 2018 have brought in changes to the CrPC, IPC, Indian Evidence Act (IEA) and Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act as deterrents to violence against women and children.
In 2018, the Madhya Pradesh government even decided that child rapists should be hanged. But will amending laws or shifting the responsibility to bring the evil doers to justice on to the criminal justice system mitigate crimes against women?
“VAW is deep-rooted in unjust and unequal power and gender relations, transcends social and economic boundaries, and affects women and girls of all socio-economic backgrounds. This is a human rights violation with significant impact on victims, their families and communities, and is a growing concern, both for India and the world,” state Kumar Das and Bijeta Mohanty of the International Growth Centre (IGC) in a research paper.
“In addition to the deep psychological and physical harm inflicted on its victims, VAW entails significant social and economic costs. This impedes gender parity and equal participation in the economy and broader society.”
In her book, ‘Why Men Rape: An Indian Undercover Investigation’, Tara Kaushal has delved deep into why such crimes happen. “When it comes to rape and other gender violence, the victim is put under too much scrutiny. It’s time to put the onus back where it belongs — on the perpetrators — and not the prey,” says Tara.
“Tighter laws without proper enforcement are meaningless. Besides, we should be taking a preventive approach — what makes men entitled to violence; what paradigms of masculinity are we nurturing,” says the author, presently in Australia.
S K Umesh, a retired Superintendent of Police, who probed many such crimes during his career, says, “There are several instigating factors for rapes ranging from personal vengeance and planned attacks to provocation. While the local police can prevent incidents like what happened in Mysuru, people going to isolated places should be very careful. In most such (rape) cases, the accused will be high school dropouts. So, it is important that children should be educated in primary classes that women should be respected. At a young age, children should be taught the laws related to crimes against women and the repercussions they will face if they are involved in any crime and how it can spoil their life.”
According to Dr Kiran Kumar, psychologist in Hassan, drastic changes in human mentality, hyperactive lives, overgrowth of hormones and excessive curiosity regarding sex are leading to increasing cases of crimes against women and children.
The need of the hour is to educate the younger generation about the impact and punishments for crimes during adolescence itself, he added.
“Values are spoken about, but are hardly being practised. As adults, parents have to walk the talk; if we respectfully talk and behave with our spouses or others, the children imbibe it,” says Dr Preeti Shanbhag, psychiatrist, Shivamogga.
URBAN-RURAL DIVIDE IN SEX CRIMES?
There is a discrimination in crimes taking place against women in rural and urban areas. For instance, the rocky hillocks of Tumakuru district, especially off the Bengaluru-Pune NH-48, are known to be dangerous for women who become vulnerable to attacks by culprits.
In 2019, out of 36 women found murdered, only nine cases were cracked by the police, the rest remaining mysteries as the bodies were not identified.
Tumakuru Rural MLA D C Gowrishankar alleges that the heinous crimes that occur in the rural parts are not treated with the same seriousness as those occurring in urban spaces, resulting in culprits getting the upper hand and continuing with their heinous acts.
Creating a fearless environment
Septuagenarian lawyer Shivaraj B Nanjappa, who worked closely with the administrators in the 1980s, says, “The administrators should create such an environment that no woman fears going out. The jurisdictional police must be alert as they would be knowing what is happening in and around. People’s representatives, even the likes of the Chief Minister or Home Minister, should be accessible to the common people in distress, which not just boosts their morale, but sends a message to criminals that they cannot easily prey on women."
“Some decades ago, when the police detained a boy and a girl sitting in Bengaluru’s Cubbon Park, the boy’s father had straightaway called the then Chief Minister Ramakrishna Hegde, who summoned the police and reminded them that their duty is to give them protection. Introducing martial arts for girls in schools and colleges will be a good idea as it will empower them. The ‘Nirbhaya Act’ was actually a breakthrough in giving protection to women and awareness has to be created about it,” he says.
(With inputs from M G Chetan in Bengaluru, B R Udaya Kumar in Hassan, Devaraj Hirehalli in Tumakuru, Mahesh Goudar in Bagalkot, Pramodkumar Vaidya in Dharwad, Ramachandra V Gunari in Shivamogga and Sunil Patil in Belagavi)