The horrific night of December 16th 2012 till date haunts the nation. The brutality of the Delhi gang rape aroused vast media attention, inciting protests and extensive debate on the safety of girls and women all over the country. Tabloids handed the baton to our gracious politicians seeking for the reason behind their absence at the protests that were conducted by the public at Jantar Mantar on 22nd December 2012. People from almost all walks of life gathered at the arena to not only mourn the death of another rape victim, but also to question the country’s political decision making with regards to the rights of women.
It is not hidden from the international audience of how heinous the Delhi gang rape was, although it was an event that became a controversial political and social game changer. In the last 10 years, the metropolitan areas of the country have seen inflation skyrocket demanding more women to step out into the work force unlike before. Most Indian women are now made to work a double shift, working full time along with maintaining the household. In the olden days, a male authority would dictate the terms inside the house. It was deemed that a woman’s sole job was to remain within the household and submit to the demands of either their fathers or after marriage, their husbands. Residues of this kind of patriarchal behaviour are still evident today. Women who are now out into the workforce, majority of the time, still work under a non-related male authority. The fact that women are now independent and no longer under the ownership of men has become a hard pill to swallow. Abhijit Mukherjee, an Indian politician who serves as Member of Parliament from Jangipur in the Indian state of West Bengal, stated that the increasing number of rapes occurring within the capital is because of “dented and painted women” that call such atrocities upon them because of their dress code. The dress code is not all; many people have even gone as far as blaming Bollywood for releasing sensual and provocative movies, damaging the representation of women. Well-known Bollywood Actress, Priyanka Chopra mentioned in the India Today January 2013 Issue that the actors should not be accused for the portrayal of sensuality or violence as “a movie is not a political pamphlet and a song is not a manifesto for social change.” While that maybe true, for the most part, most Bollywood movie releases are commercial rather than non-commercial. The movies that have overwhelming traces of sensuality and violence are those that will do relatively well in the box office as those are the ones that have a public demand. In the Indian Cinema, it is considered a ‘time-pass’ to watch a damsel in distress be rescued by her knight in shining armour from a gang of about 10-15 men whom acquire all sorts of perilous weaponry, effortlessly. It would be naïve of the Actress to mention that these sorts of movies do not have an impact on societal attitudes. Dr Sunitha Krishnan, founder of Prajwala, an organisation that helps to rehabilitate women and children who have been sexually exploited, expresses that ‘society has a way of victimising the victim’ rather than the perpetrator. Having been affected by a gang rape herself, at the age of 15, she understands best of the aftermath of such a traumatising experience. Victims of sexual abuse are targeted and then isolated by society as they are seen as a bad influence upon others, while the perpetrator is allowed to freely roam causing harm to a number of other families.
Loopholes within the parliamentary and judicial system impasse a speedy trail. Patriarchal men who mulishly follow obsolete tradition, for the most part, dominate the Indian Parliament. The laws they choose to implement have failed a large section of society, predominately women. All India Progressive Women’s Association’s (AIPWA) executive Kavita Krishnan highlights how faulty Indian Laws really are. She states in the Criminal Law Amendment Bill 2012, rape is considered gender neutral when in India, the current stats show that in fact rape is a crime specifically against women. The Sexual Harassment Bill states that women who make false complaints are to be severely penalised. Kavita Krishnan mentions, “No other law has a false complaint clause. Having this clause assumes a woman has more of a tendency to lie than a man.” The truth of the matter is that regardless of the crime, a corrupt justice system will sometimes deem the innocent guilty and the guilty innocent. The capital is central to power; those politically affiliated can bribe their way out of the most notorious of crimes. Members of Parliament with a criminal track record can even regain entry within Parliament, and to the countries misfortune, are sometimes even re-elected. Mixing ego and superseded thought within the parliament is sure to cause a recipe for disaster. When one’s cell phone stops working or pen’s ink runs out, you exchange it for one that does work to serve its purpose. Similarly, in India one cannot just lay down archaic laws to capture the country in a state of traditionalism, rather one should use the law to serve a progressive nation. Kuruna Nundy, Supreme Court advocate, says that what India really needs is ‘more courts, more judges and more police’ to fix the problem. However, that is not the case. India has plenty of courts, judges and police, but neither of them works efficiently. There were some instances of high-handed behaviour by some police personnel during the protests in Delhi. As a result of this over use of violence, law enforcement along with the state, lost its remaining legitimacy.
It is obvious that societal attitudes about women need to change and this can be done by constructing a value creating education system that will empower women and allow them to be on par with men within society. The girl who died from the Delhi Gang Rape was a 23 year old paramedic student whose father sold a piece of ancestral land to finance her education rather than her dowry deposit as it would be commonly expected. It is important to understand that educated women likewise men are both need to build a progressive nation. India needs a serious legal renovation. People need to learn to obey the laws and our politicians are no exception. The definition of rape needs to be expanded. Crimes such as acid throwing, public sexual humiliation and stalking need to come under rape laws. One of the perpetrators of the Delhi Gang Rape was a juvenile, hence will probably be given a lighter punishment even though he was the one to cause the most damage. India’s legal system needs to revisit how a juvenile should be described. While castration and execution may seem like a decent punishment for a rapist, it does not solve the problem completely. Many cases of sexual harassment in India have gone unnoticed. All future cases that fall in the category of rape, acid throwing, public sexual humiliation and stalking should be put in fast track courts where the punishment is well defined and with no ambiguity. Courts need to work at a fast track pace and not dangle the victim and her family for justice for years on end. After all Justice Delayed is Justice Denied.