One woman gets raped every 22 minutes in India. One child gets raped in every 76 minutes. Only one in every four accused in the crime gets convicted. Between 1971 and 2011 cases of rape registered a 873 percent jump. That is the biggest among all categories of crime. This is the information provided by the National Crime Records Bureau data. Add to the dismal numbers the fact that most such cases go unreported due to social and other reasons.
We have a problem, a serious one. Only we won’t acknowledge it. That’s the reason we will reduce the recent rape cases in Haryana to media entertainment. Entertainment, yes, because what we don’t have, after a month these cases started surfacing, is a serious debate on the issue. The focus has consistently been on the peripherals - khaps finding a bizarre solution to the problem, loose remarks from politicians and political visits to the victims.
There’s enough sarcasm going around for the solutions or perceived solutions offered by different sections. The khaps believe reducing the marriageable age of children will bring down cases of rape. This solution has backing of many in the political class. Others would call it solely a law and order problem and suggest heavy crackdown on the culprits as a remedy. Some would ask the girls to dress appropriately, conduct themselves in an acceptable manner and even stop using mobile phones.
All this nowhere come close to a solution but let’s face it, these are only expected responses from people with a limited worldview shaped by the reality of their existence. You cannot expect a khap panchayat to manufacture an enlightened opinion that is acceptable to the modern, liberal class. It’s possible they simply know of no other solution. The local politicians emerge out of the same stock, so their views are not likely to be too different either.
Let’s be clear that all rapes don’t happen in the social environment dominated by the khap panchayats. The menace is far too widespread. The Delhi-NCR region is called the rape capital of India. There is high incidence of rape in states like Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh too. People involved are not always uneducated people with little knowledge of the law. It’s possible that there is more awareness now and that’s why more and more victims are coming out to lodge complaints but the escalating numbers offer no confidence.
It’s a recorded fact that in a significantly high number of cases the rapists are usually friends or relatives. According to statistics nine out of 10 alleged culprits were known to the victim. No complaint was lodged as the victims’ families were worried about social shame. The cases that makes the flood of derision at a Hisar Congressman’s recent comment on rape of women is a bit misplaced.
“The girl gets into an affair with a boy and she goes with him without knowing that he is of criminal mindset. It’s not the state government which is responsible for rapes, in fact in most of the cases its consensual sex... In 90 percent cases, the girls and women initially accompany boys on their own and are later trapped in gang-rape by criminals,” he said. He is wrong in saying that rape is consensual - simply because if it is rape it cannot be consensual. But the other part of his observation is not too out of place. If so many rapes are taking place because of the proximity of the culprits and the victims, it’s only logical that a great degree of our attention towards addressing the problem should be directed here.
Unfortunately, we have no discussion on that. Worse, we have no solution at all coming from the chattering classes. Rape cases have several dimensions, social, criminal, psychological and gender discrimination. Can it be treated as a law and order problem alone? Certainly not. Even if it is, do we have enough sensitivity and expertise in our police mechanism to deal with such cases in a proper manner?
Much of our discourse on the subject is focussed on the policing aspect only. We need to have a more comprehensive approach. And it calls for an intelligent debate. The situation is surely going beyond control. It’s time we got serious.