By Abhay Vaidya
Gang rapes and other sex crimes against women in India are being committed with such brazenness that they seem to originate with the thought that it is easy to get away after the crime.
Brutal rapes are taking place with such frequency and in such a variety of ways that rapes have become the sole focus of our attention in the context of crimes against women. In the process, India has become blind to the vast, organised racket of human trafficking of minors and young women for the sex trade.
When Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde says that "as a father of three daughters,” he is interested in getting a deterrent punishment for rapists, or that, “…It could happen to my daughters also,” he is essentially reflecting the deep insecurity over the safety and security of young women in the country. While speaking to reporters outside Parliament in Delhi on December 20, Shinde said that the horrific gang-rape and assault of a Delhi student in a moving bus on Sunday night could not be allowed to be forgotten as another statistic. "How can we forget it...It could happen to my daughters also," he remarked.
As has been seen in numerous incidents of gang rape, including the most recent Delhi crime, the presence of a male companion is no longer a deterrent for the rapists. They simply overpower and assault the man and proceed with their original plan of rape, as witnessed in Delhi, Bangalore or Pune.
Barely two months ago, a group of 7-8 men raped a 21-year-old student at the prestigious National Law School in Bangalore after thrashing her male friend. The incident took place at night in a forested area of the Bangalore University campus. According to the police, the six persons who were later arrested in connection with the crime were roaming in the vast campus that night to cut sandalwood trees illegally.
Within a fortnight of this incident, on October 6, Bangalore newspapers reported the rape of three bar girls by a group of about nine men in the outskirts of the city. In this case, the presence of three security guards at the house in Jnanajyothi Nagar didn't help as the alleged rapists, who were armed, forced the guards into a room and then took the three girls to another to commit the crime. One of the girls was taken to another house and sexually assaulted. The criminals, who came at around midnight, forced the women to strip and shot their videos on mobile phones, said a victim.
In September this year, a BPO cab driver from Pune and his friend, both in their 20s, were sentenced to death in connection with the rape and murder of a Wipro BPO employee in 2007. The young woman was new to Pune and was clueless about the direction in which the car was moving. After the heinous crime in the middle of the night, the cab driver continued with his job of picking up other employees at the Wipro call centre.
The drugging-rape-and-filming of women in the nude or during the sexual act has become a very common strategy of rapists - be they collegians or grown up men. The first time that such a modus operandi surfaced was in the Jalgaon sex scandal of 1994 - an organised racket of rape and sexual exploitation of scores of minors and young girls who were befriended, drugged, sexually assaulted, filmed and photographed. This visual record was then used to blackmail the girls into submitting repeatedly over a period ranging from five years to a decade. A number of local politicians and businessmen were accused of being a part of this exploitation although many could not be convicted due to weak evidence. In 2000, a Congress leader and the prime accused in the case, Pandit Omkar Sapkale, was acquitted after four years in jail on grounds of weak evidence.
There have been many variants of young girls being sedated with laced drinks and then gang-raped, as happened in September in Delhi when a 16-year-old girl was tricked by her brother’s friend. After luring her to come to his house to meet his sister, the schoolgirl was offered a soft drink laced with sedatives and taken to another house where she was raped by two persons. The entire act was filmed and the girl was warned that the video would be circulated if the sexual assault was revealed. To show that they were serious, the young men actually sent the video to some friends as an MMS clip. This was when the victim’s father learnt of the MMS and filed a case with the police, although the girl had remained silent.
Just as some sensational crimes are inspired by the thrill that is experienced in movies or novels, it is time to investigate whether the widespread acceptance of pornography in Indian society is inspiring the series of group sex crimes across India.
Studies in the US by researchers Dolf Zillmann of Indiana University and Jennings Bryant of The University of Alabama on continued exposure to pornography showed that it desensitizes people to rape as a criminal offence. According to them, massive exposure to pornography "encourages a desire for increasingly deviant materials which involve violence, like sadomasochism and rape."
Another study by researcher Victor Cline from the University of Utah claimed that men who are addicted to pornographic materials "begin to desire more explicit or deviant material, and end up acting out what they have seen."
Research by Charles Keating of Citizens for Decency Through Law, showed that 77% of child molesters of boys and 87% of child molesters of girls "admitted imitating the sexual behavior they had seen modeled in pornography."
Anti-pornography activists in the US also cite the case of Michigan state police detective Darrell Pope who found that of the 38,000 sexual assault cases in Michigan during 1956-1979, in 41% of the cases pornographic material was viewed just prior to or during the crime." They also cite the view of psychotherapist David Scott who found that “half the rapists studied used pornography to arouse themselves immediately prior to seeking out a victim.”
The problem in India stands compounded because law enforcement is weak and you can commit a variety of crimes and get away with it, most of the times, even if you are neither rich nor powerful. Although the high and mighty also get booked and hauled up from time to time, the situation in general is that you can bribe your way through or use political influence if hauled by some authority for a violation. The general perception is that you can commit a crime and get away with it, all the more if you are in a gang.
The clamour for capital punishment or chemical castration of rapists in the wake of the brutality in the Delhi rape case is certainly justified. However, this is more like treating the symptom than the disease. Treating the disease would mean strengthening the law enforcement machinery and ensuring speedy trials so that everyone begins to respect the law.