Rape in Gurgaon: Banning bouncers is not an answer

Following the rape of a 23-year-old girl who worked at a pub in Gurgaon, the Delhi police have decided that pubs and discotheques cannot employ bouncers anymore and ‘escorts’ will have to stay away. The rape occurred outside Sahara Mall on March 12, when six men stopped a cab, dragged the girl out and forced her into their Maruti 800 car. She was abducted by the men at 2:30 am from the Mehrauli-Gurgaon road.

This morning, Hindustan Times reports the decision made by the police in Gurgaon: “Pubs and discotheques in Gurgaon cannot employ bouncers anymore and have been instructed to keep out escorts who help male guests gain entry.The Gurgaon Police issued the ban on Tuesday following the March 12 abduction of a pub worker from outside Sahara Mall and her gangrape. The pubs have also been told to allow entry by couples only,” the report says.

Photo Courtesy: New York Times

We’ve seen a number of knee-jerk reactions to similar incidents: pubs being forced to shut down early as we see in Bengaluru; similar suggestions in Mumbai (thankfully not enforced) and so on.

These solutions will never work – they’re addressing the symptoms, not the disease.

And here we come to The Broken Windows theory. You can read more about the theory here . There is so much police administrations can learn from this approach.

“Consider a building with a few broken windows. If the windows are not repaired, the tendency is for vandals to break a few more windows. Eventually, they may even break into the building, and if it's unoccupied, perhaps become squatters or light fires inside. Or consider a sidewalk. Some litter accumulates. Soon, more litter accumulates. Eventually, people even start leaving bags of trash from take-out restaurants there or breaking into cars,” say social scientists James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling.

“A successful strategy for preventing vandalism, say the book's authors, is to fix the problems when they are small. Repair the broken windows within a short time, say, a day or a week, and the tendency is that vandals are much less likely to break more windows or do further damage. Clean up the sidewalk every day, and the tendency is for litter not to accumulate (or for the rate of littering to be much less). Problems do not escalate and thus respectable residents do not flee a neighborhood. The theory thus makes two major claims: that further petty crime and low-level anti-social behavior will be deterred, and that major crime will, as a result, be prevented,” Wilson and Kelling add.

What the authorities should do is to look out for the ‘broken windows’ in the context of crimes against women. If rapes and abductions are increasing in incidence in Gurgaon, it’s rooted in the fact that there has been little or no visible action in complaints against similar crimes earlier – the first ‘broken windows’.

Perhaps the first ‘broken window’ in Gurgaon was the killing of Jessica Lal . It took more than 7 years to find the killers guilty – despite the killing being conducted in the presence of, literally, tens of witnesses. The time elapsed was a broken window, encouraging others to ‘break’ more ‘windows’ – commit more crimes against women – in the knowledge that police action and court decisions are very slow.

Cosmetic changes of rules and laws will, in no manner, be a deterrent to crimes; indeed, such ill-advised rules such as what is being proposed in Gurgaon affects the entertainment options of law-abiding citizens, including women. What does one do when women are raped in broad daylight in trains, as they are? Ban train travel? Or if a woman is raped in a cinema hall? Shut down the theatres?

What is required is that perpetrators of such crimes need to be brought to book and punished quickly and firmly – immediately suggesting to those who think of committing similar crimes that, if caught, they can look forward to incarceration or more serious punishments.

Look out for the broken windows in the context of crimes against women; make it easy for women to lodge FIRs without fear or embarrassment; act swiftly and decisively against the perpetrators – and the incidence of crimes will reduce.


Published Date: Mar 21, 2012 01:03 pm | Updated Date: Mar 21, 2012 01:42 pm