India: A Country Of Rising Numbers And Falling Standards
Rant of a concerned woman and citizen of this country!
Well, apparently “women are being raped left, right and centre” is what the Supreme Court was shocked to find out recently while hearing the Muzzafarpur shelter home case. During the hearing of this particular case, the Apex Court ordered a blanket ban on the publication of the images of minor survivors of the sexual offences by the electronic, print and social media.
The Supreme Court was further stunned to find out that an appalling number of 38,497 cases of rape have been reported in the 2016 report prepared by National Crime Rate Bureau. Unfortunately, the percentage of such crimes has only increased with the passing of every year.
But the sole question remains, why is the Supreme Court so surprised? It comes as no surprise that the 2017 report by Global Peace Index has claimed that India is the ‘fourth’ most dangerous country for women travelers. It may be pointed out that woman born and raised in India do not feel safe within their own country, this itself substantiates the concerns of women travelling from different countries across the world to India.
Our very own capital city, New Delhi, has often made headlines for the wrong reasons, rape being the prime one. One is often heard referring to the city as India’s ‘Rape Capital’.
However, my concern is not towards the increasing number of crimes being reported against women every minute, but the alarming acceptance of such crimes by the society and its people. The 2013 ‘Nirbhaya’ incident prompted thousands of protests across the country and even led to the amendment of the Rape Laws, yet there has been no significant decline in the number of rape or sexual assault cases against women. Worse, we only keep adding names to the list for the eye-catching headlines; Badauni Rape Case, Unnao Rape Case, Bulandshehar Rape Case, Kathua Rape Case, Chennai Rape Case (forgive me for the list is too long and covers literally all the states and districts of India; hence no point mentioning). Yet, we are ok with accepting this menace rapidly creeping into our lives and society.
Having become part of the legal system (yes, I am a lawyer too apart from being a woman and a citizen), I had the urge to change the system, flush out the corrupt, fight for the rights of women and child, make the country a better place; but here I am, four years into this profession working my way out to get out of this very system. The courts have only realised now that women are being raped left, right and centre and the fact that thousands of children are reported missing every day, to imagine the time it will actually take to do something to safeguard the women and children of this country.
Well, not to completely criticise my own legal system, we do have the laws in the form of trials and punishments for the culprits, but this is after the occurrence of the incident. The fact that not a single citizen (read and stress on these two words over and over) of this country takes the law or the judicial system seriously is leading to the downfall of our ideologies and nation. I recently read a news article wherein the court of United States convicted an Indian IT Manager for sexually assaulting a woman aboard a flight. That man could be sentenced with life imprisonment or if released (god I hope not!), be deported to India. (As if we do not have enough men like him here in our country already). And then we have parameters and debates to decide exactly what kind of rape qualifies for a punishment of life imprisonment or a death penalty. A person committing a ‘simple’ rape is punished with imprisonment which may range between seven to ten years or life imprisonment (rarely) but if a person commits a rape along with murder, then that’s ‘rarest of the rare case’ and then, maybe, slightest of the chance that the court will grant life imprisonment or (if the women of this country are lucky) then the death penalty.
To break the myth, there is no category of a rape. Any woman who is sexually assaulted undergoes the exact same trauma. The unfortunate part is some women do not survive or live to disclose their story and the ones who do, are silenced and suffer the ordeal of painstaking trials and humiliations in the society.
The juvenile who was the prime person and instigated the others into committing the crime in the Nirbhaya incident is out of the reform centre. Quick question, does anyone know how this person looks? Is the government willing to take responsibility of this person that he will not repeat the offence ever again? Did the government before releasing him into the society give out any kind of fair warning to the public at large? No. Because once bitten twice shy right!
Here is my concern. The Supreme Court has obviously identified the grim facts and figures of the sexual assault cases on a rise against women and children and has ordered a probe into the recent sexual crimes, it is high time they realise that the system requires implementation of stringent laws i.e. do not go lenient on the man who as much as even looks at a woman because that only gives him the courage to act a step further and for the judiciary to repent later. Penalise every person who sits in authority and comments on the character of a woman and quotes on 10 reasons why rapes take place in a country like India.
It has been said again and again but the courts need to implement time-bound trials. If the courts can take out time to hear and discuss on who is losing out on seniority in the race to becoming a judge, then I suppose the courts can also make adequate time to hear and work towards the protection and welfare of women of this country. Fast-track courts were set up with a purpose to provide speedy trials but surely the authorities and law has lost its meaning.
Recently, another news article caught my attention. It was not really the news which caught my attention as much as the headline did which read “Brave dog in M.P. attacks owner’s rapist, helps her escape”. I read the entire news in anticipation and hope that the young girl was saved and managed to escape in time (but whom am I kidding!). The pet dog of the 14-year-old girl attacked and bit one of the two men who allegedly raped the young girl near her house. The culprits were arrested soon after the incident due to the brave effort of the dog of course.
This should be alarming enough for the government and the judiciary to realise that our country is rapidly turning into an unsafe territory for women. Do not be ok with the acceptance of such incidents taking place around us. People in authorities and judiciary need to give priority to the fact that every woman and child of this country is unsafe which includes your own kith and kin. Do not delve upon the fact whether the rapist needs reformation, not in this life at least. Unfortunately, I rely on my pepper spray and Swiss knife for my own safety more than I rely on my own legal system.
Aryasomayajula Shivani is an Advocate practicing in the Supreme Court of India and High Court of Judicature for the State of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh at Hyderabad.
[The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of LiveLaw and LiveLaw does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same]