Delhi rape: Not just a crime but our societal mindset

Barbaric rape of a 23-year-old paramedic in a moving bus in Delhi shows that we may be living in the world’s fastest growing economy but our progress in gender equality and respect towards women has been dismal.

The, reason to me, is simple.

The effort on the part of the government has been minimal to sensitise men towards women and inculcate values of gender equality in the society, which with rising incomes is going down.
Discrimination against women starts from home and extends to schools.

Most parents don’t reprimand their boys beating up the girls and instead encourage them to show their false machoism on girls. It is a known fact that boys get all the luxuries whereas girls are denied even basic nutrition. Girls are taught at home to be salves of men, a thought highly repressive in a modern society.

Even the government has encouraged this division by having separate schools for girls and boys.
Majority of government schools in Delhi and elsewhere have separate sections for boys and girls and intermingling of them is not encouraged at all. A boy talking to a girl or vice-versa is considered bad in schools and there have been cases where girls have been reprimanded or even beaten up by a teacher for speaking to a boy.

In sharp contrast, some private schools have co-education system where boys and girls are allowed to intermingle freely leading to normal friendly relations without any taboos towards the other sex.

However, the school curriculum does not have any concept of gender equality and respect towards women. Curricula have predominant male bias with treatment of women as a weaker sex. This skewed knowledge builds in a bias against women which is witnessed in streets with girls treated as object of sex and abuse.

Another segment of the government which makes women feel unsafe is the police.

Even after being abused, they fear to visit a police station as they are treated no less than a whore. First, apprehensions are raised over their character, then gyaan about their dressing sense and eventually told about adverse implications of registering a case.

Common among them are that you will have to appear in court regularly, there will be no protection from harassment by the family of the accused and it would bring bad name to the girl and her family. And, that is enough for the girl’s family to discourage her from filing a complaint.

Years ago when I was in Statesman newspaper, a woman colleague of ours was teased while waiting for a bus at Super Bazar. The small-stout girl held the man in his mid-30s with his collar and dragged him to the Connaught Place police station. The station house officer asked the girl to hit him with her slippers and then called the person’s family including his two young daughters. In front of them, he narrated what he had done and asked him to apologise. The man was on his knees not only in-front of the woman journalist but also his family. Probably, he felt he had lost all respect in front of his own. Well what the police officer did may not be in law but it provided instant justice and a relief to my colleague.

Studies have shown that most of the guys accused of rape or serious crimes against women had been habitual offenders and known for abusing women. That was also the case of Ram Singh, the main accused in brutal sexual assault on 23-year-old paramedic. He was known in his jhuggi/cluster for misbehaving with women but neither the police nor anyone else thought of taking him to task.

My worst fear is that the government will make tall promises of action to escape the frenzy but would eventually fail to deliver. This, I say, as similar promises were made by the government when the Nithari serial rape-cum-murder cases in were reported along Delhi border in Noida. But, nothing much has happened.

The government claimed that there would be a system to track every missing child and it would be a must for police to lodge a missing complaint. Six years down the line, registering a missing complaint with the police still remains a daunting task; leave aside the possibility of tracking them. Another government assurance of a national portal to track missing children had remained a pipe-dream. Since the Nithari incident in 2006, the number of missing children had touched all time all-time high of 60,000 a year in 2010.

If the government is really serious about bringing a change, it needs multi-level systematic reforms, judicial, police and educational. Strict penal action should be initiated against policemen, who fail to register cases of even minor offence against women such as eve-teasing, teachers should be trained for gender sensitive education and judiciary should ensure decision in crime against women cases is taken within 90 days.

The saddening Delhi incident should push the government into real action or else such incidents would be repeated.

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