Gender Crimes: Rage, Outrage & Candlewalks

By Prabhakar Timble
25 December 2012 04:59 IST

Any newsflash beamed from a broadcast room in New Delhi gets the status of national news. Any assurance given by a Minister or politician on a heated TV show transmitted from New Delhi is construed by TV anchors as a pledge taken before the nation and its people. An award or decoration bestowed by such channels with offices in New Delhi, which in fact is another event or show on the respective TV station is marketed as a national award. Little do we realise that Delhi is just another geographical area. At the most what happens in this capital city of India provides resourceful capital to political parties for their political games. Serious social issues continue to remain unaddressed due to the priority accorded to partisan agenda. Crimes against women in the form of domestic violence, rape, abduction, dowry deaths, sexual abuse and immoral trafficking happen everywhere. It is an absurdity that media gives disproportionate attention and fuels this single crime once it happens in New Delhi. The expressions of solidarity with the victim and the survivor of the recent gang rape in the capital city are understandable. However, the shape that the public anger is taking and the associated violence puts the single incident on the top with the bigger picture of gender crime being lost due to the spectacle of one event.

Conviction not capital punishment

It is pointless to open the outlet of rage and anger on the Union Home Minister and Chief Minister. Rape and other crimes against women are not uncommon parts of the loaf of our lifestyle.  Earlier, gender crimes used to remain hidden since it was a largely held belief that the woman was the cause and stimulant of the assaults and sexual advances. It was also an issue of guarding family honour in a sealed locker. The issue was not at all of freedom, dignity and honour of the individual woman.  Not that this retrograde mind-set of both men and women stands changed today, but the only change is that such crimes are exploding in the open.

There are few who hold that our past was rich and golden in terms of the respect and pedestal that was provided to the female gender. Such groups would definitely argue seclusion, isolation and restrictions on social movement and mobility of females as protection in the interest of women. Despite women empowerment through literacy and employment, the traditional attitude of females and males towards women is not different. The prejudices and narrow views of the mother and the father; the husband and the wife; the grand-mother and the grand-father match with reference to the boundaries within which the girls should function. Incidents like gang rape embolden such regressive outlook as solutions and the larger picture of gender crimes gets obliterated. Solutions to crimes against women should not be found by juxtaposing them as male versus female issues. Statistics would show that equal number of females and males are involved in perpetrating crimes against the female gender.

Since the gang rape in the capital city is on the top agenda of the media, the Delhi police engagement with VIP security is brought forth as the main reason behind this heinous act. However, this crime of rape is not confined to cities where police is confined to security of VIPs. Corrective and remedial action suggested ranges from removal of tinted glasses on vehicles to death sentence for rape. I feel that laws to deal with gender crimes are in place. More than fortifying the deterrence in punishment, we need to work on conviction. Death sentence cannot deter crime and criminals when our police investigation is slow, poor and ineffective. No form of punishment can break the bones of the criminal if the delivery of justice in our Courts is delayed ‘ad nauseam’ and that too with the highest probability of an acquittal.

Death sentence in case of rape could very well mean death for the victim and an easy acquittal for the criminal.  A rapist may find the killing of the victim remunerative to destroy material evidence. Further, a death sentence would tie our judiciary to the doctrine of the “rarest of rare” thus adding more numbers to the already poor rate of convictions. Hence, I wish to submit that we need to focus on speedy convictions of criminals as opposed to extremism in punishment if deterrence should at all work. For this, the focus has to be on training, education and sensitisation of the police force towards gender crimes along with fast-track courts. Along with this, civilised society should put their hands forward to empower the victim of rape with the same force that we use to demand the blood of the criminal. For this, society should refrain from imputing any impurity or deficiency to a rape victim.

No zero-area for women

Whatever outrage we see in Delhi and other solidarity groups in different parts of the country is a rage on government and the police. Undoubtedly, it generates heat against public functionaries but hardly any emotion and passion against gender crimes. The youth, men and women who gather should stand for positive empowerment of women as opposed to violence and anger against public authorities. With social values and religious commandments refusing to reform in line with the spirit of our constitutional goals and enacted laws for social change, the police arm of the government cannot play the wonders we want them to perform. A chauvinist comment by Narendra Modi or a sexist remark by Sanjay Nirupam would invite media debate and there would be a race among leaders and activists to paint them black. But, none dares to dig the roots of patriarchal and feudal attitudes sown and watered by the religious commandments, rituals and practices. 

There are many practices and rituals which do not offer even an inch of space to females. Among the many zero-game areas, the greatest crime of all is the prohibition or the absence of sanction for the daughter to light the funeral pyre of the parents. Gender crimes including rape cannot be effectively and vehemently answered unless we question and set aside the archaic rituals and practices we follow across religious communities. In the religion of the majority community to which I belong due to the incident or accident of birth there are many commandments which are derogatory to women. Some of them are anti-women and so anti-human. It is these rituals and “social laws” which shape the mind-sets of men and women in rural and urban India. If at all we need an outrage and solidarity candle-walks, we need it against these practices which outwardly look non-harmful and cool. But, they transmit the most powerful venom which shapes mind-sets giving social recognition to crimes against the female gender.

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Prabhakar Timble

Mr Prabhakar Timble is an educationist and a legal expert. He has served several educational institutions, especially as the Principal of Government College at Quepem, Kare College of Law in Madgao as well as couple of Management Institutes. He was also the State Election Commissioner of Goa.

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