That even a constitutional amendment cannot guarantee security to women and girls has been borne out by the incident in Bokaro, where a caste head ordered a few days ago that a 14-year-old girl be raped for an alleged offence that her brother had committed.
The girl’s brother had attempted to molest a woman, whose father happens to be the headman.
The woman then complained to her husband, who raped the girl. Though there are conflicting versions of the headman’s complicity in the incident, villagers have said he had aided and abetted the crime.
Women are supposed to have 33% representation in panchayats and urban elected bodies, in accordance with a constitutional amendment.
Though the amendment came into effect more than 20 years ago, this has not brought about a friendlier environment for them either in urban and rural areas.
The matter is eerily frightening at other levels too. First, the main complainant, the woman who had borne the brunt of the first assault, was highly supportive of the rape and, in fact, asked for it.
There is no reason to assume that this incident of a woman acting in a criminal manner against another woman is just one of its kind. Such instances are legion. Second, this is not a case of caste oppression.
This act of criminality occurred within the Pasis, a Scheduled Caste. But the law to prevent atrocities on Scheduled Castes and Tribes is applicable here because the victim is a Dalit, though its enforcement may be weakened by the social dynamics of the situation.
After the death of the December 16 gang rape victim, the then prime minister, Manmohan Singh, had said, “Her death will not go in vain.” Of course there has been legislation on this but looking at the number of cases of atrocities on women, there is not much to be optimistic about.
Only recently a woman in Ghaziabad was driven in a car and raped by people known to her. In West Bengal, footage was emerged of a legislator threatening his political opponents with rape.
The basic point, the need to change mindsets — the starting point of which should be how society looks at women — is of utmost importance. Laws do not work on their own.