The Uber rape case mocks us in many ways. It tells us that the agitations that took place after the December 16, 2012, gang rape are still frozen in the cast of symbolism. It reminds us with pompous obstinacy that even after securing an exemplary rape law, we will not be able to protect our women from getting assaulted. It chides us for putting our trust in the show of commitments by our political class for creating a safer India for its women. This rape case sits at the steeple of our criminal justice system and shouts at the top of its voice that Indian women will continue to be violated.
The focus is once again on the accused, not on those who fostered a conducive situation for him to become a serial offender. Those who contributed to what Shiv Kumar Yadav, the alleged rapist, has become today will be off the hook. There are many to name and shame: The law enforcers, who failed to gather evidence for Yadav’s prosecution in not one but four cases of molestation, rape and sexualised torture; the lawyers, who advised him against undergoing the identification parade and suggested him to leave the country; and the Uber cab service, which failed to take action against Yadav even after receiving earlier a complaint from another woman passenger who had accused Yadav of sexual harassment. She was told “someone will have a chat with the driver”. The company is remiss also in not getting the mandatory background checks and police verifications done for its 4,000 drivers.
The story does not end here. A police officer allegedly gave Yadav a character certificate in spite of a string of criminal cases against him. Our judicial system failed to convict Yadav in cases of sexual violence because of “inconsistencies” in statements of the rape/molestation victims and “lack of evidence”. The Delhi transport department did not have robust and thorough security check and monitoring systems, even after a reported increase in public transport-related sexual violence cases in Delhi. Even after the ban, cabs of those taxi operators who have been found to be flouting legal and safety obligations are still operating on Delhi roads. The list is, sadly, not exhaustive.
The case presents a classic example of impassivity that pervades our institutions and systems, which have failed to promote safe spaces for women. It’s not just the perpetrators who commit sexual violence who are to be blamed, but also those who create favourable situations for it to take place brazenly and without the fear of punishment. Until all such vile offenders are held accountable, this scourge of society will continue to terrorise us and push us into further despondency.
(Ayesha Pervez is a writer and human rights researcher. The views expressed by the author are personal)