This is not a pleasant statistic. In the first seven months of this year, Mumbai Police registered a total of 224 cases of rape and 635 cases of molestation against 232 and 614 throughout 2012. The August 22 gang rape of a photojournalist gave numbers a further fillip.
In a Female Security Index collated by a private firm, Mumbai was ranked sixth in 8 cities not very safe for women. Have crimes/violence against women increased so exponentially or are these crimes being reported more?
Only a detailed disaggregation of numbers along an extended timeline can answer the question, but what is certain is that the subject of women’s safety has crept into our conversations — and lives — in the last year in a way it hadn’t before. This, in itself, is the legacy of the brutal gang rape of the 23-year-old physiotherapy student in Delhi this day last year. She died of the injuries on December 29. Barely eight months later, Mumbai - considered a safer city for women than Delhi - was shaken out of its stupor by the daylight gang rape of the photojournalist.
To the many divisions in our society — straight and gay, privileged and downtrodden, middle and other classes, upper and lower castes and so on - another one has been added. Those who believe that women’s safety and its constant violations matter because we are all entitled to a safe society, and those who think that too much fuss is being made about it — from drawing rooms and chat rooms to suburban trains and well-appointed offices.
Writer Nilanjana Roy told The Guardian newspaper three months back: “The rapes might not stop, but this conversation isn’t stopping either.” If the high-decibel public and private chatter about rapes and sexual harassment made men, and some women, uncomfortable, then the message has begun to hit home.
This, perhaps, reflects in increased reporting of sexual violence and a lower threshold of people to bury them under covers. Mumbai has not turned the Delhi way — yet. The private firm’s study showed that Mumbai recorded 3.3 rapes per lakh of women while Delhi showed nearly 6.3. And, this figure does not take into account cases such as the four-year-old girl who was molested in her school bus, or the husband who “offered sex” with his wife to four men for money.
“Sexual harassment, and all forms or violence against women, are gross forms of violation of human rights. We have to talk about them and find ways to curb them,” Indira Jaising, India’s additional solicitor general told this newspaper.
The Delhi gang rape case became the catalyst for these conversations. The male gaze is now beginning to be countered by a societal gaze. Yes, the incidences of rapes and sexual harassments will not immediately cease or even decrease, but the climate in which they can occur with impunity has begun to change. And, that’s not a bad thing — for a start.