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Kathua, Unnao, Etah and Surat: Little likelihood of such cases decreasing

Boys grow up watching their mothers being subjected to violence and feel that this kind of behaviour towards women is the norm. It enables them to pass on the blame to the victim, a sentiment endorsed by many including politicians. Predatory behaviour is justified as boys being boys has led to a permissive culture on issues like rape.

editorials Updated: Apr 23, 2018 14:50 IST
Hindustan Times
The 'Not In My Name' protest against the rape cases in Unnao and Kathua, Parliament Street, New Delhi, April 15, 2018(Arvind Yadav/HT PHOTO)

A rare commodity should logically be considered more valuable, something to be treasured, but as the sex ratio steadily falls and the number of men in India exceeds that of women by around 40 million (it was 37 million according to the last census), the value of a woman’s dignity and life seems to be decreasing. The recent spate of rapes, especially those of girl children, reveals a viciousness which is shocking even though such incidents are not uncommon. The increase in numbers could be because of increased reporting but the ferocity and frequency suggests deeper reasons. Well meaning and needed as the death penalty for the rape of children under the age of 12 years is — the government approved an executive order to the effect Sunday — it is unlikely to entirely address the issue.

In large parts of India, there are severe restrictions on normal interactions between the sexes; an ingrained belief in the worthlessness of women; and the easy availability of cheap pornography on mobile phones, conveying a distorted notion of male-female relationships. The fact that are fewer women than men, puts all women at greater risk of sexual violence and trafficking. Studies show that across India, especially in states with a skewed sex ration, women are at greater risk of sexual and other forms of violence from an increasingly frustrated cohort of men that finds it difficult to interact with women normally, even find wives.

The increase in women’s education and their ability to access the job market has also left them open to violence in a patriarchal society, which views this independence as threatening. This explains why many men, including those in the infamous Delhi gang rape, justify their brutality as owing to the woman being provocatively dressed or out at a time when she should not have been. Assertions of independence by women are invariably suppressed through violence, sexual or otherwise.

The increase in the number of child rapes is also because children are much easier targets than adults. It is also easier to frighten a child into silence than an adult woman. It could also be on account of the fact that such predators find it easier to make contact with children — at a wedding, the house of a friend or a relative, even their own home — than with adult women. In recent months, more such cases have been reported from rural areas and lower economic groups, where there may not be as much awareness of child sexual abuse as there is in urban areas and middle- and higher-income groups.

Finally, the criminal justice system is also riddled with loopholes, from evidence gathering to investigation that many rape cases just fall through the cracks. As optimistic as one would want to be about the new law, it would be unrealistic to expect it to be free of similar deficiencies. It is a start, but needs to be backed by greater awareness, and a social change.

First Published: Apr 23, 2018 14:06 IST