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Monday, Oct 21, 2019

The battle against rape, the battle for dignity

The Bettiah and Shahajanpur incidents show how women continue to be unsafe

editorials Updated: Sep 18, 2019 20:03 IST

Hindustan Times
According to the National Crime Records Bureau (2016), rape accounts for 12% of all reported crimes against women
According to the National Crime Records Bureau (2016), rape accounts for 12% of all reported crimes against women(REUTERS)
         

The fight for women’s safety is an uphill one. On September 16, in Bihar’s Bettiah, the police arrested five people a day after they were accused of gangraping a former resident of the infamous Muzaffarpur shelter-home. This comes close on the heels of a law student in Uttar Pradesh’ Shahjahanpur accusing former minister Chinmayanand of rape and blackmail for a year. The police are yet to register a case against the well-connected politician. This highlights both the vulnerablity of women and the impunity with which powerful men behave.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau (2016), rape accounts for 12% of all reported crimes against women. Sexual assault in India continues to be either swept under the carpet or under-reported. Despite the increase in recorded cases between 2010 and 2016 (attributed to awareness created by the unfortunate Delhi gangrape case in 2012), conviction rates have remained stagnant. The Delhi incident started the conversation (and helped bring in a strict law), but the horrific Kathua and Unnao rapes only proved that legislation alone cannot ensure women’s safety. Women remain unsafe, both in public or within the home.

What India needs is an ecosystem of care and empathy that focuses on the prevention of sexual assault, the protection of victims and the certainty of action against culprits. This places the onus significantly on the police. Preventive measures such as education and awareness (important in a deeply patriarchal society) help ensure women’s safety. Equally important is recognising that acts of sexual violence are deeply traumatic for survivors, and that it takes great courage and faith in the system to report them. The police, dominated by men, must do more to clear all obstacles in the path of survivors. India has taken some steps, but there is a long way to go before women, especially from marginalised backgrounds, feel safe and can access justice.

First Published: Sep 18, 2019 20:03 IST

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