Vigilantism and revenge for rape does nothing to help victims, these are no substitute for the law
The anger against abusers and rapist/murderers is understandable. But public rage cannot be allowed to spill over into the realm of people taking the law into their own hands.editorials Updated: May 25, 2017 17:05 IST
Each rape case that we hear of now appears to involve extreme brutality, often resulting in the death of the victim. If the 2012 Delhi gangrape shocked us, the Rohtak case, the one in Kerala and several others, some involving infants, have further numbed us. And the idea of vengeance and retribution is understandable. But even so, it is appalling that the Andhra Pradesh chairperson of the Women’s Commission should say that rapists should be skinned and paraded in public and knives distributed to college girls to protect themselves. “When some men behave like wild animals and resort to such atrocious acts, I think there is a need to equip girls with knives. A law is needed for this,” she said.
Earlier, after a woman in Kerala bobbitised her rapist after years of sexual abuse, she was commended for this by the chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan and other politicians. The anger against abusers and rapist/murderers is understandable. But public rage cannot be allowed to spill over into the realm of people taking the law into their own hands. If this is allowed, then there is very little counter to the ugly vigilantism we are witnessing today. Suggesting that young women carry knives puts them in greater danger of the would-be rapist seizing the weapon and using it on the victim. There is no getting away from better policing, a more enabling environment for the victim to file charges in time and for the law to kick in without delay. Today, we see rape victims wait for years, reliving their trauma in the courts, in the hope of justice.
What we also need very urgently is counselling services for victims who are often led to believe that they are at fault for the crime. Legal recourse alone is not enough, the victims must get professional help to overcome both their trauma and the stigma that society often visits on them. The police station is the first port of call for a victim and it is here that she needs a sympathetic and efficient system to build her case. Many women refrain from filing cases for fear of further isolation and threats. If these are addressed effectively, then half the battle is won. Not every woman can fight back with knives and neither should they be required to do so. Skinning and parading rapists may be a prescription that gets Ms Kumari some news coverage, it is completely unacceptable in any law-abiding society. The answer is to afford women greater protection and make the law work for them.