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An assault on our values

Sexual crimes will continue unless society and the law combine to break the mould.

india Updated: Jun 20, 2011 22:33 IST
Hindustan Times

The pattern is consistent. Every time a rape case is reported, especially in Uttar Pradesh, which seems to be topping the list at the moment, the scramble to cover up the crime appears to be the priority for the police rather than making efforts to bring the culprits to book.

Witness the latest of the five rapes over the last two days in the state. A 35-year-old woman is raped and burnt alive, allegedly by five people. The policeman investigating says with a chilling lack of concern that he feels it is only one person who raped her, as though this makes this heinous crime any less. What is alarming is the increasing levels of savagery in such incidents. In another case, the victim was blinded for offering resistance. When a young Dalit girl was allegedly raped and hanged recently, it would appear that the police themselves were either complicit or were the culprits. The Pavlovian response from the police to such crimes appears to be to discredit the victim's statement or, worse still, disregard the complaint. This naturally emboldens criminals who feel that women are fair game and that they have every chance of getting away with it. The police invariably drags its feet on registering cases, and makes it forensically difficult to prove by neglecting to collect the physical evidence. And worse, there is the attitude that somehow or the other, the woman either deserved this punishment or had asked for it. At the lower levels, the judiciary too seems weighted against women who have been sexually assaulted even though the laws are strong and clear on this subject.

It does not help at all that no sooner are such crimes brought to light than they are politicised. So we see a situation of politicians bringing up the rape cases as a weapon against the Mayawati government. There is no doubt that lawlessness in UP is a very worrying factor and one which encourages such crimes. But violence against women is not confined to UP alone. Sexual crimes against women take place right in the heart of the high-security Capital. It is an indication of the lack of value placed on a woman's physical autonomy that men feel that they have a licence to molest in public places. It is also suggestive of a level of societal indifference to such crimes. We have seen people get all hot and bothered about the issue of corruption, and rightly so. But we rarely see such passion when it comes to condemning violence against women. The media too does not go beyond reporting such incidents when they take place, rarely bothering with a follow-up. So, unfortunately, it is quite certain that the pattern which perpetuates sexual crimes is going to play itself out with regularity unless society and the law combine to break the mould.

First Published: Jun 20, 2011 22:31 IST