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Regional generalisation of rape unwarranted

The Dy PM's generalisation comes across as an attempt to step back from accepting the need to take some action, writes Soni Sangwan
By Soni Sangwan | PTI
UPDATED ON OCT 20, 2003 09:22 AM IST

When a delegation of women professionals led by Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit went to submit a memorandum to Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani on Friday regarding their concerns about the safety of women in the Capital, he blamed the social environment of Delhi for the increasing crimes against women here.

To buttress his argument, he said that as a representative of Gujarat, he has seen life in cities like Ahmedabad and Vadodara. “Women travel around the city on bikes and scooters late in the night. Just like the boys, they go out with their friends to have milkshakes in the market and one does not hear of such incidents there,” he had said, going on to talk about the need to improve the value systems of the North — something that the law cannot do — to control the rising crimes here.

What he forgot to mention was that even as he spoke to the women delegates, a 13-year-old schoolgirl had been raped in Vadodara on Wednesday and a 19-year-old girl had been raped in Ahmedabad on Thursday.

As a Delhiite, I am certainly not proud of living in the Rape Capital. But are such regional generalisations warranted? In London, for instance, 2,700 rapes were reported last year. Does that make London totally unsafe for women?

The Deputy Prime Minister's generalisation comes across as an attempt to step back from accepting the need to take some action.

Prioritising investigations and action in all crimes against women — be it eve-teasing, molestation, rape or sexual harassment of any kind — would go a long way in sending the correct message to potential rapists. The man who felt up a woman on a bus and got away with it is more likely to graduate to rape than the man who is taken to task for molestation in the first instance.

Not only should the arrest be immediate but for justice to be done, and seem to have been done, the punishment should also be meted out while the case is still fresh. Last year, Metropolitan Magistrate Raj Kumar Chauhan had sentenced a young man who had eve-teased a school girl within 10 days of the incident — perhaps the fastest trial in such cases.

The judgement would have been faster but for the fact that a weekend intervened.

But coming back to the case of the Swiss diplomat who was raped in the city last week, it is extremely crucial for the Delhi Police to solve the case quickly. The fact that the victim was abducted from the parking lot of a busy auditorium and that within hours another attempt was made — possibly by the same men — has created a sense of fear in the city.

The common police excuse — that since most rapes are committed by people known to the victim, it cannot be termed as a law and order failure — does not work in this case.

Even the police admit to lapses and five policemen have been suspended.

Not only had they rapists hi-jacked the victim in her own Qualis, they had driven out of a secured parking area, stopped in Panchsheel Park area to assault the girl and then left her near the DLTA lawns. Intensive beat patrolling could have had some deterrent impact.

At the end of the day, the message that comes across is that if women want to be safe, they have to take matters in their own hands.

Convicted rapists acknowledge that they target meek, non-aggressive women and girls. The trick then is to appear confident, in control and alert. And like Akanksha, the victim who managed to escape, keep your presence of mind.

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