Rape Vrs R-A-P-E
Following the recent incident of savage gangrape of a paramedico student in Delhi public bus, there has been a huge countrywide outrage as well as a massive brainstorming on how to ensure safety of women and curb crimes against women. Lots of articles containing valuable opinion and suggestions from esteemed members of society have also been published in media.
But one article “ Crime and Punishment” ostensibly championing the cause of women, got me really thinking about the duality of beliefs and consequent lack of genuine empathy for women in society .
The reasons and concerns observed by the author asto why “award of death penalty will not stop rape, but swift and harsh punishment will certainly deter would-be rapists” are well taken (although,personally,I would advocate stringent punishment for rape with capital punishment as the maximum, depending upon the rarity and severity of brutality of the crime.). But I felt deeply distressed to find two observations by the esteemed author at the same breath, which perhaps reveals a disturbing phenomenon of many in the society, both men and women, who think they believe in gender neutrality/equality, but deep down in their subconscious, they still harbour and accept the centuries-old prejudices against women. To quote, at one place the author says, “ Rape is horrible because it violates the body,the mind,the honour and the dignity of the victim and thereby is a direct attack on all womanhood.” and yet, at another place, he goes on to say,“ Murder, that is, permanently depriving a person of life, will always be a more serious offence than rape, regardless of what women activists might say. Despite this, generally speaking, in murder cases life imprisonment is the norm and death penalty is the exception. Is rape so much more serious than murder that we should insist on a mandatory death penalty in rape cases?”
A Freudian slip by the esteemed author??
Rape, (that too the unimaginably violent ones being perpetrated by sick and pervert men with frequent regularity of late) is a violation of body that results in inhuman physical torture- in many cases leading to death or severe conditions leaving the victim as a living corpse, and leads to an annihilation of the soul of the victim and worse still, it systematically crushes down entire generations of women through an atmosphere of intense fear of dire consequences for women who dare establish an identity of their own beyond being an appendage to some male! Pray, how is this any less serious than murder? How I wish I had a magic wand to convert a few men to girl foetuses and make them grow through the entire labyrinth of gender discrimination from mother’s womb to grave, from subtle to pronounced to violent – just to make them understand what it means to be a woman even in today’s so called much-progressed world!!
By the way, the word RAPE itself contains its own solution: Reform, Act, Punish , Exemplify ! Ironically, R-A-P-E can serve as a Master Approach to address any type of deep-seated sickness pertaining to mindset and system. High time, this word is purged of the stigma attached to it so that all can utter it – like all other words referring to a ‘crime’ so that the shame is on the criminal and not on the victim and secondly, convert it to a positive term to mean a multipronged approach to deal with complex socio-systemic problems.
Any crime has to be dealt with at 3 levels – Prevention, Deterrence & Justice. Prevention requires Reforms to change attitude & systems on all related fields; Deterrence flows from quickness&certainty of being caught & convicted and severity of punishment; Justice comes from reasonable correspondence of punishment to crime committed including reform& rehabilitation of the criminal in deserving cases.
Within this broad framework of action, commendable doable suggestions have come out of all the brainstormings vide sloganeering, debates, discussions, articles etc – which need to be collated and acted upon. Not that we did not know about these earlier – but definitely the silver lining for the society in this darkest cloud for the rape victim is that it has brought the focus back on the issue of women’s safety ! As in every other difficult situation, here too the crying need of the hour is action – the willingness to act ! Some of the suggestions specific to safety of women out of house, like FIR on CCTV, CCTV coverage in public transports, near malls, cinema halls, more PCR vans, badges for drivers of all public transports ( both govt. and private owned vehicles ) with their name, driving licence and photo etc. can be implemented forthwith without any difficulty.
Assuming a girl is allowed to be born and treated equally in getting an opportunity for going to a school, Co-education from day one is perhaps one of the most effective measures to facilitate inculcating respect for women in menfolk and self-esteem in women. When boys see a girls matching upto them or doing better in academics and extra-curricular activities in schools/colleges, they automatically see the latter with respect – nobody has to keep preaching “respect the women”. These boys and girls, when they grow up and take important positions in society and organisations, are most likely to be merit-oriented without much gender bias, unless they have picked up that gender bias from other stronger social fabrics and wrong role models. I can say this with conviction from my own experience and examples of many other women that I know of. So, I reiterate, co-ed is not a sufficient measure to deal with gender issues, but surely one of the most effective ones.
A lot more to be done – to reform society, to reform police, to reform provisions of law, to reform all involved in law enforcement and justice delivery! Herculean task . But we must start dealing with it with genuine seriousness. Let a man not rape a human being; let all of us R-A-P-E the issue of crime – not only against women, but against crimes of all types!