Why rapes will not stop in India despite the forthcoming four hangings

Why rapes will not stop in India despite the forthcoming four hangings

Why rapes will not stop in India despite the forthcoming four hangings

IANS | March 11


Four hangings as splints for a fracturing land. In caste-inequity normative India -- where mythology is becoming history, politically-inconvenient histories being pathologized, "anti-national" students baton-whipped, minorities being demonized, rights selectively denied: all, viscerally-approved by majoritarianism -- its as if these hangings will provide catharsis.

India -- along with countries comprising more than half the world's population -- permits death-penalties for "rarest of rare" crimes. Rapes are hardly un-rare, rape-murder increasingly rarest-of. The hangings, after following due judicial and presidential-pardon processes, were scheduled for January, then February, then early-March. Now, Indians collectively await the next fortnight.

The four are convicts of the 2012 "Nirbhaya" case: a surreal normalization of rapes when a victim -- gang-raped, vaginally-brutalised with an iron rod, killed is renamed "one who feels no fear". Any victim, including this writer, could tell them of their folly: fear is felt foremost and forever. Lack of fear isn't to be deified in sexual assault; it adds onus upon the assaulted to fight a physical-utmost to prove non-consent.

Despite continuous media-coverage, this case is nevertheless taking seven-plus years; the average is much higher. The conviction rates are abysmal: for the 39 rapes reported every hour, one in four is convicted[1]. Governments change, none visibly improve the judicial system. Such sloth condones the rise of the criminal-politician: the criminally-charged centrally-elected has nearly doubled since 2004[2]. Among state-elected is a ruling-party legislator, his five sons and nephew gang-raping a young-widow over 45 days, then forcing abortion[3]. She is now a statistic like the 1,10,000 pending rape-cases including child-rape with five child-rapes reported per hour. Meanwhile, rape-accused under-trials, some convicted of less-than-"heinous" get bail; they vanish, some repeat-rape.

Political totalitarianism also appropriates the police. A police cover-up of an eight-year-old's gang-rape-murder saw a politically-fostered far-right group protesting subsequent arrests. There are only 151 policepersons per 100,000 for 1.3 billion Indians (mandated ratio is 222:100,000). The math in that gap -- a visible and non-partisan police presence might reduce rapes -- is also ignored by India's elected.

Predictably, a thirty-one per cent spurt in rape-murder cases in 2018 over 2017[4]. Frighteningly, 25,000 child-pornography uploads-shares in five months of computer-generated child-images and actual children[5]. Rape "content" being spawned, in real-time, through real-life, un-reported children. Forty per cent of girl-children, twenty-five per cent of boy-children are sexually abused in India, half at home or by adults whom they trust (cutting across caste-class lines). Strong laws are graveyards of good intentions given the state of police-judiciary; unsurprisingly, under-reporting of rape (adult, child) is estimated at sixty-five per cent, more among middle and upper classes.

Sum total: rich pickings for rapists.

When India is internationally scorned as the "rape capital" -- rape-and-burn-alive, gang-rapes, candle-bottle-rod rapes, relatives of raped-teens assassinated -- politicians play to the galleries. They call for lynchings, castrations. When alleged gang-rapists are shot dead, pre-trial, they congratulate the police.

Most known political parties have been in power by now: at central and state levels, in the lead or in alliances. They know -- they know very well -- that the frame around just-punishment, especially capital punishment, is collapsing. They know they are responsible. They know they are doing nothing nor do they intend to, to work on the solutions -- all of which are surprisingly simple. Instead, see how they pretend to care for women's safety.

Politicians as indirect perpetrators: this writer -- pro-capital punishment for specific crimes -- realised how little they care for child-victims and grieving families when she researched death-penalty accountability[6]. Political pardons had been granted to, among others, a long-dead person, and a repeat-rapist who with the jail-guard raped-murdered the jailor's daughter. Plus, the time taken by governments to move a mercy-petition file can take up to a decade. Anti-penalists may note: an inordinate delay in death-punishment is equally germane to the leeway of clemency. No law can ensure public safety if it's not applied fairly, firmly, fast.

If the lack of law-and-order abets rapists, India's hyper-patriarchal society is accessory. Always about the brute-power that the muscularity of money can buy, casual misogyny is rampant. Money plus education doesn't minus misogyny: if she is not a wife-mother, she is the "other". An audio-recording has intent-to-rape ruminations by rich teen-boys in an upmarket-school debating class-mate "gang-bang", with-without rods, on a "rape-ability" index. Their parents dismiss it as "banter". In a hostel, 66 college-girls are stripped for menstrual checks[7], periods-isolation is "tradition" as she is "unclean".

The macho-male bastion of Hindi (Bollywood) films also convinces itself that rapes are a result of only their own silos. Routine, therefore, the sexual-objectification of female bodies for male viewing-pleasure -- the woman is the "item" in the "item-song" -- while dialogues and lyrics don't discourage the prurient to think about sexual aggression and violence as power-tools.

Catharsis? For India's women, for rape-victims, it's the horror of continuum.

(Author-journalist Pinki Virani has assisted India in framing laws against child sexual abuse; her Supreme Court request as "Next Friend" of a raped-persistant vegetative state nurse lead to the passive euthanasia law and, subsequently, the addition of clauses when tightening India's rape laws)

[1] https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/over-30000-rape-cases-only-1-in-4-convicted/articleshow/63748925.cms

[2] https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/since-2004-share-of-mps-with-criminal-cases-has-nearly-doubled/articleshow/74148589.cms


[3] https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/varanasi/bhadohi-bjp-mla-5-sons-nephew-booked-for-gang-rape/articleshow/74214767.cms

[4] https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/in-crimes-against-women-rise-in-cases-of-rape-with-murder-6208863/

[5] https://indianexpress.com/article/india/child-pornography-india-ncmec-us-report-6238603/

[6] https://www.firstpost.com/india/hyderabad-rape-murder-case-vet-death-penalty-rapists-7086911.html