Rape is the most barbaric act of violating and destroying a woman’s body and integrity, pushing her into an abyss of emotional trauma. The gang rape of Jyoti Singh, christened Nirbhaya, shook the foundations of the government in power. We saw new laws put in place, and it seemed like our country was finally acting to eradicate this inhuman act of violence.
However, nothing much has changed since; about 88 cases of rape are reported on a daily basis (2019). According to the NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau) annual reports, one rape occurs every 21 minutes. While the statistics might feel overwhelming, the sad truth is that it is in fact very real, more so than what the numbers indicate.
The year 2013 saw Indian lawmakers creating more stringent laws around the act of sexual violence or attempt to sexual violence. There were Fastrack courts, better procedures for filing complaints, employment of more women constables and police officers to streamline the process of recording statements, and many other such amendments. But when one digs deeper, one will find that these measures are superficial and only on paper, and at the grassroots level, the problem still persists.
There are multiple barriers that a rape victim in this country has to face, ranging from psychological, societal, to legal. To get justice in this country is a fight every step of the way. Those in power continue to manipulate the law and mould it to their convenience. It becomes a political tool in the hands of those who want to use it to garner votes and stay in power. Court proceedings are slow and the police in most cases, shame and blame the victim by way of insensitive and harrowing rounds of questioning.
To put things in perspective, Mansi, a 13-year-old was raped behind a railway station in Maharashtra. The accused was from an affluent family and escaped the grasps of law because of his privileged caste status. The police, on the other hand, took Mansi into a 12-day custody in an attempt to force a retraction of her statement. Such atrocious exploitation of power by those designated to uphold law, discourages victims from coming forward; filing a complaint becomes as traumatic as the experience of sexual violence when there is such an appalling lack of judicial support.
On the surface, rape can be perceived as an act of physical violence, but it breaks the victim from inside, emotionally and mentally. Our society’s understanding of rape is rooted in patriarchy. Because, in such a narrative, a woman in inferior to man, abhorrent acts of violence against her must in some way be justified. From victim shaming to ostracising her family, communities corner the woman into submission, should she decide to control the narrative.
The 1990 Bhanwari Devi case deserves a worthy mention here. The landmark case involved the gangrape of a woman by higher-caste men simply because she refused to support child marriage. Bhanwari Devi received no support either from the police or her village community. From humiliation to threats, she was harassed every step of the way. Fighting a rigged judicial system while carrying the weight of emotional and physical suffering can break any human being. It is no wonder that women prefer to silently suffer in the face of such oppression.
In a country with deep rooted ideas of misogyny and cultural stereotypes, it is only natural that domestic violence, marital rape, and other such atrocities against women are normalised. This can only be combated by educating the masses and future generations. The highest contributing factor to the growing cases of rape in the country, aside from the patriarchal mindset, is the taboo around the topic of sex. When healthy curiosity is shunned in a scenario of accepted dominance over the female sex, women become the instrument of male desires. Sex education, sensitisation to gender equality, cultural evolution, and a stronger justice system are the only ways to combat this social parasite.
(Edited by Varsha Roysam)