Thursday 19 December 2019

Whose responsibility is it, anyway?

A fortnight ago, the gruesome rape and murder of a 26-year-old veterinary doctor in Hyderabad shook the nation. The perpetrators were four men aged between 20 and 24 years. Nothing much had changed since the 2012 Nirbhaya rape case in Delhi. However, barely a week later, the police shot the accused men in an encounter! The legality of these encounter killings without proper trial was debated in the media. Those who supported the police action hoped that it would act as a deterrent and prevent future perpetrators from indulging in such crimes. Since then, a lot has been spoken and written about this case.

In the meantime, on her way to the court, a 23-year-old rape victim was set ablaze by her alleged rapist. Recently in Tamil Nadu, a 21-year-old pregnant woman and her husband, while returning home after watching a movie were waylaid by four men, all aged 23. The husband was brutally attacked and the wife was taken to a deserted location and molested. Thankfully, in this case, the woman was not killed. Though the police apprehended the perpetrators, obviously the “encounter” had not acted as a deterrent.

According to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), rape cases in our country doubled in the past 17 years, 16,075 cases in 2001 against 32,559 in 2017, with Madhya Pradesh (5,562 cases in 2017) topping the list followed by Uttar Pradesh (4,246 cases), Rajasthan (3,305 cases) and Kerala (2,003 cases).

What is the cause of increasing sexual violence against women? Are more women willing to be open and seek justice now? Or as some would like to say, it is the women who provoke these attacks by their behavior? Alternatively, is it the case of women being at the wrong place at the wrong time? If we accept this premise, it implies that this society is not safe for women.

What troubles me the most is the profile of the perpetrators. What makes a twenty-odd year old man to rape and murder a perfect stranger, even if the woman is pregnant? What is happening to this society?

Well, the times are changing, rather too fast and not always for the better. Information explosion has numbed the humanity in us, which is evident from the frequent reports of bystanders shooting video of an accident victim rather than reaching out to help. Social media has reduced the real human interaction. Disappearance of joint family has depleted the support systems once available to us in time of crisis. Fast paced life has increased the stress levels, health and emotional impact of which is well documented. The distinction between right and wrong is getting blurred. What was once considered wrong and unacceptable behavior is fast becoming “cool”. Peer pressure has become the major factor that defines the way of life, affecting both adults and children. All kinds of information ranging from latest research to pornography are available in the handheld device at practically throwaway cost. In addition, external factors like inflation, unemployment and alcoholism complicate the social milieu making it the breeding ground for crimes.

How to change this scenario? Whose responsibility is it, anyway?

In my opinion, it is indeed, a collective responsibility.

The role of the Government – Prevention of crime is always better than corrective action. It is now reported that the Nirbaya fund earmarked for women's safety is underutilized, when urgent implementation of planned safety measures is all the more critical. Better policing would definitely improve the safety of women. In this regard, the “Kavalan” app launched by the Tamil Nadu police is a step in the right direction. We also need fast tract courts to hear such cases and provide speedy justice.

Role of the Family – Traditionally, moral values are inculcated at home by the elders. Parents should teach their sons that women should be treated as equals and with respect. They should also act accordingly, as children learn from parental behavior. It is also important to be aware of your children’s friends and their preoccupations. Though parenting is a tough job, the responsibility to guide the children in the right direction predominantly lies with the parents.

Role of the Society – Objectification of women by the media, particularly the movies and advertisements, can have a negative impact on the impressionable young minds. The attitude towards women as a possession is reflected by the frequent reports of violent attacks on women by men, who were spurned by these women. Social education and awareness programs to create attitudinal changes in both man and women are the need of the hour.

Role of the Individual – Women should be aware of their surroundings and be prepared to handle any untoward incidents. To name a few, carrying a pepper spray and learning self-defense techniques will be helpful. If the media reports are to be believed, Chennai and Tamil Nadu top the list of global child pornography viewing! Various studies are examining the correlation between sexually violent pornography and sexual violence against women and children. “A meta-analysis (2015) by Wright PJ, et al., found that pornography consumption was associated with sexual violence globally, among both genders, with stronger association for verbal than physical sexual aggression, while both were significant. It also indicated that violent pornography may be an aggravating factor. Another study (2015) by Subahani et al., analyzing the NCRB statistics from India found indirect evidence supporting an association between internet access and child sexual abuse.” It is practically difficult for the authorities to control the availability of such content on the world-wide web. Therefore, it becomes the personal responsibility and in this regard, one should be conscious of the thin line between the individual right and social responsibility.

The time for reflection and discussion on women's safety is long gone and it is time to take hard measures to ensure the same.  

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This article was published on Linkedin on 18th December 2019.

1 comment:

  1. Article on #sexualviolence against women and #womensafety