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    Posted on 14 March 2012
    CULTURE & SOCIETY  
    OPINION

    No country for rape victims

    Rapes in the capital are increasingly becoming the only crime in which the victim is treated as the accused, says Nishita Jha

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    Illustration: Samia Singh


    If you ever wondered how rape in India resembles the circus of the bizarre, the news wire since Sunday night could be your guide. Deputy Commissioner of Gurgaon PC Meena (in response to the gang rape of a 25-year-old pub-employee on the night of 11 March) exhorted women working at commercial enterprises, malls and bars in Gurgaon to stop staying at work after 8 pm. Even if we were, for a moment to take this suggestion seriously, it would lead us to conclusions so ridiculously skewed that it would be difficult to explain why Meena continues to hold his office.

    For one, all rapes (even in Gurgaon) do not occur after 8 pm, and for the DC to believe that they would means that he is completely clued out of his own beat. Second, to curtail the freedom of movement of all women after a certain time — in other words, to impose a curfew — is not just an admission of utter incompetence, but is in fact, anti-constitutional. “Women have a right to equality and freedom of movement just like the men in this country. Meena clearly needs someone to sit down and explain Indian laws to him,” fumes lawyer Rebecca John.

    On the telephone right after sitting in for the trial against the rapists of a Northeastern woman recently raped in Saket, John locates the problem to the complete lack of sensitivity with which the Indian legal system treats victims of rape. “Our laws are watertight, but how can this help when the ground reality in a court room, or a police station for that matter, is no different from the mentality of a khap panchayat? I look at women who choose to testify against rapists with wonder all the time, simply because we all know that once they admit to having been raped, they will be violated repeatedly by the police, the lawyers and the media.”

    In a response much in the same vein as Meena’s Borat-like comment, women on social networking sites have suggested an economic boycott of Gurgaon after 8 pm. “Let's not work after 8 pm. Let's also not hit the malls, pubs, shopping centres, hire cabs or autos, go to gyms/salons what have you... in short let's boycott Gurgaon for a few days after 8pm. If enough women in Gurgaon are ‘safe in their homes’ after 8, I'd like to see how the economy takes it, specially over a weekend,” says one Facebook user.

    However, the impromptu revolution is not for those with steady jobs. “How can I be expected to stop working when all my male subordinates slave away at night? Most companies in Gurgaon provide female employees with a taxi after 9 pm, but clearly even that isn’t safe enough. Perhaps what we need are armed escorts, but then, who will save us from them?” laughs a frustrated Neha (25), manager of Striker, one of the more popular pubs in Gurgaon.

    Perhaps a more cathartic solution, instead of asking ourselves what Meena meant, would be simply to demand his resignation. Raghu Ram, (creator of the reality show Roadies, where he frequently quizzes contestants on what they think is ‘appropriate’ clothing for women) however, disagrees. “I’ve found idiots across the span of this country who echo Meena’s thoughts, the poor idiot is in the spotlight simply because he is shooting his mouth off in a position of responsibility. Statements about the victim’s working hours, clothing and personal life take focus away from the criminals to the victim. What these fools (administration, police) need are sensitisation workshops. I’d be happy to be a part of them,” says Ram.

    Satisfying as a reality-show style grilling of Meena and certain female chief ministers would be, there still remains questions that we must ask ourselves. Why for instance, do all accounts of rape follow the same spiral, before they eventually disappear from our collective conscience? As an officer from the Gurgaon Women’s Cell admits on condition of anonymity, “There is barely anything to prevent a potential rapist from committing a crime, certainly not the time of day. If we do not get there on time, if he is connected as most of the people we apprehend are, then there is more than a 90% chance that he will get away.”

    While the hot-blooded knee-jerk reaction almost always recommends capital punishment for rapists, lawyer Nitya Ramakrishnan agrees that it is not the fact that punishments are not severe enough, that does fail to deter rapists — but the lack of certainty that there will be consequences.

    In the meantime, we continue to be subjected to reports that speculate about the victim’s age, personal life and the veracity of her statements. We tell ourselves versions of the story that make us feel better, that assure ourselves that it cannot happen to us, even though just a cursory glance at the past week’s papers should dispel doubts (if you ever had any) that rape has anything to do with where you live, where you work, your mode of transport, your age or the way you look. According to the Crime Records Bureau’s statistics, 2010, in 96% of the reported cases, perpetrators known to the victim committed rape. So where does one find escape? If, like me, you are a woman in the NCR, it is likely that you have spent a significant portion of your life worrying about getting raped. As a 26-year-old who travels the length and breadth of the city for work and out of personal choice, one must constantly measure life in friends and acquaintances and people that one should feel ‘safe’ around, and those to be avoided once the sun sets. And yet, reconcile yourself with the knowledge that if you are raped, every detail of your life will be scrutinised to contort the narrative and suggest that you asked for it. Welcome to the NCR — this is No Country for Rape victims.

    Nishita Jha is a Correspondent with Tehelka.
    [email protected]

    Editing by Debashree Majumdar


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    Posted on 14 March 2012
 

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