In Chennai, an eight-year-old was allegedly raped by numerous men, including her relatives for over two years. The girl recently passed away from prolonged illness. In Uttar Pradesh, a four-month-old baby girl has died after being allegedly sexually assaulted by her 30-year-old cousin at a wedding function. A few days ago, a 25-year-old female lecturer was reportedly set ablaze in Maharashtra by her stalker. She suffered over 40 percent burns and succumbed to her injuries. As Jyoti Singh’s mother still awaits for justice, these incidents prove that India has learned nothing from her horrendous ordeal. Are we so beyond empathy, that we as a society have moved on from the horrors of 2012? Have we forgotten the conversations around making this country a safer place for its daughters? Of raising our boys right? Of ensuring that no girl, no woman ever suffers her fate? And what are the conversations that have replaced the ones on sexual safety women from Indian minds? What is it that India is talking about right now?
- With Jyoti Singh’s mother still awaiting justice to be carried out for her daughter, what has changed for women and girls in this country?
- Why do we only talk about the sexual safety of women when a woman suffers a horrendous fate like that in Hyderabad?
- Why do godmen and public figures spewing misogyny get more coverage than the plight of India’s daughters?
- How many more girls and women will have to suffer the same fate for before we finally look inwards as a society and acknowledge where we are lacking?
Have we forgotten the conversations around making this country a safer place for its daughters? Of raising our boys right? Of ensuring that no girl, no woman ever suffers her fate?
If you look at the conversations that have the nation’s attention currently, they are all deeply misogynist in nature, which we are entertaining either out of amusement or worse, because a lot of people actually believe in them. Yesterday, Swami Krushnaswarup Dasji’s video came to light in which he is heard saying that any menstruating woman who cooks food for her husband will be reborn as a female dog. Who is this Swami you ask? He is a religious leader associated with the trust that runs the same college in Bhuj where 68 students were strip-searched by their teachers and principal to know whether or not they were on their periods. Then there is RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, according to whom affluence and education cause disintegration of families, leading to rise in divorces.
These are just some of the many misplaced loud conversations, curiously sparked by public figures renowned to advocate the orthodox way of life, that have been dominating the headlines and by extension our timelines. So busy are we sneering or nodding to these conversations, that women’s safety seems to have taken a back seat for us. It is only when a Hyderabad or Unnao rape case happens that our collective conscience wakes up temporarily, only to go back to the lull brought about by other “breaking news”.
The judiciary, the governance, the media and we as the society need to reform our outlook and not just on the outside if we sincerely want to get rid of this rape culture.
So, has nothing changed at all in our country? The reporting of sexual crimes against women has certainly gone up. According to a 2019 report titled Sparking the #MeToo Revolution in India: The “Nirbhaya” Case in Delhi, the average annual reporting of molestation and sexual harassment during 2013-2015 went up by 40 percent, as compared to the annual average before the Nirbhaya case. However, the rate of conviction in rape cases has been on a decline ever since 2007. While in 2006 it stood at 27 percent, it was down to a shocking 18.9 percent in 2016. But even when rapists are awarded punishment, the quest for justice is far from over. The death warrant issued to the perpetrators in the 2012 Delhi rape case has been suspended multiple times, leaving Jyoti Singh’s parents and the nation frustrated. Justice in this country isn’t swift, it is a tedious and tortuous ordeal, which certainly isn’t an assurance as a woman who lives in India. `
When you look at all these factors; the meandering discourse on sexual safety of women, the misogynist statements made by those who claim to be flagbearers of Indian culture, the excruciatingly slow pace of justice system, the volatile anger when a heinous incident comes to light, only to cool down swiftly, and other factors like patriarchal entitlement among men, objectification of women and unchecked male toxicity, you realise how we are very far from creating a country where women and girls will at last be safe.
The judiciary, the governance, the media and we the society need to reform our outlook and not just on the outside if we sincerely want to get rid of this rape culture. It will take time and immense will power and concern for our daughters to achieve. Do we have it in us, to bring about a change at the elemental level? Or are we happy pretending that we care, while hoping that things will get better on their own?
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.