Bilkis Bano Case: Where Are We At Fault?

The most disturbing picture that circulated around showed how their women relatives were greeting them. I could not fathom how a woman would greet a rapist.

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Bilkis Bano Case Controversy , Bilkis Bano
“Raat ko akele bahar mat jaao, kisi aadmi ko saath leke jaao,” As a young girl growing up in the capital city of India, I have often heard such distressing statements. How deeply embedded is patriarchy? The concept of “curfew time” is something we are all aware of.

Even today, I am not allowed to go out after 7pm alone, I should either be accompanied by my younger brother or my father. The fact that my brother is eight years younger to me and still labeled as someone who can protect me draws a clear picture on  how the concept of patriarchy is deeply embedded in our lives.

The aforementioned narrative draws a clear picture on how men and women are differently treated. This directly links to how we give the rights of a woman in the hands of a man.

Bilkis Bano Case Controversy

Recently, the Bilkis Bano case has been in the headlines where eleven men who were sentenced to life imprisonment in the Bilkis Bano gang rape case of 2002 were released from the jail with remission of the sentence. Those 11 men are at their homes while I’m writing this article to show not those men but the society on how we have failed.

All that Bilkis asked for was “Give me back my right to live without fear and in peace”. I don’t want to comment on the justice delivery system of our country or the judiciary but as a woman I felt bad that the society has gone down to such a level that all convicted men were welcomed with garlands and sweets. The most disturbing picture that circulated around showed how their women relatives were greeting them. I could not fathom how a woman would greet a rapist knowing that he has outraged a woman's modesty who was pregnant. Bilkis Bano's fight for justice was long and nightmarish which highlights not only the brutality she faced but the despondent mindset of the people of our country.

 Where are we at fault?

The death-penalty debate gathers steam whenever a heinous act perpetrates, but do we realise that every 20 minutes a rape happens and the odds of it turning into a headline and reaching the masses is only 10%. Stigma, victim-blaming, and the assumption that reporting rape to law enforcement won't result in prosecution make many survivors reluctant to come forward, which contributes to underreporting. Stereotypes about what constitutes "real" rape affect the mindset of people by narrowing the crime.

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Bilkis Bano Case: Supreme Court Seeks Response From Gujarat Government

The conservatism of Indian Society is largely deep-rooted which makes the victims “shamed” to come forward and report a case. The police estimation shows that only 4 out of 10 rapes are reported, the rest remain hidden to protect the family/community’s honour and respect. The 4 out of 10 who report face numerous challenges in getting the perpetrator behind the bars. One part of all this is certainly the attitudes in which one deals with the rape survivors, the society allows negative and baleful stereotypes of rape survivors being promiscuous. This leads to rape survivors who come forward face skepticism and incredulity on what they have experienced. This bafflement and the constant mocking leads many rape survivors harm themselves to escape from the mental torture.

Sometimes it's important to sit and ponder upon such issues.

Sanjana is a Third Year Student at Delhi University. The views expressed are the author's own.

Women's Rights Bilkis Bano case