Santosh Kumar Mohapatra
ape is a shame on humanity. What is reprehensible is that with the growth in human numbers and ‘civilisation’, crimes against women are also rising by leaps and bounds. Rape is one of the fastest growing crimes in India. It is affecting career prospects and overall productivity of women, besides their economic prosperity. The vulnerability of girls or women to rape is almost twice what it was 17 years back. On average, 92 women are raped in India every day.
The real figure could be far higher, as several rapes go unreported across countries, including in India; survivors often do not reveal such violation of their bodies and minds for fear of being ostracised and socially humiliated; they also fear mental pain the police and courts can inflict.
Almost all myths have stories of sexual violence. But they also show instances wherein the violators get punished for their actions. But now, most rapists go scot-free.
Many link rape to lust, which is wrong. But rape has little to do with men seeking sexual gratification. Had it been so, babies and women even in their Nineties would not have been raped. Many attribute the incidents of rape to flimsy or provocative clothing worn by women. But dresses don’t cause rapes. In tribal and rural areas, many women still do not cover their bodies; they even take bath in the open; but such liberties have not triggered rapes.
The vast majority of rapes are not instantaneous actions. They are planned crimes. The rape culture arises from a predatory, patriarchal social structure, misogyny and male chauvinism. The social environment allows sexual violence to be normalised and justified. It is fuelled by persistent gender inequalities and attitudes about gender and sexuality. Rape culture suggests men have a ‘right’ to women’s bodies, undermining the concept of consent. It defines ‘manhood’ as dominant and sexually aggressive; and ‘womanhood’ as submissive and sexually passive.
Maintaining chastity and virginity is made the moral responsibility of women alone, which imposes restrictions on their sexual freedom and restricts them to being child- bearing and rearing machines. The subordination of women under patriarchy is compounded by market and consumerist values, which portray women as objects of lust, sex and enjoyment.
A disciplined society requires moral and ethical sexual relations. Decaying moral and ethical values, and an emphasis on extravagant lifestyles instead of sacrifice and noble work have had a detrimental impact. At present, some so-called leaders (across religions) are being found guilty of rape or running sex rackets. It has desecrated society and spurred others to commit crime. This trend, along with intoxication and drug abuse, has whetted the inhuman mentality of people and youth who fail to decide what is good or bad and commit such heinous crimes.
There is a clamour for harsh punishment for rape, including public hangings, lynching and castration. The problem lies not in the stringency of law, but in the competence of the justice system to investigate, bring to trial and expedite verdicts. NCRB Report 2017 says there is a huge backlog of rape cases. It is annoying that the conviction rate for rape cases was 32.2 per cent in 2017. Odisha has a sad example of its own in the Chabbirani rape case which took 22 years for the final verdict to be pronounced.
Nobody is born a criminal and no major crime gets covered up without political patronage. The big question is, if legislators themselves have a criminal background, how can crimes against women be reduced?
Another disquieting fact is that if a woman cannot be safe in her own family, how can she be safe outside it? About 90 per cent of rapes in India are committed by people known to victims. The average Indian woman is 17 times more likely to face sexual violence from her husband than from others. NCRB report 2017 says the majority of crimes against women were registered under ‘Cruelty by Husband or his Relatives’ (33.2 per cent).
The time now is to contemplate why dreadful crimes are being committed even as the perpetrators know these have serious consequences.
The writer is an Orissa-based economist.