BUILDING A NATIONAL CONSENSUS – IMPERATIVE FOR SAFEGUARDING WOMEN AND CHILDREN FROM SEXUAL ASSAULTS.
With the recent assaults and cases of Rape on women, the time has come now for us to lay down Statutory Laws that would deter any person to even attempt to outrage the modesty of a woman in India. The reaction of Civil Society in the Country today, irrespective of caste, creed or religious beliefs, has shown the severe anger and strong aversion that we all feel about such cases recurring at regular intervals. These cases are committed by a large number of maniacs ranging from adolescents to thugs, as also by some people who have no remorse, pity or shame to perform these heinous acts as they want, where they want and how they want? It is a matter of very serious concern for man kind and we must now lay down Transparent and Strict Laws against any Individual committing such a heinous crime. As of today the death penalty for Rape is nonoperative in India and it is a question of debate whether such a law should now not be implemented at the earliest. The Supreme Court only today has acted suo moto by stipulating that rape trials must end within two months and directing Trial Courts to strictly adhere to the existing norms and to rule out the possibility of maneuvering through undue adjournments. This to my mind may be a beginning but certainly not the end for legislating a strong Law where by it would be impossible for any one to even attempt rape of any kind.
What is rape? It is a type of sexual assault initiated by one or more persons against another person without the Person’s consent. This act can be carried out by force, under threat or by manipulating with a person without valid consent.
I have tried to study prevalent Laws that exist today and compare sexual assaults taking place within the United States of America, China and Pakistan vis-A-vis India. There appears to exist a vast difference between these Countries as evidenced by the following:
The question whether the death penalty is disproportionate to the Crime committed is what the US also thinks about? They feel that the death penalty is unconstitutional for non homicide rape, but, they are willing to consider the appropriateness of the death penalty where the severity of the crime and threat to human life out weighs any doubts of proportionality. However each State in America has their own laws for rape. It is also a normal practice that any difference of opinion in Inter State rape laws, can be put up to the Federal Court for a final decision. This appears to have been necessary, so that the death penalty is not imposed arbitrarily or capriciously. After any aggravating factor is found, every death sentence is then reviewed by the Supreme Court to make certain that the Defendant did not receive punishment which was disproportionate to similarly situated Defendants.
The Laws in China differ and a brief comparison of what they think about Rape is tabulated below:
More often than not the rape cases in China are not published with a blow to blow account as is done in many Countries including India. More often than not in a large number of cases after identification of the Rapist as also his act, the Person disappears and no one ever comes to know as to where he is, or is not!! In China they also have Rape Crisis Centers which provide counseling and medical support to sexually violent victims. Statistics for rape are hard to quantify and China also is no exception. Official Statistics puts the numbers to approximately 15,000 victims but US sources reported 31,833 cases of rape in China in 2007. Majority of rapes in China are committed surprisingly by someone the victim already is familiar with. Chinese culture holds that women bear equal responsibility for an act of rape. It is interesting to know that in China a woman may be viewed as being responsible for being raped since she aspires to date or go to a man’s premises, or that she took the risk of being raped as she went out alone late at night or drank alcohol: or that she enticed others to rape her with her behavior or dressing. It is stated that a raped women in China is considered to be Dirty and Ruined even within the Women’s own Family. In some cases it is stated that her Family wouldn’t even put their clothes together in the washing machine because they thought that she was dirty. It is also possible that because of the ratio of the male dominance and gender inequality which is prevalent at all levels in Society such thoughts are entertained. However Sex Education is largely, cursory and focused on the biological aspects as opposed to the Social Stigmas. So Bad is the sex education that, it is believed that pornographic material available implants a lot of wrong information in them, such as the Advertisements like “No means Yes and all Girls want Sex” The laws pertaining to rape follow cultural perceptions where only women can be victims. The last Criminal Law that was changed was made in 2003-2004 though the Sentence for rape ranged from three years imprisonment to the Death Center. Even the Death Penalty comes with a two year reprieve, with forced labor and the sentence can be adjustable depending on the performance of the Criminal during the two year labor punishment. This may be to ensure not to lose a life which can be usefully utilized for the Country. An ABSURD LAW to my mind but one that is backed by an autocratic regime.
Pakistan feels that a number of their Countrymen’s attitude towards females is seriously flawed and until they change such laws, Pakistan cannot prosper. Here again a majority of the People there feel that cases of rape are because of the victim being out for the late-night parties and the clothes that she wears. It is also wrong for us to however establish that the “She Asked For It” attitude is prevalent in the Country, since actually it is followed only by a small segment of the Pakistan Society. One also hears about Honor killings, which are a result of Feudalism, Extremism, Poverty and most of all due to lack of Education.
Pakistan’s Lower house of Parliament sometime ago is known to have passed amendments to the country’s rape laws ditching the death penalty for extra marital sex and revising a clause on making a victim to produce four witnesses to prove rape cases. However consensual sex, outside marriage, remains a crime punishable with 5 years in prison or a hefty fine. David Landes, a Professor of Economics at Harvard University has argued that the best barometer of an economy’s potential lies in the legal rights and status of its women folk and to deny women their equal rights is to deprive a country of labor and talent. Similarly, it has been stated that the biggest obstacle to achieving Democracy in a Muslim country was not the economy or education levels, but the subjugated status of women. President Gen Pervez Musharraf however took a firm decision to change the unjust rape laws and felt that it was necessary to amend these laws to protect women. There was however an uproar and rallies were conducted to denounce such moves by the Military-led Government which saw this as Anti Islam. President Dictator Gen Zia-Ul-Haq later introduced the laws known as the Hudood Ordinance in 1979. It was later said that Pakistan’s progress as a nation was directly correlated to the legal status that it accorded to its women. An abundance of literature from Law, Economic, and Political science has shown time and time again that until a State begins creating a respectful place for its women by providing equality and a measure of respect, no State can prosper.
“You can tell the condition of a Nation by looking at the status of its Women” – Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.
In India the role of women has rapidly shifted from household chores to the commercial world and offences against women have increased day by day. Violence against women is partly a result of gender relations where men assume superiority over women.
The offences against Women in India could be physical assault, mental abuse, sexual harassment, sexual exploitation, forced prostitution, domestic violence and brutal rape. Let’s not brush every thing under the carpet because women in India today are actually facing sexual harassment at the work place, places of education, Railway stations, Public places and now regretfully in POLICE STATIONS which are meant to protect Civil Society and in particular WOMEN. As for the present horrifying incident that took place at JANTAR- MANTAR where a peaceful agitation was started by the Women and Men who were only demanding JUSTICE FOR THE VICTIM were brutally assaulted. It was these Brave Women and Men who were just demanding and peacefully protesting were horribly mauled, crushed, cursed and man handled by the POLICE which is disgraceful and which must never be tolerated in our Civil Society. To crown this not only did the Police not bother, but it was a shock to see that the whole event took a POLITICAL turn. To my mind it could have been easily and effectively handled had any of our Politicians come out and had the GUTS to stand in front of their own people just to assure them that all possible measures will be implemented with immediate effect and to make sure that discipline and deft handling of the situation was resorted to.
Instead of the above, the agitation was allowed to continue and became uncontrollable. Coupled with this the BRAVE HEART was moved overnight to a Singapore Hospital at dead of night without any intimation to the nation. The Police also now appear to have gone hell for leather to save their own skin, by forcing people/ witnesses to state things which may not be true. The situation today has become explosive, The Police Vs The Agitators, The Politicians Vs The Politicians. The Police Vs The Police, each one trying to gain a brownie point to save their skin and the chairs that they sit on, and want to put the blame on someone else.
Imagine if this would have been a Military Operation which had gone awry and we could not predict such a result. In a situation of this nature, after having served my Country for 40 years in the Army and Commanded the most Disciplined and Brave Troops in the World and having fought all the Battles from 1962 to Siachen, it strikes me that what have we been trained for and the Leadership qualities which are imbibed in the blood of a Soldier which at all levels teaches the Armed forces – Duty First, your Own Safety, Chair and Life Last Always and Every Time. Could not the Political Masters, Ministers dealing with the situation have the guts to come face to face not with an enemy but with our own boys and girls and explain to them the whole situation, heard what they had to say and taken action appropriately to ensure that peace and tranquility prevailed in the area. I AM TODAY DISAPPOINTED WITH THE TYPE OF GOVERNANCE THAT WE ARE DISPLAYING WHERE THE LEFT HAND DOES NOT KNOW WHAT THE RIGHT HAND IS DOING. IMAGINE THE WOMEN’S HELPLINE TELEPHONE NUMBER IS TILL TODAY IN OPERATIVE. As a Citizen of this Country, I pray that all Indians get together to demand and ensure that what was promised to the Citizens of the Country by our Great Politicians of the yore is also practiced i,e. “POLITICIANS MUST GIVE THEIR TODAY FOR THE COUNTRY’S TOMORROW”
Before I come to the Legislative provisions that must be speedily implemented it is very pertinent to ensure that the work conditions provided in all establishments must include respect for workers, their leisure and a hostile free environment towards our women. NO WOMAN SHOULD HAVE ANY REASON TO BELIEVE THAT SHE IS DISADVANTAGED BECAUSE OF HER SEX. We should ensure that our school-going children must also be educated to face challenges of life.
I have tried to bring out a comparison between the Women’s environment prevalent in other Countries and how each country treats rape offences differently. In our Country the definition of rape is given under section 375 of the IPC Code 1860 based on the following circumstances
1. Sexual intercourse against the victim’s will.
2. Without the victim’s consent.
3. With her consent, when her consent has been obtained by putting her or any person that she may be interested in fear of death or hurt.
4. With her consent, when the man knows that he is not her husband.
5. With her consent, when at the time of giving such consent she was intoxicated, or is suffering from unsoundness of mind and does not understand the nature and consequences of that to which she gave consent.
6. With or without her consent when she is under sixteen years of age.
Under today’s circumstances as they prevail, I personally feel that till we get our education system on line from the junior classes right up to college level where students are taught the true challenges in life and how to deal with them, THE DEATH PENALTY should be mandatory. I do not agree that while we legislate this punishment why should it not be operative with retrospective effect? The argument of some Politicians who have expressed their views to say that if we amend the Laws today and bring in the Death Penalty this would not have retrospective promulgation which is fallacious and malicious. Any new law legislated could also attract the Constitutional rights in which the makers of the law desire to put down. If such a law is promulgated today, it must be with retrospective effect and the present case must be covered with a Death Penalty. Let not the POLICE play around with witnesses to file charges of rape trying to make it that it was a murder. It transcends to more than a BRUTAL MURDER. THIS CASE IS THE RAREST, RAREST, RAREST OF THE RAREST!! If we were living in the Stone Age it would be appropriate to suggest that the guilty should be dragged by a moving truck for sufficient distance of the road and then laid out for People to pay their homage by stoning them to Death.
We should immediately order three Independent Commissions to inquire as under:
1. The true version of the Rape incident as it transpired. The background of all Accused involved.
2. Any previous connection between the Victim and the Accused.
3. The recommendations for moving the Victim to Singapore under hazardous and suspicious circumstances. The reason for the hush – hush. The opinion of all doctors involved. Results of the post-mortem report.
4. The haste of cremating the body without taking the People in confidence.
5. The facts of the Police constable whether he died due to heart attack or was brutally assaulted.
6. The overall responsibility of Law and Order in Delhi, the role of Home Ministry, Chief Minister Delhi, Lt Governor Delhi and their duties. Use of global role models like the mayors of New York and London and how they have professionally handled disasters and terrorist attacks which affect the lives of all people.
7. The training of our Police Forces must be stream lined to become the best disciplined force to take on truthfully the Law and Order for the People of this Country. I see no reason why our Politicians require Security for themselves. In the future anyone fighting an Election and he be Elected, why does he want Security from the same People who voted him to power???????
8. My humble suggestion to the Government is that in the next Elections tickets should only be given to those Brave Hearts who have the courage to spend ten days on the SIACHEN GLACIER with our Brave Soldiers. I am confident that those who survive this great challenge would surely become our Brave Hearts for the future.
I further recommend that the Brave Victim whose name today the World is not aware off be named now. I strongly urge that the ANONYMOUS HERO who has displayed Courage, Fortitude and Grit of the Greatest Magnitude and thus set an example for others to follow, be awarded the Highest Gallantry Award for Civilians on our Republic Day, which would embolden WOMEN in our country to throw off their shackles and be second to none.I strongly urge that we must clean the Parliament of all tainted MP’s who have Criminal Cases pending against them and surely if they are involved under any Rape Charges.
I acknowledge what the President of India has said “The Political Class and Civil Society must set aside narrow sectional interests to make India a democratically safe place to live in, and the Country resolves that “NIRBHAY’s” death will not be in vain.
ALL POLITICIANS, DOES IT RING A BELL. CHANGE NOW, THE PEOPLE WILL NEVER FORGIVE YOU FOR YOUR IN-ACTION WHEN IN POWER. WAKEUP