The cycle of rape and rage in India – Patralekha Chatterjee

Delhi Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar

Patralekha Chatterjee“If alcohol and pornography in unison can drive a man to a heinous crime like raping a child and then torture her, surely both, and not just one, need to be banned. Extending the same logic, why spare the mobile phone, the gadget of choice for those addicted to pornography? Finally, there is the hot potato of “mindset change”. It is easy to ban pornography. How do we ban patriarchy?” — Patralekha Chatterjee

India is in rape crisis!It is a familiar cycle. A brutal rape is reported. Rage follows. There are protests, dharnas and demands for action. This typically triggers template responses of condemnation and deep regret from politicians and police commissioners. The sound and fury continues for a while.

Then it is back to the routine till the next act of savagery knocks us. And so, it has been over the past week. In Delhi, gulmohar trees are in fiery red bloom. But red is more the colour of rage in the city today as residents once again try to come to terms with another instance of savagery. This time it is a five-year-old girl who was abducted, denied food and water for days, raped, tortured and nearly killed by a male neighbour, possibly with the help of an accomplice.

Delhi’s pain is sucking all the media attention, though it is not the only place in the country where children are being brutalised. There is a five-year-old rape victim battling for her life in a hospital in Nagpur. Another eight-year-old girl is in a Coimbatore hospital, recovering from brutal rape. Barely a day passes without an incident of a child’s rape or abuse being reported.

There is an uncomfortable message here. Last December, the nation exploded in rage following the horrific gangrape of a young woman in a moving bus in the heart of Delhi, and her eventual death. But not everyone was moved. Our messages are not reaching those who ought to be affected. Rapes continue against the backdrop of an overall increase in crimes against children in the country.

In 2011, 33,098 cases of crimes against children were reported in India as compared to 26,694 cases during 2010 — an increase of 24.0 per cent, according to the latest available figures from the National Crime Records Bureau.

Child rape is increasing at a faster rate — 7,112 cases of child rape were reported in the country during 2011 compared to 5,484 in 2010, marking a rise of nearly 30 per cent. Madhya Pradesh reported the highest number of rape cases (1,262), followed by Uttar Pradesh (1,088) and Maharashtra (818). These three states together accounted for 44.5 per cent of the total child rape cases reported in the country.

How do we break this cycle of rape and rage? Evidently, we need police reforms and speedier justice. There is also a demand to ban pornography sites on the Internet. It is argued that the men who raped and tortured little children in the recent cases that have come to light did so under the influence of alcohol and pornography accessed through the mobile phone. Pornography does not need promotion but personally I am not convinced about the effectiveness of this strategy for several reasons. First bans never work.

Besides, if alcohol and pornography in unison can drive a man to a heinous crime like raping a child and then torture her, surely both, and not just one, need to be banned. Extending the same logic, why spare the mobile phone, the gadget of choice for those addicted to pornography? Finally, there is the hot potato of “mindset change”. It is easy to ban pornography. How do we ban patriarchy?

To change the situation on the ground, we need more than just protests and placards. More activists and action are needed where the crimes are happening — in the neighbourhoods and mohallas, in the lanes and bylanes, where many of the victims and the accused live cheek-by-jowl.

But how much awareness has seeped through here? How many people in our slums and resettlement colonies are aware of the new Criminal Law Amendment Act 2013? How many, even in the middle class, know that it has a provision (Section 166A) to sentence for two years police officers refusing to file a complaint of rape? In the case of the five-year-old rape survivor in Delhi, there are allegations that the police was unwilling to register a complaint of rape, and attempted to dissuade the parents from going to the media with offers of money, in the guise of helping with expenses.

As the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative and others have pointed out, it is mandatory for police stations across the country to compulsorily register missing complaints of any minor, and appoint a special police officer to handle these complaints.

These special police officers are meant to be stationed at every police station in plain clothes. Most people in this country would not know what to do, or where to go, if the police does not heed to their complaints, and have to be made aware of their rights.

In the latest Delhi child rape case, had the police taken the first necessary steps and begun by searching the building where the child was last seen, it may have prevented the horrific savagery. But the parents, labourers both, did not have access to a support system which could force the local cops to do their job.

This points to the huge gap in community-level awareness and infrastructure, and it is not just about what needs to happen in the thana. There is an urgent need for preventive steps. Where will a working mother or a working father who does not have a support system at home park their child when they go out to work?

The vast majority in this country continue to be part of the informal sector which does not provide any support facilities like crèches and day care centres to working parents. Even in a city like Delhi, there is a woeful shortage of such institutions.

An organisation like Mobile Creches, for example, is doing exemplary work for migrant workers at construction sites and at resettlement colonies. But it reaches less than 10,000 children in Delhi. If this is the situation in the capital, imagine the plight of cash-strapped working families elsewhere?

The Rajiv Gandhi National Creche Scheme For the Children of Working Mothers, sponsored by the Central government, reaches 5.83 lakh children in the entire country. Without more crèches and day care centres, children of poor working parents will continue to be at risk of abuse and rape. – Deccan Chronicle, 25 April 2013

» Patralekha Chatterjee writes on development issues in India and emerging economies. She can be reached at patralekha.chatterjee@ gmail.com

Delhi anti-rape protester offering money to the police (as the police had offered money to the rape victim's parents to be quiet).

Ravi Shanker KapoorPorn is not the culprit – Ravi S. Kapoor

“Apart from blaming the victim, the argument that women get raped or molested because they wear revealing outfits also tries to absolve the villain of his guilt. As if he were an automaton responding to external stimuli and lacking any sense of responsibility. Interestingly, this line of reasoning is used mostly in cases related to sexual assault and other violent crime against women. In other walks of life, nobody takes the absence of responsibility as a given.” — Ravi Shanker Kapoor

X RatedIt’s always easy to divert attention from the most pressing issue — an issue that demands serious introspection and seismic changes in the way our world is structured. So it’s natural that in response to the outrage over the gangrape of a five-year-old girl, a lawyer has filed a public interest litigation seeking to criminalise pornography.

“Absence of Internet laws encourages watching porn videos since it is not an offence. This has led to a situation where more than 20 crore porn videos/porn clippings are available in the Indian market, which have been downloaded from the Internet,” petitioner Kamlesh Vaswani, an Indore-based lawyer, said through his counsel. Mr Vaswani told a newspaper, “I believe that watching porn corrupts people, and many of the crimes that happen to women, girls and children, such as sex-trafficking, are mostly related to pornography.”

This is a sweeping statement, based on the assumption that the cause-and-effect relationship between pornography and rape is an established and well-acknowledged fact. The truth, though, is that there is no such relationship. In Kuwait, for instance, the rate of rapes per lakh population during 2004-09 was 4.5, 4.8, 5.3, 5.6, 4.7 and 4.5, respectively. The corresponding figures for Canada were 1.8, 1.8, 1.7, 1.6, 1.5 and 1.4 (UN Sexual Violence against Children and Rape Statistics). This was despite the fact that pornography is legal in Canada and illegal in Kuwait. It is intriguing to note that in the US rape statistics during this period were 32.3, 31.8, 31.5, 30.6, 29.8 and 29. Evidently, there is no correlation between pornography and rape.

Further, the absence of causation between pornography and rape becomes obvious from the fact that every day millions of people in India read erotic literature, watch X-rated movies, but millions of rapes do not take place every day.

But when a prudish demand is made against the backdrop of public outrage, media outcry and fervent protests, causality becomes a casualty — reason loses its sanctity in public discourse, and sanctimony scales new peaks. Debate loses track. It has happened before.

In the aftermath of the horrible December 16 gangrape in the capital, most opinion-makers meandered into the esoteric realms of sociology, anthropology etc. Those on the Left bemoaned the depredations of “patriarchy”, while the tradition-loving were aghast at short skirts worn by girls and the lack of sanskars in general. Meanwhile, the elephant in the room was ignored or downplayed — the impudence of criminals.

Many claimed that when women wear skimpy, sexy dresses and step out of home after dark, men get excited and molest or rape them. Ergo, women wearing short skirts are guilty. Few pointed out that the same men behave perfectly well when in malls and five-star hotels. They know that any indiscretion would have serious consequences as there would be security personnel around. The same men, when they come out of the mall, get excited by skimpy outfits of women because they can afford to, because of the poor law and order situation.

The cause of bad criminal behaviour is never the attire of women, the cause is the absence of fear of punishment.

Quite apart from blaming the victim, the argument that women get raped or molested because they wear revealing outfits also tries to absolve the villain of his guilt. As if he were an automaton responding to external stimuli and lacking any sense of responsibility. Interestingly, this line of reasoning is used mostly in cases related to sexual assault and other violent crime against women. In other walks of life, nobody takes the absence of responsibility as a given. For instance, if a man defaults in payment of EMIs because of a reckless and improvident lifestyle, nobody defends him by saying that the chap must have fallen prey to the charms of attractive goods in showrooms and therefore should not be bothered by banks.

By concentrating on porn and its effects on society, commentators and experts may end up diluting, if not entirely extinguishing, the responsibility of the unconscionable rapists who brutalised the five-year-old girl in Delhi. Excessive focus on the demand of a squeamish lawyer will divert the nation’s attention from prosaic matters like police, administrative and judicial reforms. Real issues like police strength (130 per lakh population, against the UN norm or 222), inadequacies of forensic labs, deficient investigation and ineffective judicial system will get less notice.

Such are the perils of sanctimoniousness which, if allowed to go berserk, will completely play havoc with meaningful debate. — The Asian Age, 26 April 2013

» Ravi Shanker Kapoor is a journalist and author and has spent over 20 years in the media. While about half of this time was with The Financial Express, he has also worked for a variety of publications. He has also written three books. The first, More Equal Than Others: A Study of the Indian Left, focused on the disproportionate influence of communists in public discourse. The second, Failing the Promise: Irrelevance of the Vajpayee Government, was about the BJP-led regime’s inability to provide a viable Right wing alternative. The third book, How India’s Intellectuals Spread Lies, exposed leading luminaries and intellectuals like Jawaharlal Nehru, Kuldip Nayar, Khushwant Singh, Mani Shankar Aiyar, and Arundhati Roy as lazy thinkers who just parrot the lies of communists.

Anti-Rape India Gate Protest 2013

See also

  1. Rape: A challenge facing Indian society – Gautam Sen
  2. Is India a nation of rapists? – S. Gurumurthy
  3. Rape: Caning is the better deterrent – Lakshmi Narayan
  4. Neeraj Kumar IPS: The Commissioner of Commissions – Gen. V.K. Singh & Fifteen Others
  5. The Indian Policeman: Caught between a rock and a hard place – Ravi Shankar Ettath
  6. “Jyoti Singh Pandey will become a standard bearer for women everywhere,” says father Badri Singh Pandey