Millennium Post

Do we have answer to sexual violence?

Incidents of rape and violence against women have assumed the form of an epidemic. According to one estimate, a hundred rapes are committed every day in the country. If we were to look at the the 2012 National Crime Records Bureau report, ‘in 98 per cent of registered cases of rapes in the country, close relatives and acquaintances are the accused’.

The culprits mostly are friends, fiancés, neighbours and even live-in partners. Some women are caught in the web of allurements, like promise of getting a job, or marriage. But, of late, even fathers, step-fathers, brothers, step-brothers, uncles and other close relations have proved to be the sexual wolves preying on the innocence of their wards. It looks like a gardener vandalising his own garden. The malady springs from the waning strong hold of the society on public life now. But today, individual and families are increasingly declaring themselves free from the indirect control of society. 

In the 19th century a western philosopher said, ‘We are on the reverse way’. We are turning back to the old jungle raj days when relations did not exist; there was only a man and woman without any bondage as we see in a civilised world.’

Today our stress is not on modernity but westernisation. In restaurants, pubs, hotels, restaurants, discos and night clubs, waitresses are made to cast a spell with their bewitching smiles enticing customers to loosen their purses to spend more and more. As they serve, they expose more, energising the inebriated customers’ appetite for sexual pleasures and chivalry. From films people learn the tricks for seeking the pleasures of a rape.

Out of the 98 per cent sexual outrages committed by ‘close relations and acquaintances’, more than 80 per cent, on a rough estimate, take place in the privacy of homes, in hotels and elsewhere where females are enticed for whatever reason. Police cannot, normally, intrude at such places unless called on a complaint. If a policeman questions a man and woman sitting behind bushes in a park or garden, it is taken as an outrage — an unpardonable affront of ‘moral policing’ and an infringement of the right of consenting couples. But after a few hours if this very meeting ends in a tragedy of a sexual outrage, it is the police that is accused of being guilty of failing to perform its duty to prevent such shameful crimes. There have been cases when on receiving information that something wrong was going on in some premises, police have had to feel embarrassed at being counter-charged with outraging the couple’s privacy when they claim themselves to be consenting adults.

If an educational institution or a place of work enforces a dress code, we raise a hue and cry over curtailing the freedom of our body to express itself through its own language emitted by the dress we sport.We don’t mind women visiting all alone or in the company of their male friends to discotheques, pubs, dance and rave parties, cabarets, etc. where they make merry with wine. Participants there have less of inhibitions and more of fun filled with licence. And everybody knows that wine is a great stimulant to sexual urges and escapades.

Another fad is consenting to go on a date with somebody. There are also cases where friendship that brews through social media has led some women to get into the honey trap of sexual exploitation. Craze for drinking is a fast emerging phenomenon in teenage boys and girls. This has alarmed and unnerved even our otherwise modern people. Most of the crimes, like rapes are committed when the person is pie-eyed.

This ambience of liberalism and lack of inhibition in families, society and the locality is conducive to sexual liberty which can at times be consensual and at others turn into an act of sexual onslaught, a rape.

For the soaring number of gang-rapes including those on foreign tourists, the police has been targeted for its failure to safeguard dignity of women. We should not lose sight of the inadequacy of police, in particular of women force. The situation, besides making us bow our head in shame in the world is also adversely impacting on the flow of foreign tourists in the country.

‘Development of inner faculty of a person is manifested through education,’ said Swami Vivekananda who emphasised the need for man-making education. Bread-earning has become the main aim of education today and that is the core problem. Imparting of moral education based on values in our culture and ancient civilisation is needed to be introduced at school level.

Our fight against crime is two pronged: prevention and punishment.  Forestalling commission of a crime is in itself a genuine form of dispensing justice to the society and particularly for those who would otherwise have been the victims. We generally turn wise and vigilant after the event and not before.But the tragedy is that our present day generation doesn’t believe in precaution and prevention.  It takes it as a curb on its freedom. It thinks it is the unchallengeable right of a woman to loiter all alone at the dead of night in a secluded corner of the city in any place looking her prettiest and sexiest ever. If something untoward happens, it is not she but the society and the administration which is to be blamed.

It was just a matter of caution that Goa Public Works minister the other day said that ‘for their own safety women should not wear bikinis at beaches’ and advised ‘girls in short skirts’ to desist from ‘visiting pubs’ as, in his opinion, it is against Goa culture. He clarified that he is ‘not against wearing bikinis in private places.’ It was also not an official diktat threatening punishment for defiance. In democracy the minister was as much within his right to hold and express his opinion as his detractors had a right to oppose it. Yet, our liberal sections were aghast at his opinion.

It must, therefore, be understood that the abominable act of rape is first a social outrage and then a crime. It needs both prevention and cure. Just as the police, investigative and judicial process needs to be strengthened for quick justice,  so effective should our efforts be at preventing the commission of a crime. If the society is able to exert itself in preventing the commission of this crime, much of the agony shall be a thing of the past.

The author is associated with organisations engaged in women empowerment
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