Millennium Post

Enough is enough: Let’s put an end to sexual violence

The face of India is changing at a frightening pace. But not for the better, as far as women are concerned.  If I continue to write about rape and sexual abuse with alarming regularity, something I rarely did in the ‘70’s, ‘80’s or even a  decade ago, its because I do believe our streets were safer when I was a girl in the ‘70’s,  than they are for young women now.   

I’m not being naïve. I know rape, incest and sexual abuse have been prevalent since time began. Yet the culture of our cities and semi-urban areas has altered irrevocably for the worse. Education has not improved our society. Take Kerala, Punjab and Haryana, ostensibly three of our most prosperous states. Note, I do not equate economic prosperity with progress  Rape, sexual  abuse, alcohol and substance abuse abound in these states. The  fabric of society there has degenerated with the so-called prosperity factor.

Why else would the Kerala High court rule, in the infamous 1996 Suryanelli case, in favour of rapists, so that the Supreme Court was forced to intervene?  Sexual abuse is so rampant in Kerala that it has become commonplace. Kerala society demands that its women behave and dress more circumspectly. The onus rests with the girl or woman, not to provoke the male’s attention. How on earth can a society with 100% literacy and the country’s most highly educated women, descend to this  abysmal level? What are Kerala’s women thinking, that only a few feminists and Marxists came out on the streets to protest the Suryanelli verdict? 

A 16 year old girl was abducted and raped by over 30 men over a period of 40 days. But in spite of the case being sensationalised, Kerala was not outraged. Sexual rackets  are passè now. Google Keral sex rackets to read more. The victim was humiliated and condemned by the media and the High Court.  She may have been flirtatious, she may have had  sex with her boyfriend. That does not give 35 men the right to rape her. The earlier trial court stated this, albeit in legalese.

The  abduction and sexual exploitation of a 16 year old girl by several men over 40 days in 1996  led the trial court to sentence all the 35 persons  involved, to rigorous imprisonment for varying terms. The court noted that the main accused was a ‘hardened criminal’ and that his act of ravaging the life of a docile teenage girl was ‘so devilish’ that he deserved no leniency. The court extended the maximum punishment to him under Section 376 (rape) and Section 376(2)(g) (gang rape) of the Indian Penal Code. The judge further noted that ‘What had occurred was not only a crime against the victim but also a violation of the moral habits of society,’ and termed it ‘as being among the rarest of rare cases,’  where the maximum sentence provided by the law should apply.

Yet, unbelievably, the Kerala High Court subsequently let off all but one of the 35 accused citing among other reasons, mainly: (a) the absence of ‘convincing evidence’ that the victim was an unwilling partner in sexual intercourse with all those men; (b) that the accused could not be considered as guilty of rape (of a minor) as the girl had then (just) passed the legal age of consent (16 years), above which consensual sex would not be considered under law as ‘rape’; (c) that she had ample opportunities, which she did not use, to escape from her captors or inform others of her plight; (d) that there was evidence that she had been of ‘deviant behaviour’ earlier (like attempting to mortgage her gold jewellery and spending the amount given by her parents to remit the hostel fees for dubious purposes) and therefore her statements could not be taken at face value in the absence of corroborating evidence; and (e) that the accused could not be punished for the offence of gang rape (Section 376(2) of the Indian Penal Code) either, as there was no ‘culpable common intention (among them) to commit rape’. 

The Nirbhaya case had  the  entire country up in arms. Let us put that to good use so that it does not remain mere rhetoric and rage. We can and must  turn the outrage to a productive end. 

On arrangement with Down To Earth

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