Post Dec 16: Has Anything Changed For Women In India?

After the fatal gang rape of Jyoti Singh Pandey on December 16 last year sent shock waves around the world, India has done some self-analysis on how it treats its women. Stricter laws on sexual violence have been implemented, but even a year later, a lot needs to be done to make women feel safer.

Legal changes

The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, recommended by Justice Verma Committee was passed by Lok Sabha on March 19, 2013 and by Rajya Sabha on March 21, 2013 and replaced an Ordinance promulgated on February 3. The Centre also amended various sections of the Indian Penal Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure, the Indian Evidence Act and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act.

The new law stated that an offender can be sentenced to a minimum of 20year prison sentence for rape and, in the event the victim dies, death penalty. Perpetrators of acid attack will get a 10-year jail term. But the law refused to criminalize marital rape, which disappointed many activists. Ranjana Kumari, a women’s activist and director of the Center for Social Research think-tank, said, “If bodily integrity is the issue, and consent is the issue, than certainly rape in marriage should be included.”

The definition of rape was expanded to include penetration by objects or any body part. “Sexual abuse in all its forms including sexual harassment was made illegal,” said India’s additional solicitor general, Indira Jaising. New laws aimed at safeguarding women were passed; the Parliament overhauled its criminal code and criminalized offences such as stalking, sexual harassment and voyeurism.

Fast-track courts were established to speed up trials in sexual assault cases which earlier took years to conclude. Some ten months after the crime, such a court found four of the adult suspects guilty on all counts and sentenced the men to death by hanging.

“We have a collective responsibility to ensure the dignity and safety of women”, said Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, while announcing women’s-focused initiatives as part of the 2013 federal budget.

Delhi Police set up women help desks at police stations and a Crime Against Women Cell was established for redressal of complaints and grievances of women in distress.

In the spotlight

The gang rape triggered a wave of nation-wide protests demanding stricter laws and better safeguards to combat violence against women. The widespread media coverage of the case has also led to an increased awareness of the issue. The assault sparked public dialogue on patriarchy, which many blamed to be the crux for lack of respect of women in India. It helped alter the way many perceive victims of sexual violence as well as women who are victims of sexual violence see themselves.

“Rape victims are no longer considered outcasts. Stories of rape survivors are now being used as a medium to instil courage to fight sex crimes in India,” said Ranjana Kumari.

Greater reporting of sex crimes                                                                

“Women have been forthcoming in reporting crimes against them. They have been empowered by law and the response of civil society,” said Jaising. This view is shared by K. T. S. Tulsi, a senior lawyer practicing in the Supreme Court of India. According to the lawyer, the social stigma associated with rape is getting reduced. “Girls are becoming more assertive and they are open to complaining. They don’t feel that the society is going to stigmatize them.”

This development is supported by the latest government figures. According to local media reports, 1,330 cases of rape were reported to police in New Delhi this year until October, against 706 cases for the whole of 2012 (via The Hindu).

Safeguarding women at work

“The sense of security at the workplace will improve women’s participation in work, resulting in their economic empowerment and inclusive growth,” said the Indian government in a statement after the law was passed. The Supreme Court is one of the most high-profile bodies to have set up an internal committee to combat sexual harassment. Many other private and state-run companies have now setup a mechanism to address violence in the workplace, although many more are yet to.

Challenges ahead

Experts say that a lot still needs to be done to make women feel safe in the country, as there has been little progress made in addressing the attitudes that legitimize violence and discrimination against women. “Rape cultures are nourished by norms, attitudes, and practices that trivialize, tolerate, or even condone violence against women,” Ranjana Kumari explains.

“The subject of gender sensitization must be introduced from the grass root level in schools, colleges and the workplace. We need to educate men and women on women’s rights under the law and work with communities to develop a gender sensitive society that is underpinned by respect and equality,” the rights activist said.

This view is supported by Kamini Jaiswal, a legal expert and lawyer at India’s Supreme Court, who believes that in order to bring about real change, it is imperative to empower all women, most of whom are still financially and emotionally dependent on their male relatives. “What we see in the bigger cities and metros is not the true picture. Women can barely raise their head and voice in most households. This needs to be dealt with literacy because most women don’t even know their rights.”

Despite the increased attention on women’s issues, crimes against women are on the rise. In the latest high profile case, police arrested the editor-in-chief of India’s leading investigative magazine, Tehelka, after a female colleague accused him of sexually assaulting her. Following this was a similar case where an intern filed accusations of sexual assault against a retired Supreme Court judge.

“The concern for personal security and perceived increase danger to women as a result of the rape cases was perhaps a factor in US students’ decision regarding study in India,” said Nancy Powell, U.S. ambassador to India. Fear of violence has even deterred some students and tourists from travelling to India.

But, this is not enough. India still needs to go a long way if it wants its women to feel safe, respected and socially accepted.

 

Disclaimer: This article has also been published on Women’s Web

Why do we get raped and how can we avoid it?

Ladies, ladies, ladies! It’s time for an intervention. I have been defending you, putting up with your excuses and sometimes rubbish for a long time now. But your imprudent behavior and “I couldn’t care less” attitude has disgusted me. You are becoming a menace to the society by spoiling the reputation of innocent young men.

Didn’t so many of our well-wishers such as politicians, policemen, VC’s of different universities, god-men, members of Khap Panchayat tell us how we can avoid getting raped? But you madame just won’t listen. Didn’t you learn anything from probably the first media hyped rape of a North East student which happened in Delhi? Don’t you remember why she was raped? Because she was roaming around at night at 2 am with another girl friend wearing a mini-skirt. Of course, she deserved it. What was she thinking that a group of innocent young men who were just having a night stroll in their car would leave her unattended? As it is North East girls are famous for being “easy” and they usually “ask for it”. You still didn’t learn when our very concerned Chief Minister Smt. Sheila Dikshit advised women “not to be too adventurous” at night. But, you were too arrogant to pay any heed to her words. You called the poor lady names who only wanted the best for you. Girls today have no respect for their elders. Is that what you have learnt from your mothers? What kind of mothers are these, I wonder.

Then you had another chance to improve when a BPO employee in Gurgoan was gang-raped at night whilst returning from work. The Police Chief gave a perfect solution that women shouldn’t be working after eight, but alas, he was just banging his head against the wall. Poor soul, he tried to help you. Little did he knew that his true concerns for women would backfire and he too would be called names.

You did not listen when the honorable Chief Minister of West Bengal Smt. Mamata Banerjee analysed the cause of increasing rapes in India. She was very right in saying and I quote, “earlier if men and women would hold hands, they would get caught by parents and reprimanded but now everything is so open. It’s like an open market with open options,” but you still shamefully interacted with men on the streets, in your neighborhoods, offices, schools, universities and only God knows what happened behind those bushes.

Pearls of wisdom poured in from various sides during the 2012 Delhi gang-rape case. Shri Abhijit Mukherjee, son of Honorable Pranab Mukherjee opined, “What’s basically happening in Delhi is a lot like Egypt or elsewhere, where there’s something called the Pink Revolution, which has very little connection with ground realities. In India, staging candle-lit marches, going to discotheques – we did all this during our student life too, we were students too – I know every well what kind of character students should have. Those who claim to be students – I can see many beautiful women among them – highly dented-painted – they’re giving interviews on TV, they’ve brought their children to show them the scenes. I have grave doubts whether they’re students, because women of that age are generally not students.” The famous scientist, Dr. Anita Shukla gave her expert advice and said, “The victim should have surrendered when surrounded by six men, at least it could have saved her intestines.” Then the very pious god man Shri Asaram Bapuji showered his holy blessing on you. He immediately knew the cause of the gang rape and solved the case in a jiffy. His holy words were “Only 5-6 people are not the culprits. The victim daughter is as guilty as her rapists… She should have called the culprits brothers and begged before them to stop… This could have saved her dignity and life. Can one hand clap? I don’t think so.” But did you call the rapist “bhaiya” while he was raping you? Did you plead and beg with him? No, you did not. Then why cry? Why blame the rapist when you yourself couldn’t avoid your rape . Remember learning this phrase during school days, “God helps those who help themselves.

Then the very honorable judge, Shri Virender Bhatt came to your rescue. He made the observation, “Girls are morally and socially bound not to indulge in sexual intercourse before a proper marriage, and if they do so, it would be to their peril and they cannot be heard crying later that it was rape.” So ladies, what do you think, that you can just saunter around, flirt with men and then cry foul. Didn’t you learn anything from the even more honorable lawyer, A.P. Singh? Didn’t he say, and I quote, “…if my daughter was having premarital sex and moving around at night with her boyfriend, I would have burnt her alive. I would not have let this situation happen. All parents should adopt such an attitude.” I’m sure you would all want to have such a doting father who cares so much about you. But what do you do to such a father? You play around with men and bring shame to the family. Of course, the father will have to take such a step with his darling princess. Did you leave him a choice?

Also you didn’t take the advice of our very deemed and sensible Khap Panchayat. These intelligent people came up with so many solutions from not consuming chowmein, to stop using mobiles and wearing jeans. From getting married at the age of 16 to banning Bollywood movies and TV serials. But, did you listen lady, did you? No, you did not. And that is why you get raped. I hope you see the sense here and learn something.

When RSS Chief Shri Mohan Bhagwat advised you not to live in India and instead migrate to Bharat and blamed western culture, you didn’t listen. When SP leader Abu Azmi advised you not to roam around at night with young boys, you didn’t listen. When Andhra Pradesh police chief V Dinesh Reddy said women provoke men to rape them by wearing flimsy clothes, you didn’t listen. When the Puducherry government advised school girls to wear overcoats, you didn’t listen. When the Mumbai government banned lingerie mannequins to stop rape, you didn’t listen. When Chattisgarh Home Minister Nanki Ram Kanwar asked you to perform pooja to put stars in their correct position in order to avoid rape, you didn’t listen. When BJP minister Kailash Vijayvargiya advised you to maintain “maryada” or face music, you didn’t listen. Then how can you cry when you get raped? How can you blame those innocent men and ruin their future when you yourself won’t budge a bit.

You don’t even know how to report a rape. And when one poor SHO in UP asked the victim to take off her clothes and show him where she was raped, little did he know that his true concerns would be considered as barbaric and misogynistic. I don’t understand what has come into these ladies. So many sensible men as well as women trying their best to help them and these ladies just won’t listen. Later they crib that the government isn’t doing enough to ensure women’s safety.

Then you had the audacity to question one of the most reputed university. How dare you woman, how dare you! You thought men and women have equal rights in this country, only a fool would believe you. You thought you could also stay out of the hostel premises as late as men do and enjoy the relaxed rules which only men have access to. Of course, the university took the right action by whisking you off its campus.

Last of all, our very own protector, the brave director of Central Bureau of Investigation, Shri Ranjit Sinha gave the utmost perfect solution to all your woes. He argued, “if you can’t prevent rape, enjoy it.” How could you miss this mastermind ladies, how could you? After all the above measures fail including pleading and begging with your rapist and calling him “bhaiya”, you should just stay silent, keep calm and enjoy the rape. After all how many times in this lifetime will you get this golden opportunity. You think, you’re that lucky that you might get raped twice or even thrice? Nah!

Why have you become so selfish? Have you forgotten your true duties to the society? There is a phrase in German which says that a woman has three K’s in her life, i e., Kinder, Küche und Kirche which roughly translates into children, kitchen and church. But ladies nowadays neither care about their household duties nor the beautiful gift they have received from nature, that is, to make babies. I read this amazing article by a very concerned mother, Chandrika R. Krishnan, assistant professor at the Manipal University who was advising women to stop and smell the rose in their journey called life, but today’s modern ladies even tore her down into pieces. But ladies, it’s not all your fault. Who made you aspire to careers you couldn’t have in the first place? Who tricked you into believing that marriage wasn’t your best option? That’s right: feminists! They are to blame for society’s evils, be it the decline of traditional marriage or the increase in divorce cases, the feminist agenda is behind everything.

Now, you still have time to save yourself, to mend your ways, that is, if you have any shame left. You just need to take the free advice that people keep pouring in and you might be able to live a “respectable” life.

And you might, just might stop disgusting me.

Disclaimer: This article is a satire (if you don’t know what that means, please Google it) and has also been published on Youth Ki Awaaz.