Sunday, July 6, 2014

Rape is a crime against Society
Society must rise to the occasion

By Amba Charan Vashishth

In its 2012 report the National Crime Records Bureau has said that "in 98 per cent of registered cases of rapes in the country, close relatives and acquaintances are the accused"[1]  The culprits mostly are friends, fiancés, neighbours and even live-in partners. Some allure them with promise of  getting a job, or marriage and what not. But, of late, our morals and sanctity of our relations seem to have nosedived so low that fathers, step-fathers, brothers, step-brothers, uncles and other close relations have also proved to be the sexual wolves preying on the innocence of their wards who otherwise felt safe with them. This situation is making we Indians bow our heads in shame. Yet we do not feel shy of continuing to boast of our being morally very high.

This situation only indicates that the crime of rape has assumed the proportion of a consummation of the criminal breach of trust that exists between a woman and her near and dear ones — an instance of the gardener proving to be its vandaliser. If a woman is not safe in her own home, in her relations' house, in her workplace, or in a public place in the company of her friends or acquaintances, it certainly is a crisis of confidence of an alarming magnitude. It is a wake-up call for the society which needs to startle itself into action to stem the rot.

The malady springs from the strong hold of the society on public life waning now. Its all pervading eye used to instill a sense of fear among those who could go astray. But today individual and the family are increasingly declaring themselves free from the indirect control of society. In an environment that has evolved since independence, people have the unlimited, unfettered freedom to commit a wrong and not the least duty to do a right. Sentencing of persons accused in Nirbhaya rape case last year has hardly deterred the demons from committing the same crime. 

Today a major percentage of women do not just wish to appear, in public, the prettiest things but wish to go a bit further — to look sexy. In modern outlook, being beautiful is as bad as being ugly unless one appears to be sexy. By wearing clothes that reveal more and cover the least the anxiety seems to be to make persons of the opposite sex turn heads. For them this is an act of boldness and daring.

In restaurants, pubs, hotel restaurants, discos and night clubs, waitresses are there 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 energizing the inebriated customers' appetite for sexual pleasures and chivalry. From films people learn the tricks for seeking the pleasure of a rape which an actor described as "an accidental sex".

Out of the 98 percent sexual outrages committed by "close relations and acquaintances", more than 80 percent, 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, 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 license. And everybody knows that wine is a great stimulant to sexual urges and escapades.
Another fad is going 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.

A new fast emerging phenomenon is the indulgence of our teen age boys and girls to the craze for drinking. 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.

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 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 in 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 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.

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