am I safe??? concern about rape cases

Author: Garima Tiwari*

By not coming forward (about rape), you make yourself a victim forever- Kelly McGills

I have been very agitated since the past few days. Picking up newspaper and reading how Madhya Pradesh is showing its laurels in leading with most rape cases. I am particularly disturbed with the fact, that there is no discussion amongst the educated masses of the society of this issue. Well maybe, we need to concentrate on other important issues, till the point someone close to us faces the brunt of our inaction. My concern is very selfish here. I am talking about me not being able to walk safely, where I want to and when I want to.

Madhya Pradesh reported the highest number of rape cases (3,406) accounting for 14.1 per cent of total such cases reported in the country. Incidents of molestation in the country have increased by 5.8 per cent from 2011. Madhya Pradesh has reported the highest incidence (6,665) amounting to 15.5 per cent of total such cases.

On 20th August 2012: A 17-year-old girl was allegedly raped by three youths at a lodge near the railway station at Balaghat.

On 22nd August 2012: A police station in-charge and four others including a woman were arrested in connection with alleged rape of a 19-year-old Dalit girl.

The latest being the news reported on 1st October 2012: A 15-year-old girl was found dead in a forest on the outskirts of Bhopal. The victim was the daughter of a railway police constable. Yes, the public official came, and took action- he asked the shops nearby where some hooligans used to sit and tease girls, to be removed. This was on public demand. But is this in anyway a solution or preventive mechanism?

Rape is a crime of violence, a denial of sexual freedom, and a privacy violation. Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code 1875 deals with rape and the punishment provided for rape and uses terms such as ‘without her consent’ and ‘against her will’. The Law Commission of India in its 84th report has pointed out clearly that consent is the antithesis of rape. Consent means “an act of reason, accompanied with deliberation, the mind weighing, as in a balance, the good and evil on each side”. Thus, reason along with deliberation is necessary before assenting to the act of sexual intercourse.

Section 376 of Indian Penal Code provides for the punishment for rape being imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than seven years but which may be for life or for a term which may extend to ten years and shall also be liable to fine unless the woman raped is his own wife and is not under twelve years of age, in which cases, he shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years or with fine or with both. There are other provisions as well dealing with the punishment.

I doubt the law or this punishment is creating any fear in the mind of the rapists. Law in my opinion deals with emotions and is there to balance the impacts of such emotions-when they emerge as harmful to the social fabric. Law should not be taken as static in the sense that once a rape happens, the person would be arrested, punished and the responsibility of the administration is done with. When retribution over time gives no result, there is a need to look at the crime, again from a new perspective. It has to be studied in terms of its cause. The changes which the Parliament is trying to bring, presuming that there was no consent is welcome. But the parliament has to bring in a reformist angle to the rape laws.

It is true that rape is the easiest charge to make, but most difficult to prove, since the trial can get excruciating. We all know that a crime against women is a still highly stigmatized and often society blames the girl for what she goes through. Let alone the poor uneducated women, many of the educated women would not come forward to complain. Various social pressures and economic dependence almost always discourage the victim from filing a complaint and reports are not filed because of this stigma of being treated as that of immoral character. Crime against women is both a consequence and a cause of gender inequality.

What I want to say here, is that we can have the strongest of laws with harshest of punishment, but there would be no effect till the society understands that silence is not the solution. We need to punish the rapist but reform him too-maybe he needs treatment. We cannot let a person who raped out of revenge or lust to go in prison and come out hardened with more revenge.

We need awareness, not to be scared of speaking out when one suspects any indecent act. We need women to understand that just by wearing certain types of clothes, or going to some place alone with a man –trusting him-she does not give that man any right to rape her. A simple NO is enough negation of consent. The inability to say NO because of fear of authority is also ‘not consent’. Administration is made up of people from society, and therefore, it is those who are conscious of the wrong-right, who will actually help the laws to implement.

Do not hesitate to complain. You can directly go to the court, and ask the judge for help, if police does not file your case. Find NGOs who can speak for you. I am writing this for educated independent women too, since we too come across, minor major acts and do not complain. Advocates and law students should take lead in spreading legal awareness and comfort with laws-not a onetime event-but a task taken up in the regular way of life.

Fear not to speak when you are harmed, you harm yourself more by being quiet!

*Garima Tiwari is a LL.M (International Crime and Justice) Graduate from United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute and University of Turin, Italy. Garima also possess a Master degree in Intellectual Property Law from Queensland University of Technology, Australia and currently she is working as Senior Researcher at Lexidale Global.