Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Rape, a growing concern in the valley

Once again India has earned a bad reputation but not due to the killing of Muslims for cow Slaughter, religious controversies, or killing of innocent people in Kashmir, but because of turning into one of the most unsafe countries for women in the world. The survey conducted by Thomas Reuters Foundation has ranked India as the world’s most dangerous country for women ahead of Afghanistan, Syria and Saudi Arabia.

There is an average of 106 Rape cases per day and many go unreported as well. Some cases like Nirbhaya in Delhi, Mother-daughter duo gang-raped in Uttar Pradesh (Bulandshehar), 8-year-old Girl in Rasana bring forth a surge of public outrage and anguish. People feel shocked, angry and insecure; newspapers run it as front page news, women activists come forward and are seen debating at primetime shows aired on leading news channels, opposition government in power make dutiful noises and people follow up the course of public inquiry for a while, till the news shifts its place to back pages and slowly life moves on. Soon, the newspapers pick up another rape episode and the same routine takes place. In some cases, rapists were brought to book and life moved to normalcy, as the saying goes “chalti ka naam zindagi”.

Now let me talk about my valley (Kashmir), where such heinous crimes are making headlines almost every month. Last year (2018), the most horrifying incident of an 8-year-old girl from Kathua shook the whole world. Social media was swamped with reactions of pity, outrage and cynicism. People felt angry, shocked and outraged while parents began tight vigil on their daughters’ movements. The judiciary took notice and investigated the incident and later arrested some of the culprits. The people were about to come out of this incident when another terrifying incident of a gang-rape and murder case of a minor girl in Uri –Baramulla took place in which the victim’s step-mother, Fehmeeda hatched a conspiracy to eliminate her so that she could get more affection from her husband.

This incident was still fresh in the minds of people when another horrifying incident took place in the same month after a mentally challenged woman delivered a still-born baby on the last week of November after she was gang-raped by two men near Kashmir’s famous Sufi shrine, Makhdoom Sahib in Srinagar.  This bone-chilling incident was yet to be forgotten when another incident of bestiality at Bandipora was in news and this time, it was a father who raped his own daughter and she committed suicide. This incident paved the way for doubts over father-daughter relationships. I mean, a girl is not even safe at her home now. Now in last week, yet another petrifying rape-case of a three-year-old came to light in Sumbal area of Bandipora.

There might be countless other rape cases in our state going unregistered because of family pressure, societal pressure and various other reasons, and we must not turn a blind eye towards such callous incidents. The valley of Kashmir which has earned its name for being the safest place for women on earth seems to be turning into a hub of such heinous crimes.

Rape is an abhorrent crime and no religion on earth allows or appreciates it. It is forbidden by law but in present times, it appears to be a common phenomenon and has turned into the talk of the day. In India, a girl is raped every 22 minutes and Delhi has been labelled as the ‘rape capital’ of India. However, in the aftermath of Nirbhaya case in Delhi, there has been a terrific rise in registration of rape cases as witnessed in most of the states in India. However, the cases going unreported cannot be ruled out due to a victim’s fear of being targeted by the society, ignorance, misconception, enshrouding legal proceedings or the humiliating and indifferent attitude of the police. What is more shocking is the mentality of society towards victims. A major chunk of the society is deriving sadistic pleasure in finding ways to make the victim feel guilty for ‘according such a crime upon herself’ or for her ‘shameless’ act of making it public or the misdemeanour of putting her family in ‘disgrace’ by reporting the matter. She is scrutinized at all levels once she turns the victim, the first and foremost response of society is to project her as the ‘showpiece’ – to get a glimpse of her without her face covered is the ultimate joy.

If the crime happens after 6 or 7 pm, chances may be that the lady might have been blunt enough to not have heeded the words of the elderly and has paid the price for her rebellious nature. If she was wearing a fashionable dress, she might probably be held guilty of inviting the attention of the rapists and might be trolled for her dress. She is scrutinized at all levels, with a vicious intrusion into her private life –meddling with her personality, mode of dressing and even her social and economic status.

In many rural areas, in particular, there is a massive stigma associated with rape, which means that even stringent laws do not encourage victims to come forward. Ours is a society where discussion of child sexual abuse is a taboo, there is a culture of silence that pervades our homes and our institutions in addressing the issue with the seriousness it deserves.

Because of these and other social taboos, the life of rape victims becomes hell and they often opt to commit suicides preferring to end their lives silently. They are treated by society as if they are responsible for being raped. Nobody can understand the trauma they pass through; life becomes hell for them and sometimes even family members do not accept them and rather accuse them of letting down their reputation in front of their relatives and neighbours.

This harsh treatment makes her think that she should have better died rather than witnessing such awful behaviour in turn. If sometimes these victims try to come out from the trauma, the society does not encourage their strength and rather poses various questions. If sometimes they try to come out of their homes, people point out by saying she has been raped. This is the kind of society we live in. Instead of finding and punishing the culprit, they are mostly interested in the victim’s life. Indian laws as compared to other countries are very slow to initiate any action in booking the culprits. It is a very long process. Take a big example of our neighbouring country Pakistan where in December last year, such an inhuman crime took place where a 7-year-old girl was raped and then murdered. The judiciary in Pakistan acted fast as, within no time, the culprit was caught and was later hanged. But on the other hand, in Kashmir, the culprits who raped 8-year-old victim in Kathua are still roaming free as if nothing has happened. The case is going on like ‘Tareekh pey Tareekh’.

If our law had been strong, to some extent things like this wouldn’t have happened. The laws must be strengthened to a level where people think of consequences before committing such crimes. After implementing the Schemes like Beti Bachao Beti Padhao, Ladli Beti, and debating on women empowerment, the government must ensure the safety of the women of this country, otherwise, these schemes are null and void.

The article was written by Sadaf Aijaz.

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