She was a student. She was 23. She was coming back from a date with her boyfriend. Her fault: she boarded the wrong bus. And oh yeah, SHE WAS A GIRL!!! Six men raped her one by one. Rammed an iron rod inside her vagina. And left her to die on the road. Naked. Wounded. Exposed. Devastated. What’s more no one even turned to look at her. No one even bothered to throw a shawl on the unclad, ill-fated girl. She can never lead a normal married life again. She has gone into coma five times since 16th December. She is unconscious, critical and hasn’t been able to stop crying. But don’t worry, she wasn’t your sister. She wasn’t your daughter. But she could be.
The brutality has to stop right here guys. These people deserve a capital punishment for their heinous, pervert act. Please show her that you care. Please show her that you all are there for here. Maybe that’s all she will ever have to live by.
I didn’t know her. But she is related to me by the universal bond of humanity.
From a girl who doesn’t want any girl to ever face the same fate
According to official statistics, 572 rapes were reported in Delhi last year. Police say they have registered 635 rape cases this year.
The mistreatment and abuse of women is a particular problem in Delhi and northern India. A stiflingly patriarchal social mindset, a brazen culture of political power, a general disdain for law, a largely insensitive police force and a rising population of rootless, lawless migrants are only some of the reasons. There must be many others.
So if you are a woman - unless you are very rich and privileged - you are more likely to face indignity and humiliation here.
Following the spine-chilling and horrific gangrape and brutalisation of a 23-year-old in the national capital on Sunday, when Tehelka asked how the rapes could be stopped, there was only one refrain: attitude to women must change; the legal process of dealing with the crime must speed up; and men must be educated and ‘sensitised’ about women’s issues. Twenty personalities — lawyers, activists, writers, filmmakers – suggest some real solutions.
‘Attitudes to women and recognition of their full range of rights should be linked to recruitment, promotion’
Karuna Nundy, advocate, Supreme Court of India
There’s so much outrage this time, and outrage can change things. But the conviction of these rapists is clearly not enough, sexual violence runs deep in Delhi and unless we deal with the source, it’ll continue to pour forth. Here are some changes I’d like to see.
• Attitudes to women in the criminal justice system. Attitudes to women and recognition of their full range of rights should be linked to recruitment, promotion. The system should recognise and reward good police officer, a good magistrate, a good prosecutor by their attitudes to Dalit women, to lesbians, to sexually active women wearing skimpy clothing. Also penalise actors in the criminal justice system for the opposite, i.e. discriminatory behaviour. So when a policeman or woman, a prosecutor or a judge is recruited, their attitudes need to be part of the interview.
• Masculinity: Equality training in various spheres should be included in schools — what kind of citizens are we looking to produce? Showing children early on that people of other gender, other castes, religions are equal needs to be central to our education system. We’ve been thinking of the Dalit boy sitting in corner of classroom, who sees a cartoon that’s discriminatory. Think also of the girl who only sees Maharani Laxmibai and Sarojini Naidu in her history books. Teach women they are equal, and they are more likely to be treated that way. We need self defence classes in school for girls. And to teach boys that girls are equal. Boys should also be given empathy training to show them what it’s like to be a girl. Anger management courses have been proven to work.
• Allowing women to sue for money damages and injunctions in civil cases would help to go along with criminal cases. We need civil damages for victims of crime in India, it’s an easier forum for her to navigate, also on principle, she should be compensated for the psychological and material damage she is caused as well as have the perpetrator punished.
• Reform criminal justice system: The low conviction rate for rape — some figures show only 27 percent convictions — is also why rapists are not that scared and victims reluctant to go to court. Police reforms have been waiting to be implemented since the 1980s — police in Delhi need better investigation methods, find the right guy, ways to preserve evidence. We don’t have proper witness protections programmes, or the best prosecutors — though the victim’s lawyer being allowed to be present now helps somewhat.
• Some of the important changes — like quicker trials enabled by more judges and courtrooms are reforms the whole criminal justice system needs. Also you have to have to be able to complain effectively if your prosecutor is not competent or has been bribed.
‘What we need to do, and urgently, is two-pronged: systemic social change and legal reform’
Mihira Sood, advocate
Rape exists because of a patriarchal, misogynistic culture that condones it, whether tacitly or explicitly, and because of widespread lawlessness that encourages it. What we need to do, and urgently, is two-pronged: systemic social change and legal reform.
We must educate people, starting at the school level, about respect for women, for personal spaces and for the rule of law. We need to introspect, all of us, on how we contribute to the objectification of women, from the popular culture we consume to the way we bring up our children — from where it’s a slippery slope to a twisted and unjust understanding of sexual assault in legal terms.
In terms of the law, we urgently need a more comprehensive and inclusive definition of sexual violence, critical amendments to the Code of Criminal Procedure that will reduce the time taken for trials, fast track courts for sexual assault cases, harsher punishments and a serious programme of police reform and sensitisation. All of these are doable, and all are equally crucial — not just for better implementation but also to signal the seriousness with which such crimes will be viewed.
Unfortunately, there appears to be little political will for any of these measures, which is where the media and the increasingly powerful voice of public — spirited citizens will have to take centrestage.
‘Men are raised in our society to think that we are men because we demand, we take, we win, we conquer’
Gautam Bhan, queer activist, academic and consultant
Men are not born biologically violent — we make them so. Our responses to sexualviolence must recognise, name, and both institutionally and individually counter the dangerous mix of impunity and entitlement at the core of contemporary masculinity that allows such violence. Boys and men are raised in our society to think that we are men because we demand, we take, we win, we conquer. Add to that the sense of impunity pervasive in our cities on all fronts due to the failure of our institutions and we are brought to where we are today. We cannot legislate good behaviour, as the saying goes, we have to build its DNA — in schools, in homes, in public spaces, in our media — that must begin by refusing, unlearning and denying this entitlement and the violence it takes to live it as the only way to be “men.”
‘The outrage on this incident is welcome but the solution lies outside the law, in the mindset of the people’
Tridip Pais, lawyer
I don’t think what is needed is an increase in punishment or in speed of trial. What is required is a systemic change. The Mangalore pub incident also reflected the attitude of the Indian male. Boys were trying to get women to conform to certain standards. It is a high form of violence to subjugate a woman who otherwise wouldn’t pander to your ego. Rape is the worst form of that violation. It is a way of subjugating women and an attempt to establish their superiority through violence. Men have not been able to accept that they need to respect women.
During every war and riot men have wanted to violate women. Every riot today is followed by sexual violence. This happened in Gujarat too. It is a way of saying that I am superior. Harsher punishment won’t take you very far. A psychiatrist, Dr Mitra did a survey with rapists. He asked them if they would have committed the crime if the punishment was death penalty. Most respondents said that in that case they would have killed the woman. I am also against the death penalty. I do not endorse violenceby the state in any form.
The implementation of law is very poor. Further the court staff, typist and the defense counsel treat rape cases as salacious gossip. Men need to go through a sea change on their attitude to women. There should be gender sensitisation classes in primary and secondary education. Bureaucrats, officers concerned with maintaining law and order and the security forces should also be sensitised. A nationalist like Sushma Swaraj would defend the rapist if he was in the security force and the incident had occurred on the border. The outrage on this incident is welcome but the solution lies outside the law, in the mindset of the people. We need to tackle the rape case, misogyny in office and the Mangalore pub incident equally seriously.
A quick trial can have adverse impacts. It will be difficult to prove a lot of things with such less time. One should have enough time to argue out a case. A time limit of one year sounds reasonable. Further, life imprisonment if implemented properly should work as punishment.
‘The community and the Police need to work together. This involves security at vulnerable places, at critical hours’
Kiran Bedi, former IPS officer
We had started gender sensitisation training at the police institute in collaboration with a gender training institute. It needs to be a continuous process. Unfortunately in government institutes rather then continue good practices tend to get broken down. The system breaks them down. After I left the gender training was discontinued.
Rape is rooted in two reasons. It is primarily a foundational issue. It is the failure of social norms, from the family to educational institutes, to exercise control. Thus society has gone weaker and become loose. People then behave like loose canons. They may have gone to school, but that is not education, that is literacy. Today the boys only want Mazaak and Mazaa- and that obviously means disrespect for women.
The police is a step behind and not in step with society. It is not audited and is monopolistic in nature. If you don’t conduct social audits, you don’t receive any feedback from the community. How are you to strategise without any feedback from the ground? The system suffers from a statistical approach. So, while you may have failed professionally you are still successful statistically. Statistics hide information. Statistics state there is only a marginal increase in rape cases. But hardly anyone reports them.
These things perpetuate crime and embolden the criminal. In the good old days we used to do group patrolling. The community and the police used to work together. Now they have abandoned support schemes such as citizens volunteer schemes.
We used to maintain a rough register that contained names of ruffians. The officers used to visit their homes and check on them. We even kept an eye on school dropouts. Nobody was out of sight. We did that with minimum manpower and maximum community support.
Good policing means that the law is the same for everyone. We never spared any VIP. It was all about being accountable to the community. Today, the police is accountable only to the VIP.
We need to rise to the challenge and co-opt private security if there is a problem of manpower. I have trained thousands of boys and girls in civil defense. Where are they? Where are the citizen wardens?
There are four steps to what I call the Complete Criminal Justice System:
Our society is not used to the fact that women are now visible and are breaking out of their set roles. There is a baser male element that seeks to exercise power over women; and what better way than raping her. It’s a power equation where men want to tell women that they are ultimately the masters of the universe.