Rape Antidote: Strict Laws or Liberal Society

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By Mohit Choudhary, Student, Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law

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Rape or sexual assault is forced, manipulated, coerced sexual contact by a stranger, friend or acquaintance. It is an act of aggression and power combined with some form of sex or physical act. A person is forced into sexual contact through verbal coercion, threats, physical restraint, and/or physical violence or any sexual act for which consent is not given. This forms a broad definition of rape although it encompasses countless other explanations; few dictionaries also define word rape as to plunder or despoil.

img-rape-gavel[highlight]Rapes in India happen only with women or at least law does not define any such act with men to be precise- with adult men as latest Juvenile Justice Care and Protection act has made definition of rape and sexual assault gender neutral.[/highlight] The prima facie cause for this act has to be understood in broad context as it is not just limited to a physical act to satisfy one’s lust. For this act society and up bringing shall also be held responsible as it is a preparation of a mindset where men is a fairer sex and is always dominant, a typical example of patriarchal society. In such a social construction man is made or sometimes forced to believe his supremacy and physical dominance over women as a natural and pre requisite for a healthy social set up. For the very same reason violence including physical and sexual, as a socially sanctioned means of punishment for resolving domestic conflicts, asserting manhood, asserting control and attaining pleasure considered as an acceptable event in many areas of country.

Many underprivileged or marginalized sectors of society are punished with such atrocities so as to maintain caste supremacy and social hierarchy, a typical example of this is Bhanwari Devi rape case in Rajasthan in 1992 where a women working as ‘saathin’ attempted to stop child marriage and for this reason she was raped in front of her husband as a punishment and more ironical is, the accused are still at large. There is also organised crime network operating in almost every city in connivance with law enforcement agencies which adds upto the rising graphs of the shameful act. These organised networks are responsible for trafficking and forcing the trafficked girls into prostitution or buying or selling of brides in states with low sex ratio. Recent back to back incidents give an idea of how gruesome and rampant the act is but it is not that these incidents are happening in recent times or increased suddenly but because of sudden media attention and increased reporting of the crime are drawing attention of people. The incidents of marital rapes which cannot be even treated as an offence as even court in many previous instances have refused to take this condition as ground for divorce and rather ironically refusal to sex as a ground for cruelty in matrimonial cases, which ultimately leads to passive submission rather than voluntarily agreeing to spouse’s demands.

[highlight][/highlight]Considering the gravity of the act and remote humanly possibility to prevent every such case as statistics released by Delhi police after the incident show that rapes are opportunistic crimes 97 % are committed at homes and only 3 % outside which calls for urgent focus on social construction where liberal thoughts of gender equality and respectable identity of women must be prioritized.

Special care should be taken to take care of pre occurrence deterrents rather than just being confined to post restorative measures. Punishment for accused does not absolves the victim from social ostracism and never fading stigma, also victim- blaming is not an alien phenomenon. It is because of these factors most of the victims do not disclose their experiences immediately after the incident. A very primitive notion states ‘prevention is better than cure’ laws and punishments are restorative therapies but cannot nullify the pain and agony suffered by victim. Negative social reactions and a never diminishing social stigma leads to a devastating psychological effects and very less scope of self recovery so how will the laws help the victims although they may restrict future incidents. Suspending officers of executive bodies is just an act to pacify public outrage. Ineffective law and order management and insensitive handling of rape cases is blamed and are frequent reasons put up by government and social organisations, but the crux of the matter is that action on responsible authorities is just used as scapegoat by government or in a broad sense by society to cover up its acts or failure to imbibe moral character in its citizens.

Starting with a brutal rape and murder of a paramedic student in a bus in Delhi, then another incident of a minor girl raped in Sikar, followed by another gruesome act of rape and attempted murder of a minor in Delhi fail to justify the demand and need for more stringent action as strict laws still being in force are unable to control the menace. [highlight]Formulating a new law as an answer for failure of implementation of existing laws should not convince the literate minds. It is just like putting up a centurion question to ninety nine unresolved issues. The fact of the matter is rapes are opportunist crimes committed within the confines of private spaces. 87 percent of such cases are committed within the confines of homes by the person who is in any way or other known to the victim; only 13 percent are committed by strangers, more surprising is the data compiled by a government agency which states 18.3percent adult women have faced sexual assault in some or other way. Sexual violence is a major national issue which has profound negative effects on victims and society at large. This calls for an urgent attention towards social set up and moral upbringing of citizens of the country besides proper implementation of strict laws. [/highlight]