Monday, December 31, 2012

Nirbhaya: The Rape Of A Nation

She didn't ask to be a victim. She didn't ask to be a hero. She was simply trying to get home. Now she's in her eternal home, and the nation is in an uproar.

As India lays the girl they've nick-named Nirbhaya to rest this week, protesters call for the government to take action. Rather than the government opening their doors and ears to the demands of a public that is calling for stricter punishment for rapists, they are instead launching tear gas and turning water canons on the angry crowds. Section 144 of the IPC has been invoked, which prevents a gathering of more then 5 people within the 34 km stretch that makes up the Delhi district. Seven metro stations were closed near India gate, in an attempt to prevent people from being able to gather near the country's Parliament building, the Presidents home, and the Prime Ministers office.
Schools across the country are discussing whether they should change their uniforms for girls, who currently wear skirts. The thought is that by dressing them in pants, it will help prevent harassment from the male classmates. There's also talk of invoking a curfew for females, preventing them from being out past 10pm and putting restrictions on their evening public transportation options to help prevent future instances of "eve teasing" and rape.
It's said in Delhi that a rape is reported every 18 hours. It seems that before any investigation can begin, the local magistrate must be called and give the order for any forensic tests to begin, or for the accused to be questioned. Well, magistrates sleep at night. So, if a girl comes to the hospital at 11pm, a victim of rape, she will literally have to sit in her torn, blood stained clothing all night, until the magistrate can be phoned in the morning after he wakes up, hear the details of the accusation, and order the examination of the girl and arrest of the accused. Forensic tests alone will take an average of 6-8 months before the results are available due to a backlog at the labs that perform this kind of work.
With the population of Delhi surpassing 20 million in 2012, a rape is reported there every 18 hours on average. How many rapes are occurring across India on any given day? How many are going unreported? Keep in mind, when you go to the police to report any crime, you have to share the details with them, and gain their permission to file a formal complaint. If they don't feel your case is worthy of being documented, they'll send you off and you'll never have a chance of gaining any legal justice.
The public is demanding the 6 men accused in the Nirbhaya case be hanged. Will that bring her back to life? No. Will it serve as a deterrent for potential rapists? I don't believe so. What India needs to see is a shift in mindset. A shift that places more value on women in society. A mindset that doesn't permit dowry killings, backstreet abortions for women who discover (illegally because ultrasounds for gender determination are against the law) they are carrying female babies,  or rapes committed out of revenge.
While the government does have a huge responsibility in this case, the change needs to start from the ground level. Parents need to teach their male children the fundamental differences between right and wrong. I don't believe any man can ever comprehend all he strips a woman from when he commits rape. It's a physical, emotional, and psychological injustice. It will impact EVERY SINGLE relationship she has and will have for the rest of her life. In India it can prevent a woman from ever marrying. It can cause her to be cast out from her family, from her village, from those she's loved and trusted her entire life. The blame is put on her. The same is borne by the entire family and the community. The shame of the victim is prevalent, while the actions of the criminal often go unpunished. These men have mothers. They have sisters. They need to be taught to respect them, to place the same level of value on them as they do their fathers and their brothers. When will they recognize that every woman they pass on the street is someones sister, someones mother, someones daughter.
Until women have the ability to practice the same educational opportunities as men, the same career opportunities as men, the ability to exercise the same day to day rights as men, there is no hope for a future on any level. While the government claims they're trying to implement changes to protect women, what they are in fact doing is stripping women of their basic freedoms. This continued oppression simply promotes the behavior that the public is demanding a change to. All of this, in the world's largest democracy...

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Theives: A Dime A Dozen

Recently I posted about my maid stealing from me. While working to let the earring incident go, a thief struck again. This time it wasn't my maid, it was a well known local beggar, whom we regularly give to.
Last Saturday I was getting ready to go to a charity event. I was in the bedroom putting the finishing touches on the day's look and my husband was laying on the bed and we were talking. We had our front door pushed closed, but not latched. Suddenly it burst open and I looked out into the hall but didn't see anyone. My husband got up from the bed and went outside to see if anyone was there. He saw this local beggar standing outside our gate, and in usual form, gave him some money. Strangely, the beggar didn't beg for more, like he always does. He just took what my husband gave him and off he went. About 15 minutes later as I was taking a quick inventory of my purse, I realized my wallet was missing.
So we called our watchman who said he saw the beggar push our door open and asked him what he was doing. The beggar told him that we were sleeping, so he was leaving. My husband and watchman then jumped on my husband bike and went to search the neighborhood for him. When they didn't have luck, we headed to the police station to file a report.
In true Indian police fashion, the first 15 mins or so of our visit was spent getting scolded by the police for leaving the wallet on the table, not latching the door, etc. My husband tried to explain to them how our building was layed out and that the beggar had to come in the gate, up the stairs, etc. to get to our place. Finally, after a lot of convincing, the police allowed me to fill out a report. This consisted basically of me writing a letter to the police chief on a blank (not even lined) piece of paper explaining what happened and asking for his assistance. Lame.
So after I filled out the "report" to their satisfaction, my husband again had to meet the inspector. He convinced them to come to our flat and see the layout so they could better understand that it wasn't so easy for the beggar to get inside. Finally the inspector agreed and two officers followed us home.
On the way we met up with one of the beggars friends. The police questioned him, but he wouldn't give up the identity of his friend, out of fear for his own family. I explained I didn't care about the cash that was in the wallet, but if he could please return the cards, we could consider the matter closed. The contents of the wallet included my US bank card, US credit card, Indian Salary Card, PAN card, Social Security Card, US Drivers license, all of my loyalty cards, my rs5 bill collection, immunization records, and a few other things.....
Once the police saw our flat, they understood that a bit of an effort had to be made on the part of the beggar to get his hands on my wallet. Even considering that, they scolded the watchman with a message to the owner that better watch should be taken over the property. They assured us they would do their best to apprehend the guy, and away they went.
My husband then took me out to buy a new wallet which really seemed unnecessary considering I had NOTHING to put in it.
So naturally nothings happened in the last week, other then me trying to get all of my cards replaced. So far only my salary card has been received, but I am fighting with the bank over the PIN so as of yet, I have no access to cash. I couldn't even reorder my PAN and Drivers License because you have to pay for it and I don't have an active credit or debit card to bill it to. When the delivery guy came to drop off my new salary card, I had to really convince him it was me since I have no ID proof.
Today my husband took a drive around the neighborhood to see if he could spot the guy. He went back to the police station who advised him of the area the guy stays in. My husband spoke to some shop owners in the area, who advised him the guy's a big time thief and drug user. They also told him he hangs around the cricket ground near the masjid my husband goes to, so he went there and talked to the Imam. Thankfully everyone he met today was just as eager to get this guy caught as we are and they all took his number so they could notify him if they saw the guy.
At this point, any sympathy I had for him (thinking he was just desperate and maybe stealing to feed his kids) is completely gone and I've pretty much decided that I won't be dishing out a single rupee to a single beggar. EVER. AGAIN.