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...

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