On September 14 while I was scrolling through my phone, I got to know that yet another Nirbhaya got raped by a group of inhumans. I was deeply disturbed, to say the least. As a girl myself, I was yet again forced to recall the same dreadful sacrifice of a fellow girl in the past, yet again forced to recall the fact that despite having certain legal provisions and organizational mechanisms in place, I am never going to be safe in this country. Yet again, I was forced to ask myself about WHY does such a barbaric act continue to take place?
The etymology of the word “rape” states its derivation from a Latin word which in meaning implies “to seize”. It is not just a term, but involves more than what you and I understand or hear. It involves someone shedding tears of blood to let them go, unbearable physical pain inflicted upon them with their heart and soul begging for help, those eyes witnessing the body being mutilated and trust me, it is way worse than it sounds.
As per governmental data that had been released during January 2020, a woman is raped every 15 minutes and unsurprisingly, the rate of crimes against women have just increased during the current lockdown. One interesting fact that I observed in all the reports I went through while I was trying to understand rape is that there was no mention of any societal tags being an “invitation” to men out there.
Rape exists irrespective of gender, caste, religion, dress, place, time and gesture and I guess it’s way too hard for our Indian media and society to understand this fact. We often hear them using derogatory tags to blame the survivors of such a cruel act and which for sure is unacceptable, making the role of media in the depiction of such sensitive cases highly questionable. Media plays a key role in defining rape and shaping perceptions about how sexual violence is viewed by the society by, regarding who is held accountable and the assumptions that are being conveyed to the audiences about the victims and the perpetrators.
Taking into account the inherent patriarchal structure of our society, we often ignore the basic manners one needs to inculcate in their children during the early stages of their lives, which should be mandatory in order to survive in this world. There is absolutely no doubt that with time, the mentality possessed by the people and our society is evolving, but if the pace remains the same, we have even worse days to witness.
Shakuntala Rao in her article “Covering Rape in a Shame Culture” which focuses on Indian Television’s portrayal of violence against women wrote, “Rape is a unique crime, for society inflicts more suffering on the victim, than the perpetrator”. She highlighted that crimes against women coming from lower socio- economic strata are not given adequate attention, which in recent times have evolved a bit. In order to reflect on the ghastliness of the crime, media outlets often compare the perpetrators to barbarians or fiends and in order to generate public attention, reaction and increased readership, sensationalize descriptions and unique details of the crime by giving them the utmost priority.
Listed below are some of the most horrible, barbaric and inhumane acts in the history of our country, and let them serve as a reminder of how much pain we have suffered as a country.
- Nirbhaya Case: On December 16th,2012, 23-year-old women was brutally raped in a moving bus in South Delhi. She was travelling with one of her friends while she boarded a bus to head back home where she was brutally beaten, gangraped and tortured. The incident shook the entire nation and after fighting for justice for 8 long years, accused were hanged on 20 March, 2020
- Kathua Rape Case: A nomadic minor girl was kidnapped on January 10, 2018, and allegedly gangraped in captivity in a small village temple in Kathua district after having been kept sedated for four days. Her mutilated body was found in a forest on January 17. The abduction, rape and killing of the child were part of a carefully planned strategy to remove the minority nomadic community from the area, according to the chargers registered in the charge sheet. On June 11, six of the seven accused in the Kathua rape and murder case were convicted. Following the conviction of the accused, families of the convicted accused the media for the verdict. “This is a bad judgment and we are going to challenge it in an appropriate court,” said a defense counsel.
- Dr. Priyanka Reddy: On November 27, 2019, a veterinary doctor was raped, smothered and burned by four men in Hyderabad. Her body was found in Shamshabad. All four accused were killed in a police encounter under a bridge on Bangalore Hyderabad national highway.
- Hathras case: A 19-year-old girl while working with her mother in the field was abducted and raped on September 14, 2020. The girl was choked with her dupatta, sexually assaulted, her tongue was slit and her spine was broken by a group of men who were later arrested on September 27,2020.
After witnessing such brutal acts against women, we as a country are still insensitive towards the acts that constitute rape. According to Section 375 of the Indina Penal Code, rape is defined “as intentional, unlawful sexual intercourse with a woman without her consent”. A man is said to have committed “rape” if he:
- Penetrates his penis, to any extent, into the vagina, mouth, urethra or anus of a woman or makes her to do so with him or any other person; or
- Inserts, to any extent, any object or a part of the body, not being the penis, into the vagina, the urethra or anus of a woman or makes her to do so with him or any other person; or
- Manipulates any part of the body of a woman so as to cause penetration into the vagina, urethra, anus or any part of body of such woman or makes her to do so with him or any other person; or
- Applies his mouth to the vagina, anus, urethra of a woman or makes her to do so with him or any other person.
This particular section goes on to further state the circumstances under which the act of rape is committed by someone. The circumstances are:
- Against her will
- Without her consent
- With her consent, when her consent has been obtained by putting her or any person in whom she is interested, in fear of death or of hurt
- With her consent, when the man knows that he is not her husband and that her consent is given because she believes that he is another man to whom she is or believes herself to be lawfully married
- With her consent when, at the time of giving such consent, by reason of unsoundness of mind or intoxication or the administration by him personally or through another of any stupefying or unwholesome Substance, she is unable to understand the nature and consequences of that to which she gives consent
- With or without her consent, when she is under eighteen years of age
- When she is unable to communicate consent
The section further explains the following:
1. For the purposes of this section, “vagina” shall also include labia majora
2. Consent means an unequivocal voluntary agreement when the woman by words, gestures or any form of verbal or non-verbal communication, communicates willingness to participate in the specific sexual act; provided that a woman who does not physically resist to the act of penetration shall not by the reason only of that fact, be regarded as consenting to the sexual activity
Howsoever, this Section has a few exceptions regarding its constitution, and what rape cannot be defined as or is said to be committed given the circumstances listed below:
- 1. A medical procedure or intervention shall not constitute rape
- 2. Sexual intercourse or sexual acts by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under fifteen years of age, is not rape
After having read the article, the main setback that boldly appears is that the law is gendered, since considers rape crime is committed by a man against a woman. Howsoever, this law fails to include assault by people of the same sex though, the same being chargeable as an offence under section 377.
After having provided the relevant insights, it seems like the justice system makes it extremely difficult for the victim to get the justice they deserve after having been the victim of such a gruesome act. Rape victims in India have to face several hurdles in order to fight the insensitive system which blames victim for the misfortune. Although, with the rise of social media, the reporting of such events has increased and has made possible the outrage of the people to be heard. Sadly, the truth is that this outrage only exists for a certain period of time, and is always sidelined after the matter’s importance reaches its saturation level which only normalizes rape to higher extent. This isn’t right by any manner, and mandates that the country call for a stricter punishment and laws from the government, since such practices and their perpetrators cannot be allowed to let off by delaying the provision of justice to the victim.
The outrage has also called for the death penalty of those who have committed this heinous act, but there shall always exist a flip side to this publicly-outraged demand that has been made in the recent past. Though there is a lot to be pointed out and to be said, I will conclude this article by quoting the following lines:
“The death penalty is easy political candy to hand out to angry and upset citizens, but it’s much harder to work on justice systems that guarantee swift, certain punishment for sexual assault or to limit the violent patriarchies that cause rape in the first place. “ – Karuna Nundy