Being inquisitive comes naturally to us, Indians (which is not always a bad thing). We like to know the hometowns, professions, pay package, their eating habits (vegetarian or non-vegetarian), the number of siblings, their parents’ professions, marital status, caste and some more of complete strangers. We also judge people from their behaviour in public spaces, the way talk, the way they look. Yet, when it comes to women being eve teased or sexually harassed in public spaces, workplaces, we suddenly turn a blind eye to it. Suddenly fear/indifference takes over us and we don’t want to know; don’t want to see; don’t want to acknowledge such incidents. And, this attitude is gender neutral.
The current mass protest, lead largely by youngsters, in the backdrop of a 23-year-old girl being gang raped and brutally assaulted by six men, is a good sign. We should protest for the indifference has gone on for far too long. The archaic laws under Indian Penal Code, the time consuming judicial procedures, the stigma associated with women who have been raped, have become sore in the eyes. But a mass protest is not enough.
What remains to be seen is how many of these protesters, both men and women, girls and boys, will implement the ‘zero tolerance’ to eve teasing, molestation, sexual assault, domestic abuse or stalking in real life. Unless that’s done, the eve teasers, flashers, and molesters will only be encouraged to repeat their acts.
And, we definitely need more courageous men like the 28-year-old male friend of the girl, has stood by the girl and not been afraid to give his statement to the judicial authorities, and women. One need not take heroic steps but slight courage can go a long way.
Like an advertising veteran recently told me, the first person who stands up to such incidents is a dewana, a nutcase. The second person who takes the courage after seeing the first is the crucial person.
The gang rape and visible public outcry has lead Central government putting much needed public notice in newspapers inviting public, jurists, lawyers, NGOs, women’s groups and civil society members to share their ideas on to amend the criminal laws. The objective of the alteration will be to offer faster justice and rigorous punishment in cases of aggravated sexual assaults.
Even the capital’s transport department has cracked the whip on public service vehicles to remove curtains and tinted films on window glasses. And, those who don’t abide by this, would get their permits cancelled.
In addition to this, the state government/districts could also star a directory of convicted rapists and paedophiles, like US, online. This will certainly set an example to others who think twice before harassing a woman or child. There is also a need to focus on mental health and put rapists, molesters, abusers under psychiatric care.
Meanwhile, the girl’s statement to the sub-divisional magistrate on Saturday, raises few questions.
1) How did the Delhi police come to the conclusion that only four of the six accused had sexually assault the girl (The girl, in her statement, has clearly said that all six participated)
2) The police were planning to make one of the accused, who claimed not having sexually assaulted the girl, a witness. With the girl admitting the participation of all six, will the police continue its plan?
3) The girl’s condition is still bad, if she does not survive, will her statement be enough to convict the accused?