Apart from an apathetic and corrupt administration, the society must take the rap for the rising incidents of rape in India.
Some nights ago, the woman and her male friend took an empty private bus home. They were returning from an evening movie show at a mall in Sakhet, an upmarket locality in India’s capital city.
The driver of the bus, and four of his friends were inebriated and had planned to make a fast buck by finding custom on a vehicle that did not belong to them. When the couple entered the bus, the men passed lewd comments. The male friend took offence, and a heated exchange of words led to a physical brawl, molest and rape. Iron rods were used to beat the couple.
The profusely bleeding couple were then thrown out of the bus, and luckily for them, passing motorists alerted the police, which acted quickly. The woman is critical after five surgeries, including one to remove a part of her infected intestines. The man is not so seriously hurt.
There has been a wave of public protests in New Delhi with women members of Parliament openly weeping.
As has always been the case in India, reactions have been knee-jerk. Vehicles would no longer be allowed to use black shades on their windows. Police patrol has been strengthened. Fast-track courts have been established to deal with sexual offences.
These seem like measures to placate public anger, and like several earlier occasions, the government would go back to its old ways of apathy and neglect in a country where there is really no dearth of laws, and excellent laws at that. But enforcement is abysmally slow and slack, if at all, and especially so when it comes to charging the rich with a crime they may have committed.
The wealthy know only too well that they can get away with murder. A leading Bollywood actor drove his fancy car over sleeping pavement dwellers in Mumbai, killing one and injuring several of them. An industrialist’s son did the same in Delhi, and his family bribed witnesses to change their statements that helped him escape with a very light jail sentence.
However, years ago when, an attendant raped and brutalised a Mumbai nurse — who still lives in a vegetative state, cared for by her colleagues – he was promptly arrested and imprisoned. He was neither rich nor powerful.
The men who raped and attacked the para-medic woman were not either. Hence most of them were quickly caught.
However, ultimately the society must take the rap for the rising incidents of rape in India. The blind desire for a son leads to female foeticide and the murder of the girl child as soon as it is born.
The 2011 Census estimates that there are 914 girls for every 1,000 boys for the ages 0-6. This is the worst sex ratio since 1947, when India attained independence.
In a scenario such as this, men who are conditioned to consider themselves as superior to women feel themselves threatened when an increasing number of women join the work force or appear in public places.
And rape – which has little to do with sex — is seen as a weapon to reaffirm male dominance, to subdue women.
Gautaman Bhaskaran is a Chennai-India based author, columnist and film critic, and can be contacted at[email protected]. He is an FMT columnist.