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Hope in the time of rape

 | December 28, 2012

Women, especially the unlettered and those living in non-urban centres, are so shamed by rape that they seldom talk about it, let alone report it.

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The 23-year-old woman who was raped and brutally beaten up inside a private bus in New Delhi some days ago has been flown to Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore for medical treatment.

The woman had three surgeries in India, her intestines were removed, and she even suffered a cardiac arrest on Christmas Day. But she lives, though is extremely critical. She wants to live, and her will to live is phenomenal.

Despite the nature of her injury – which an attending doctor said he had never seen the like of it in a sexual assault in his 30 years of practice – she fights on!

Now New Delhi may have the best of doctors, but not the best of equipment as the doctors treating her have averred. So, the government, shaken and shocked by the growing protests and outrage against the rape of this woman, decided to send her to Singapore at state cost.

In short, the government was forced to act!

Beyond this ghastly incident there lies a truth which is as horrific. Almost 97 per cent of the rapes happen outside New Delhi – in the states, in small towns, in villages. And law and order is a state subject.

In spite of all the public rage, most of India’s states have chosen to remain mum. What is worse is that some of the states may well be described as endemic as far as rape goes.

The central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh is one classic case. In 2011, there were 3,406 cases of rape, a figure that constituted 14 per cent of India’s total!

Woman Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s West Bengal came next with 2,366 cases or 10 per cent of India’s total. Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh followed. Curiously, even a highly literate state like Kerala reported 1,000 cases.

And mind you, there would have been many, many more such incidents that had gone unreported or unregistered.

Women, especially the unlettered and those living in non-urban centres, are so shamed by rape that they seldom talk about it, let alone report it. It is a social stigma that few women can live with.

New Indian attitude

Besides, the police in most cases are insensitive to a woman’s psychological and physiological trauma post rape. Cops ask a victim such intimate questions that would be utterly humiliating and degrading.

Obviously, the police need to be educated and sensitised to the suffering of a raped woman. But the police force is part of a society which still largely believes that women invite rape, and one cannot really expect cops to be any different from the man on the street.

As G Promod Kumar wrote in Firstpost, “unless social values…change… nothing will change”.

Sandip Roy, also in Firstpost, felt that values were changing. At least he saw a tiny ray of hope.

He said: “A couple of days ago traveling on the (Kolkata) Metro I overheard one young man tell another ‘Have you seen that slogan on Facebook – don’t tell your daughters how to dress, tell your sons how to behave?’

His friend said yes, he had seen it on many friends’ pages. It was just a simple conversation, but for the first time there was a small sense of something shifting in attitudes, not wholly but in some measure”.

Hopefully, this could be the beginning of the New Indian Attitude.

Gautaman Bhaskaran is a Chennai-India based author, columnist and film critic, and can be contacted at[email protected]. He is an FMT columnist.


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