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Why rape is not a crime in India

April 26, 2013 14:19 IST

Treat rape on par with murder not just in punishment but also in the procedure of its investigation and the pursuit of the perpetrator. Make our roads and neighbourhoods safer. We will figure out how to make our homes safer and hearts larger, says Hemanth Kumar G.

A rape is occupying the centre stage of our consciousness all over again. Given the hullabaloo, one would think that the gap between the unfortunate gangrape of the paramedical student in a Delhi bus and that of this hapless five-year-old in an East Delhi neighbourhood is like that of terror returning to America, 12 years after 9/11. But alas, the gap between these two shameful incidents is only four months.

It is not as though there have been no rapes in between. It is just that our media will take their collective prime-time or first-page notice only when such incidents happen in Delhi. The rest of India simply does not exist for many of the media houses. Even as we speak there have been gruesome rapes of children in Madhya Pradesh and Assam after this incident. There has been no coverage of that by our mainstream media except for passing reports. Come on, have a heart, how do you move OB vans to remote states!

The protests are also largely confined to political parties and some NGOs this time. Middle-class Delhi has gone missing. You really cannot blame them. The summer temperature in Delhi can be stifling and come on, for heaven’s sake there is an IPL season going on! Sarcasm apart, how many times can citizens come out to protest!

We have heard the prime minister say that collective efforts must be taken for the depravity to end and the home minister say that rapes happen all over India. Thank you sirs, we did not know. You truly enlighten us. Sorry sirs, make that entertain us. If the situation were not tragic, your comments would certainly qualify as comic.

What the PM and HM are saying albeit subtly is that they are not responsible. What they are not saying but implying is that since it is the society that needs to change, it is ultimately us who are responsible for these rapes! Go figure!

It is not just the PM and the HM who feel this way. Many respected commentators are expanding the scope saying that the attitude of society to women is the reason for rape. Their reasoning is that we do not respect women for many female foetuses do not see the outside of a womb, many female children are fed less than male children, many female children drop out of school earlier and so on. Ergo you have to change society before attempting to do something about reducing rapes. Start respecting women and rapes will come down is their line of thought.

Frankly, they put the cart before the horse. A rape is a crime, period.

Rape is being confused with abuse. The abuse of a child or a woman is systemic and done by someone known to them and it happens inside the home or at work.

But rape is similar to abduction. The child in this case was taken out of its home. Why should the approach of the police be any different than what it would have been for a kidnapping?

The problem in India is that rape is not a crime.

Yes, you read that right. It is not a crime.

Think about it. We have learnt that the accused in this instance actually raped his wife before their marriage. What was the punishment? And to whom was it given? The hapless girl was married off! To him!

The law is like the lock. No lock on this earth can prevent a criminal. The hardened criminal will break open a lock. But a lock certainly ensures that an otherwise honest passerby will not be tempted to steal.

The problem with rape in India is that there are no consequences to breaking open this lock. Quite simply, the law against rape is not enforced.

In most cases, the victim or her family hushes up a rape. And in some cases where it is not hushed up, the punishment is marriage between the victim and her violator!

And this story repeats itself everywhere in India. Try telling a good friend that someone known to you has been raped. You will get solicitous and well-meaning advice that you should count your blessings that the victim is alive and move on. That is exactly what the police allegedly did in this case. They requested the parents to hush up the crime even offering them comfort money.

What are the people asking for? We are not asking the establishment to change our hearts and minds so that we will abuse our womenfolk less. That is for social activists to do. There was a time when only social activists went on to become political activists. Sigh! But then, I digress.

We are asking the establishment to pursue rape like it pursues murder. When there is a murder, the law enforcement makes a fundamental assumption -- that the murderer is armed and will harm more citizens if not hunted down post haste.

That is precisely what the Delhi police establishment did not do in this case. They tried to fob off the parents from registering an FIR, they tried to counsel the parents to move on and one senior official even got so irate that he ended up assaulting a lady who was protesting the fact that the FIR was not registered in time.

And that is why the Delhi police commissioner is in the dock and that is why his head should roll. Not because the rape itself happened but because of what did not happen after the rape.

Treat rape on par with murder not just in punishment but also in the procedure of its investigation and the pursuit of the perpetrator.

Make our roads and neighbourhoods safer. We will figure out how to make our homes safer and hearts larger.


Hemanth Kumar G