First, credit for this post must go to Nandan Maluste and Major General S.G. Vombatkere.
Everyone and his brother have been bombarded with material, views, news, prejudices and bile following the Damini or Nirbhaya case. The `Middia’ [media] is in overdrive, all forms of it. Calls for death penalty are all over. Damini’s father has been quoted as saying that he will not rest till the guilty are hung. A minor technical point that the `Middia’ has failed to mention is that even if the law is amended to introduce the death penalty for rape, the amendment cannot act retrospectively. So those accused of rape prior to the amendment would still not be hung.
Then there are all those who have felt grief, or felt that they need to put in their two bits worth in the `Middia’ frenzy. Leading lights in this area, as I have mentioned previously are, Dr. Abhisheik Manu Singhvi and Shobhaa De. Dr Singhvi was caught on camera, to put it mildly, in flagarant delicito or, if you want it straight up, getting a blow job from a woman he promised judgeship. Shobhaa De has written and sold tens of thousands of soft porn novels. Adding to this list is our very own Amitabh Bachchan who wrote a poem. This after a career in Bollywood where women are not portrayed in the best way. Of course, he also acted in the film with the hit song Chumma De De. Looking at it our Hobbit Aamir Khan is not to be left behind. He too has penned a poem. Our `Middia’ loves this. Then every so often when there is a rape our `Middia’ screams how long can this go on suggesting that one Damini will change everything and overnight too.
Many reasons have been provided as to why rape is so prevalent in India. The main reason is a shockingly low rate of convictions. They say that low convictions are caused by shoddy investigations, botched up police work, judicial delays and many other reasons. The sequiter being, possibly, that things are better in the West.
In light of this I was rather surprised by what has been published in the British press. It makes most interesting reading.
As I write on 3rd January 2013, there are 3 articles that have appeared in the British press. These are also doing the rounds on Facebook. The first was written on 30th December in the Independent by Owen Jones. Mr. Jones says many things among which the most shocking for me was the sentence “a 2009 study revealed that Britain has the lowest conviction rate of 33 European countries: it’s a shockingly pathetic 6.5 per cent.”
Then, Libby Purves a columnist for the London Times wrote a rather strange column in the Times on 31st December 2012 basically saying that sexual crimes against women were endemic in India and the Third World and suggesting that the West had progressed therefore there was far less crime against women.
Libby Purves column prompted a response from Emer O’Toole on 1st January 2013 in the Guardian. She criticised Ms Purves naive view of sexual crimes in India. Ms. O’Toole referred to several reports all skewed of the so called high number of sexual crimes against women in India and demonstrated that the position in Britain is worse or as bad as in India. She goes on to say that in the USA the arrest rate for rapes is just 24%, obviously meaning that the conviction rate is much lower.
Then, on 3rd January 2013 Sunil Khilnani a Professor at Kings College London, in an article in the Times of India, referred to a recent piece published in Bloomberg News where journalist Lisa Beyer drew attention to an extraordinary set of figures. According to UN statistics, Sweden has 63 rapes annually per 1,00,000 people, the UK 29, the US 27. India has 1.8. Mr. Khilnani says that the low figures for India are because the vast majority of rape crimes against women are not reported. This may well be true.
The point I want to make is simply this. Here is one instance when things in the West are not better than India. There are broadly as many rapes per 1000 in the West as there are in India. The arrest and conviction rate for such crimes in the West are abysmally low as they are in India. Mind you the question of shoddy investigation, non sensitised police and judicial delays by and large do not exist in the West, and if they do, they are far less than in India. This being the case, why barring the 2 articles I have referred to [Independent and Guardian] is there a perception that crimes in the East are many and horrific and not punished when statistics show the contrary. By the same token, why are our ladies rights activities and general `jholawallas’ complaining so bitterly when things are not much better in the West despite many of the problems of investigation et al not being as hard there?
Mind you I am not in the least suggesting that two wrongs make a right or that just because things are as bad in the West we should do nothing. All I am saying is that could we be a little more balanced and a lot less hysterical.
Yes, there exists violence against women of the worst possible nature in India. Yes, this is done with impunity because the perpetrators think they can get away with it. Yes, more often than not they do get away with it. Yes, all of us need to and do condemn rape and violence in one voice without any petty politics or one-upmanship.
But seriously. Calls to hang the villains who raped, brutalised and led to the death of this one young lady are rife. They may well hang since now that the girl is dead, murder will be a charge they have to face. So let us not confuse matters and say they hung because of rape. What about all the other cases of rape that are pending in courts? Are they less heinous? Hang them all? And what is this about chemical castration? How does it help if we start baying for blood like mad dogs? Yes we are all outraged but surely the media needs to be a little more mature and balanced. Surely we don’t need yet another set of new laws but rather effective implementation of existing laws. Surely our politicians need to rise above petty politics and come together in condemning this act as one voice. Surely effective investigation by the police and timely conviction by the courts will act as a deterrent. Surely in the long term education and effective female empowerment is the only answer.
By the way, where is Rahul Gandhi the youth leader? Not a peep out of him so far.