Law & Life in “Rageistan”!!!

“Nayee Dilli – Mar 22nd,2033  

In what was the “Rape Capital” of India – Nayee Dilli (once called New Delhi) feverish activity is going on in the Government circles to observe and celebrate the 20th year anniversary of passing of the ‘Criminal Law ( Amendment) Bill 2013 more commonly known as the “Anti Rape Law”.  Why not? As per statistics released by the Home Ministry on the eve of the anniversary, rape as an offence has been steadily on the decline since the day the Anti-Rape law saw the light of the day and is almost wiped out since last 5 years in India.  The silent winding up of quite a few women organisations supporting the cause of women safety in the last many years supports the statistic.  Units which we were in the business of mfg. ‘Pepper sprays’ and other handy weapons have been consistently reporting losses in the few years and reportedly now turning sick and since this activity was reserved for Small Scale Industries it is turning into a new head ache for the Government.    The Home Minister is slated to address an “Online” presser in a short while where even common public can ask questions (which are pre approved by the ministry). Not only Dilli, but across the once notorious rape Kendra’s of India, women now walked freely in the night, partied hard with ‘gay’ abandon, took up night shift jobs without fright and almost all countries lifted their travel advisories for women against travelling to India which has been in vogue since 2013.  In short one can conclude that India finally attained “Real freedom” as envisioned by Father of the Nation – Mahatma Gandhi”

Cut, Cut, Cut – Well, that was a fantasy ride into the future. Let’s get back to reality of today. After the furore in the country in the aftermath of an extremely reprehensible act which happened in Delhi in Dec 2012, the Indian Government moved fast to pass the Anti-Rape Law on the 22nd Mar 2013.  The new law includes new offences like acid attack, sexual harassment, voyeurism, stalking… in the Indian Penal code.  It has also changed the definition of rape (sexual assault now) and finally has declared life punishment as the maximum punishment for most of the rape related crimes.

Now the question which comes uppermost in my mind and I would like to hear the answer from the female fraternity is with the passing of this bill, do they feel safer in India than before?  This question arises because in India we have some greatly drafted laws but rendered useless at the end of the day due to poor implementation. “Tough laws combined with tough implementation” is the need of the hour.  It’s now 3 months since the ‘Delhi horror’ happened and as it slowly moves out of the collective memories of all of us, the case is still meandering in the courts. One would have thought that it was such an “Open and Shut” case that by now the punishment would have been awarded and the case closed.  Not surprising in a country where it has taken 20 full years to finally ‘sort of’ get a partial closure to the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts case.  Recall the well scripted “Chalta Rahe” TVC for ‘Greenply’??? If not, do check this link. That sums it all.

Hence my fervent hope that the “Anti Rape Law” got debated and discussed adequately not only in terms of the provisions of the law but also the mechanism of implementation of the law itself. On both fronts it was a big disappointment. From all accounts, it was travesty of a debate with MPs exchanging views and passing frivolous oracular comments about wooing women as men’s most favourite, undeniable pastime and birthright!!! Only one-third of the MPs turned up at the Lok Sabha when the bill was debated – so much for lessons learnt and regret after the Nirbhaya incident!

First on the provisions of the law –

  • The maximum punishment was limited to life imprisonment while there was a mass public outcry for Capital punishment or Castration for the guilty.   While there are arguments for and against primordial punishments like Capital punishment or Castration in a civilised society, my point is – a society in which women have to live in fear is never a “Civilised society”. So we could turn to more civil punishments when we become a civilised one.  Till then we must have tough laws with tough punishments for heinous crimes which eventually act as deterrents. And rape is certainly one I believe.
  • Recently I was reading Vinod Mehta’s book “The Sanjay Story” an account (not a biography) on Sanjay Gandhi.  In that book, one chapter titled “Indiri Bachao” (Save your Penis) focusses on the Mass Sterilization programme which Sanjay Gandhi championed.  It seems initially when Sanjay ‘cut’ loose this programme it was a dud and was not taking off because men didn’t want to go under the knife. In India procreation was considered such a manly thing that men were reluctant to give up that “right”. Finally Sanjay Gandhi had to adopt all techniques under the sun from incentives like Radio sets, Rice, Cash, Jobs to ‘Force’ through the local police to achieve sterilization targets. My limited point is – taking away the right of a man to procreate through sterilization or castration whichever way you call it can be a big deterrent to a crime like Rape if that was the punishment believe you me.

Second on the implementation of the law –

  • No provisions / ideas for fast track courts for trials for rape cases
  • No thought of an exclusive all women court to try these cases
  • No new nothing!

We all know that the same we Indians behave adequately well when we step out of our shores. The difference I see is not the laws themselves but quick and tough execution of the laws and hence the fear of breaking the law.

In summary, we have another law which has just tinkered here and there with the existing provisions rather than a “Zero based” law.  Hence my fundamental question which I posed – Do women feel safer today ?

Preface: Please replace the word ‘G’ by ‘P’ in the word “Rageistan” in the title and read.   For, looking at the rape incidents of Indian women and foreign tourists of late, Incredible India may soon earn that title!!!

Also Read : My earlier post : Women Vs. We Men in India

Women Vs. We Men in India !!!

“We attain the real freedom only when a lonely woman can walk freely anywhere in our country during midnightMohandas Karamchand Gandhi.

The Father of the Nation must have said this in the 40’s not with animals or aliens in mind.  He clearly alluded to the lurking threat from ‘we men’ to the women community.  Sadly, going by this definition, we as a country might have achieved political freedom, the economic freedom may be just in sight but the “Real freedom” may be light years away. The recent ghastly incident which took place in our country’s capital, Delhi beat the daylights out of me as most of my fellow citizens.  It will be naïve to assume that Delhi is an exception as a city in India and other cities are quite safe.

There is a heated debate today in India on ways to stop this – ranging from Speedy justice, Capital punishment for the accused, fast trial courts for women related crimes,…,..  The lady victim/fighter or whatever one wants to call her has to live through the trauma almost every day of her life. Even if she wants to forget, the society will keep reminding her of the same.  So by hanging the culprit and taking his life, you are giving him the freedom which the victim does not have.  According to me, he must live and live to repent his shameful act every day/ every hour / every minute / every second for the rest of his life.  At the same time the punishment must be delivered in such a way that makes other men think 1000 times before they unzip before an unwilling woman in a moving bus or elsewhere.

That could be

  • Fast track courts exclusively for women related crimes with women as judges
  • The victims compliant corroborated with circumstantial evidence to be treated as final evidence and the accused charged
  • Laws amended to make “Castration” as the punishment for Rape against women
  • Judgment to be delivered within 1 week of any such incident
  • Punishment executed within 1 week from judgement

As a liberal, I’m in general against capital punishment and other such primitive punishments and agree with the view that these kind of aboriginal retributions have no place in a civilised society. However I’ve come to the conclusion that laws and punishments must be in tune with the civility and morality index of the country.  A country where a woman is raped every 2 hours (as I hear) cannot certainly be in the august group of Civilised nations.

Let us hold those grandiose pretensions for a while till as a country we learn to behave and demonstrate civility in general.

  • It’s time to think less about economic recession and worry about morality recession.
  • We face sleepless nights about currency depreciation but don’t bat our eyelid seeing the depreciation of values in front of us.
  • While being delighted watching the bullish trends in the stock market, let’s get concerned about dousing the raging bullish attitude of ‘we men’ towards women.
  • Time to have targets for Gross Discipline instead of just for GDP growth.

May be it’s time to deliver justice the primordial way which may eventually act as the much-needed deterrent for such heinous acts.  Somebody passed me this link from a Tamil movie – though this is a bit crude and violent way of delivering justice, I’m certain a variant of this form of punishment may prove to be the final deterrent for crime towards women!

While this could be a short-term solution, we must pause to pose the larger question. What is with Indian men that make them treat women with contempt, as an object of desire, as an item, ..,…?  As part of the oppressing gender in India today, I cringe with smallness.

To me, it looks like that’s the way we have been brought up in the society.  Till the time I started travelling out of our country in my 20’s I didn’t realise the “Women Vs. We Men” battle being staged in our country day in day out.  I would like to enumerate some of the scenes most of us I’m certain will be witness to :

  • The office elevator reaches the ground floor with men and women in it. As soon as the door opens, the men just rush out without having the basic courtesy of waiting for the women to step out first
  • At the same elevator, as the women try to get out, you will find men charging in to get into the lift – as if the lift is a local train.  In Mumbai where I live now, I see this “Suburban train” approach (which is basically barging in before people get out or without giving space for others before the train leaves) in everything. Even if it’s boarding a plane, getting into a theatre, driving a car on the road,..,..
  • In the airport coach at the departure or arrival gate – you will find very few iPhone/Blackberry wielding alpha males yielding their seats to females even if they are with infants or of the elderly type.
  • The driver of the car keeps honking as a pedestrian who happens to be a woman tries to cross the road and makes sure she halts so that he can breeze away. The short stint I lived in Dubai taught me that as a driver the 1st priority is for the pedestrian.
  • A group of office colleagues (male and female) get out of the company bus and walk together towards the office door to make an entry. Seldom will you find the male members allowing the ladies first and awaiting their turn later.

You may feel that I’ve spiced up some of the incidents for better effect, but actually not. These are what you get to see in the ‘Maximum(bai)’ city every other day! So I was not at all surprised when Mumbai was voted as a ‘Rudest City’ in a worldwide survey of 35 cities by Readers Digest.  That it was Mumbai was just incidental. It could well apply for most of the big cities of India.  I’m not claiming that Readers Digest is the ultimate authority in judging morality or civility, just thought not out of context to quote that to drive home my point.

As a long-term solution, the need of the hour is to coach our children on the basic courtesies in general and towards women in particular and not to view them as just an object of desire. We owe this to our nation. So, tomorrow when I leave my house with my family in the car, let me start by opening the door for the 2 ladies at home!