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Hathras To Hyderabad – Why Such Brutality In The Violence?
Independence of women does not go against the traditional idea of India and use of violence to victimise them, to suppress and silence them, will never preserve the greatness of the nation.
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The innocence and beauty in the pink salwar-kurta clad picture of that girl from Hathras would capture anyone’s heart. Then there are images and description of her being brutally beaten up, tortured and maimed. These do not reconcile. How could some men resort to such brutality? The rape itself is abhorrent but the gruesome violence accompanying it is what has shaken the nation.
Indian has an unenviable record of violence against women – with one being committed every three minutes – and been polled as the world’s most dangerous country for women due to the high risk of sexual violence. ‘Rape in India’ has its own Wikipedia page!
However, the growing violence is, shockingly and shamefully, becoming even more brutal. While patriarchy, misogyny, unemployment, lack of education - all are at play; there are deeper societal fissures which are causing this acute societal abnormality causing deep despair and anguish.
In their provocative book, Bare Branches -The Security Implications of Asia's Surplus Male Population (MIT Press, 2004 )– authors Valerie Hudson and Andrea den Boer had predicted that this would happen as a result of high male-to-female ratios. They said that most violent crime is committed by young unmarried males who lack stable social bonds. These surplus men often play a crucial role in making violence prevalent within society.
India has been regularly losing its unborn or newborn girls in the last three decades. The son preference and devaluation of female life has become so entrenched in parts of the country, that a man in Bareilly, UP doesn’t flinch before cutting open the womb of his wife suspecting that she was carrying another female foetus. Another horror was reported from Bhopal, MP where a two-day old girl child was stabbed over 100 times with a screwdriver and dumped near a temple. This was the third murder of a new born girl in the city in two weeks.
The child sex ratio which is the number of girls per 1000 boys between 0-6 years of age has been declining since 1961. The plummeting CSR, dropping to just 918 in 2011, as per the last census. There is growing concern that now rural India is showing a greater skew with technology access.
Despite the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, 1994 to stop female foeticides and arrest the declining sex ratio in India, the country has failed to stop it.
Travelling the length and breadth of the country while making a radio documentary for the BBC World Service 15 years ago, I had personally interviewed scores of people who admitted that they resorted to sex selection in the womb because having a boy was still a much-preferred option for most families. One girl was still alright but subsequent pregnancies could be terminated if the scan showed that the baby was not a boy.
Sometimes this selection was being done beforehand – those who could afford it would choose to make a pre-conception selection of only a male embryo to be implanted. That is why the pre-natal diagnostic act was revised to ban even the pre-conception stage of sex selection.
However, in many places around the country, the practice continued, illegally, and the conviction rate under the PCPNDT Act remains low. As a result, the murder of young baby girls in the womb continued rampantly.
As we interfered with nature’s balance, the society is now facing the impact of the skewed sex ratios all around us – in both rural and urban areas. Old predictions of resultant rise in violence are coming true. These unmarried men, with low education and unemployment, look at women as objects of desire and dominance.
Low conviction in rape cases
When the rape victim was burnt alive in Hyderabad, the perpetrators were also trying to destroy all evidence. In several similar cases, the rapists try to kill, burn, maim, bury, drown the bodies of their victims making sure that she cannot identify them. Investigations are often long and extremely painful and disastrous for the victim and her family – as the Unnao case showed very well.
If the case is filed and investigation happens there is a very small chance of justice for the girl or her family. Only about a quarter of the cases see conviction. The public shame and humiliation brought to the women and her family remains.
On March 21, 2013, and in the aftermath of the Nirbhaya incident, the rape law in the country was amended and allowed death penalty for repeat offenders. But despite stricter laws, and conviction of Nirbhaya accused, the law has not deterred rape.
According the latest National Crimes Records Bureau data, released on 29th Sep 2020, India reported 4,05,861 cases of crimes against women in 2019. From 2018, the rate of crime against women has risen by 7.3%, with the country recording an average 87 rape cases every day in 2019.
To observe some of the entrenched misogyny against women, one can look at the treatment meted out to women journalists and activists on social media sites such as twitter where trolls openly engage in sexual harassments with disturbing, explicit threats of violence to women who they disagree with. Combined with ignorance and caste politics, it takes a dangerous, malevolent form.
Some of the ills in contemporary India hark back to deep seated patriarchy. The cultural, social and caste fabric further propagates traditional notions of how women should behave and be. Those stereotypes, when broken, lead to anger and show of power. Sometimes the ill treatment of women in the society is rationalised and normalised, as a few recent political statements prove. The male dominated society continues to harbour notions of complete control over its women, even if they are now fewer in numbers, their mistreatment only grows.
The law of this country has to shed old notions of caste and patriarchy if the women are to be saved by the very men who they grow up and live with. Independence of women does not go against the traditional idea of India and use of violence to victimise them, to suppress and silence them, will never preserve the greatness of the nation.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.