Monday, December 15, 2014

Rape: A lot has still not changed

A lot has changed since December 16, 2012. But a lot has yet to be. Let's look at what has changed.
Women are comparatively reporting much more now. This is indicative from rise in reporting of cases of rapes or molestation or what is called "eve-teasing". Earlier, they would hesitate to report and get their statement recorded as they were not sure of the police response. Now they know police has to record their complaint and act immediately. They also know that if they do not report, the accused will go scot free. And who knows can even come back to them, but would most certainly be out of legal bounds. Therefore, if they want the culprits caught and exposed, they have to report. They are taking that risk now. The police, too, are registering more willingly now.
They are not afraid of reporting rise in figures in this crime as they know it is safer for society as well as the department. They have also been sensitised to an extent. Also this has been mandated by law; since not recording is also punishable now and certainly the police do not want to risk that. As a result, the police response to arresting the alleged perpetrators is also brisker owing to better coordination. This is evident in the recent case, where the cab driver: the offender was quickly traced and nabbed. Police, at least in metros, do not want to get negative exposure. Senior officials also step in early to take stock of all the events in such incidents. Media plays a big role by making it a 24x7 news event and creating pressure on the system. Courts are stiffer as we have tighter law in place. But... But...
A lot has not changed yet, which is causing a repeat injury to women in particular and society at large. It is all about the mindset towards women. No collective-synergised effort in the form of a social revolution is visible. This is clearly demonstrated by the crimes against women, which have now assumed epidemic proportions. Despite this, it is still not everyone's cause. There is also no appropriate coordination amongst government agencies to make public spaces safer. Whether it is public transport or public dark spots; licensing or enforcement; regulations or deployment; or use of technology, - there is still no unity of purpose, wherein we are assured that all accountable agencies will truly and sincerely work in tandem to fulfill a common objective. Mere meetings are not enough unless there is no mission statement of - "no more..." Had that been been the feeling, the message would have travelled down the line.
The judiciary needs to punish and enforce future prevention, by releasing no sex offender on bail easily (as Rampal Yadav clearly was). The judiciary should conduct day-to-day trials, (still not the case, though ) and if ever released, such accused should be under strict safety and surveillance.
The criminal tracking electronic data system pending since 2009 with government of India, has not seen closure. Hence, police verifications of tracking past criminals remains disjointed (this happened in the recent case when Delhi Police did not know the past record of Yadav in Uttar Pradesh).
Verification of past offenders is still not an essential operating procedure in all police stations across India as an essential tool of basic crime prevention. If this was a practice, such crimes would have been prevented. We have still not evolved when it comes to the mindset — how to treat women with respect. And this disrespect starts from nowhere, but our home where women are seen as dependent housekeepers (as seen in most cases). Parents and teachers have to take this up as a social revolution. Media must think twice before airing item numbers during peak viewing hours! Or why broadcast them at all? Transport administration, municipal agencies, police, courts and prisons too must take it up on a mission mode. Many of the public statements made by newsmakers should also reinforce the message - respect for women, instead of airing their own biases, prejudices and ignorance of facts.
In the midst of this atmosphere where women are not respected enough, we still have a long road to recovery. We can fast forward this journey though, only if we follow the six Ps - parents, principals, politicians, police, prosecution, prisons, and press. With leadership as hubs to effectively coordinate the efforts of all the above mentioned six Ps - individually and collectively; only then can we expect to change substantially before the next December 16.