People are vehemently protesting and demanding for more severe punishments for the culprit. They hold that this heinous crime demands a death penalty. The protest has indeed raised a glaring question for everybody in the system, on how to tackle this shameful yet becoming increasingly frequent case of ‘rape’.
The death of the victim corresponds to the 2012 Nirbhaya case which had triggered the government to come up with more effective and protective laws for crimes against women. Consequently the Justice Verma Committee was constituted which amended criminal laws. The Amendment has enhanced the punishment for rape crimes with imprisonment of 20 years or with death if rape results in death of the victim or in a persistent vegetative state of a victim.
It’s also true that there are countries which follow more stringent outlook towards rape, for example countries like Saudi Arabia and China where an offender is punished with death. However, their policy is not tenable in India as the socio-economic and political fabric of our country is totally distinct from these nations.
Rape is a manifold and continuing crime as the victim keeps on facing the stigma. Rape exists because of a patriarchal and misogynistic culture.
A woman is raped irrespective of type of clothes she was wearing, irrespective of severe punishments attracted for the offence. A rapist is a predator who is provoked to commit the crime and therefore besides the demand for stringent laws and fast track courts, what is more important is to have a synthesis of social change.
This social change involves a change in our attitude towards the crime and the victim. This can be brought only through education. There is need for gender sensitization among the people especially the young-lots. Huge responsibility lies on the shoulder of the parents. Parents must sensitize their children. Gender sensitization must also be imparted in schools by teachers and counsellors especially at the time of student’s period of adolescence. There is need to impart knowledge about the gender related crimes. Rape is a crime which involves the psycho-physical complexity. Criminologists hold that a crime is a result of deformative state of mind. Such deformity can be prevented if an individual is educated and sensitized at the period of his upbringing.
The police, bureaucrats and the judiciary should be sensitized. It is disheartening to note that in our society the issue of rape has become a salacious gossip. Further, there is need to take stern action against advertisements which objectify women.
In addition to various demands or gender sensitization, we as a society must step up and introspect ourselves and ponder upon the following considerations which perhaps may help prevent the occurrence of rape:
• Under what circumstances a woman is more prone to become a victim of rape.
• Study needs to be conducted and reports must be published regarding rape prone areas in cities or in remote tribal areas.
• The psyche of the criminal.
• The circumstances which relate to the offender and the crime.
• Why the police in spite of judicial guidelines adopt a callous attitude in taking action i.e. filing of the FIR and subsequent investigation?
• How far the element of caste, status and economic conditions prejudicially affect the victim, in her pursuit of justice.
• How the perception of the judiciary, police, and the society changes when it comes to the status of the culprit and the victim? What is their perception if the victim belongs to upper caste culprit to lower caste and vice versa?
• Recently the National Crime Rates Bureau (NCRB) have published the report highlighting that occurrence of rape in north-eastern states is least as compared to other states. This indeed puts up a question, what are the reasons for the same? Is it the effectiveness of legal machinery or other factors like population, education?
• Relative crime rates in two or more adjoining states.
• Further there is a probability that reporting of rape cases may not mean that there has been an increase in the crime but perhaps mean that women have become more educated and aware of the laws that work in favour of them. They are no more afraid to come forward and file cases when such wrong has been committed.
Crimes are inevitable to society. It will continue to exist so far the society exists. Judicial, administrative, police reforms or stringent laws will be no more than a toothless tiger unless and until there is a change in civic behaviour among the people of the society. There is need of synthesis of both legal and social reforms to tackle the problem.
(Author is a Law student at Hidayatullah National Law University, Raipur)