Tuesday , 22 January 2019
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Depredation of innocence

Depredation of innocence

There is growing outrage, anger and disgust owing to rape cases that shook the country. Whether Unnao, where a politician allegedly raped the 17-year-old last year, or the abduction and rape of an 8-year-old girl over a week in Kathua in January, rapes cannot be tolerated. NT NETWORK highlights the issue in context to liberal and modern Goa, which also has several cases of rape

Danuska Da Gama I NT NETWORK

There was outrage across the nation in December 2012, when a medical student was raped in a moving bus, but six years down the line, little seems to have changed. There was an amendment to the rape law in 2013 which prescribed death penalty and life imprisonment for sexual assaults that result in death or the victim being reduced to a persistent vegetative state.

While India’s Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act (POCSO) of 2012 pertaining to victims below age 18 prescribes that the court completes the trial within a year, often justice is either delayed or outright denied.

While many argue that rapes have increased, there is also another point that today women are coming forward to report rape cases. Reported rape cases in 2016 across the country rose by 60 per cent (totaling 40,000). Of this a little less than fifty per cent, 19,765 were cases of child rape. More shocking is the backlog of pending trials at a staggering 1,33,000 till 2016 – an increase of about 1,00,000 in 2012 based on data from the country’s National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).

Though many of us believe that it’s scary to live in states like Delhi, UP and others, Goa too has witnessed rapes that made national headlines.

 

Both Samson D’Souza and Placido Carvalho, accused of raping the 15-year-old and causing her death in 2008, were acquitted of all charges in September 2016

 

The Goa Children’s Court on March 7 sentenced a 69-year-old man from Bardez to 10 years rigorous imprisonment for raping a nine-year-old girl in 2012

 

A seven-year-old girl was raped inside the school toilet in Vasco on January 14, 2013. The accused is still at large. The Central Bureau of Investigation approached the judicial magistrate first class, Vasco, seeking permission to close the case after interrogating 391 suspects, to the objection of the father of the victim

 

In 2016 politician Babush Monseratte arrested for allegedly buying and raping a minor girl, was later granted bail

 

However, people believe that Goa is much safer for women and children as compared to other states – there is less gender bias and discrimination that can be attributed to the open-mindedness of Goans due to Portuguese colonisation, where men and women mingled with each other for social gatherings. Education, awareness and exposure to westernisation due to tourism have been factors for the freedom of women in Goa and relative safety and security.

But, the fact that crimes against women continue to happen, says otherwise. In 2014 there were 103 rape cases reported in Goa which dropped to 87 in 2015; 64 in 2016 and 44 in 2017 (upto June 30, 2017). Director, Child Rights Goa, Sushma Pawar believes that Goa, a tourist destination, does not assure the safety of people, especially children.

“There is a need for the government to invest financially to ensure children are protected, and child safeguarding mechanisms are set up; and a special police cadre in every taluka in Goa who are given the responsibility of children’s safety,” she highlights. She adds that schools should have a Child Protection Policy applicable to all adults associated with the institution. “There is a need to implement the laws in its totality. But for this there should be proper budgetary provisions,” she says.

Ex director of Child Rights Goa Nishtha Desai says that though Goa is believed to more liberal, child sexual assaults continue, citing the 1991 Freddy Peats case which shocked the nation.

Rapes can’t be tolerated

Rape is a gruesome and ghastly act, irrespective if the victim is child or an adult. The physical, emotional and psychological trauma leaves permanent scars. “To me, rape is an act of violence and degrading a human being no matter which gender and it’s sad that such violence takes place in a developing country like India,” explains Pawar. She adds that in recent years increased awareness and protests have put a lot of pressure on the legislature, executive and judiciary.

Human rights activist and lawyer, Kamayani Bali explains how the narrative of rape follows a standard path every time. “In cases of rape, it’s common to see media and politicians advice, ‘Don’t politicise’, which is very misleading. What we should be saying is, ‘Don’t defend rape and those accused of rape on political or communal grounds.’ Accountability and justice for rape must, of course, be a political issue — we must hold political parties and governments accountable for the rape culture, as we held the previous governments responsible for their handling of the Jyoti Singh’s gang rape and murder; in 2012, the whole country rallied for her — without, at the time, knowing her name or caste or community.”

Talking about how politicians use rape to attack a party or keep mum, she says: “Modi, then the Gujarat chief minister, called her ‘Bharat ki beti’ – India’s daughter. Today, what stops Modi from speaking about Asifa? In his eyes, is Asifa not ‘Bharat Ki Beti’? Modi spoke in 2012 because, then, it was politically convenient to use the rape to target the Congress; he is silent on Asifa because it is politically inconvenient to risk offending the ‘Hindu Ekta Manch’, which is closely associated with his own party; he is silent on Unnao because his own party’s MLA is accused. We didn’t tolerate silence from the prime minister in December 2012 — why should we tolerate silence from the prime minister now?”

Software and animation engineer Nilesh Sardesai who has penchant for the human psyche, says that rape is not a sexual crime; it goes beyond. “It is not a crime committed due to an uncontrollable urge to have sex with a woman, man or child, but to exude dominance over a weaker being. It is a sick and disillusioned head to re-establish control.” He adds that in most cases rape is also committed by the incredibly lonely and who hold society responsible for it or have been abused as children, thus twisting their mind into believing an alternate reality that is perpetrated by the insane urge to extract revenge on the abuse suffered by them in a tangible form.

Though there are exceptions, he believes that In India, it’s a little different: here from a young age most parents tell their sons that they are masters of the household and thus are entitled to enjoy the spoils of victory without fighting any war: “Young boys are brainwashed into believing that there are specifics to the roles a woman can play – and all those roles need to end in a form of servitude towards men (and alternatively girls are raised to believe that!). Little do these women and mothers realise that they are raising a boy who will grow up to think the same of them!”

When the boy grows up to the complexities of life like jobs, social media, cause and effect, he realises that he is the master of nothing, while women on the other hand get energised with every achievement because according to society, to begin with they were not ‘meant to’. So the man clings to the one thing which is tangible and can be controlled as all other forms slip away. “It begins with massive expectations from the wife who either submits to him or revolts. But there comes a point where certain men want to go a step beyond. The body and submission of an adult woman is not enough, they want to possess innocence or a mind that cannot yet judge or react harmfully in any form, or can be genuinely terrorized – the mind of a child.” He adds that this sprouts from a twisted projection of values, a lack of conscience, a form of depraved desperation to drive one to insanity and finally a complete disregard for the law.

“As India is coping with the recent rape cases, it becomes evident that there may be many more that have gone unreported. As families of victims cope with the loss, many other Indians live in a constant fear of what may happen next. Many parents may warn their daughters to be careful and vigilant of men in general, known or unknown,” explains counselor and psychology teacher, Ridhima Shirodkar.

A nation-wide study in 2007, covering 13 states with a sample size of 12,447 children, 2,324 young adults and 2,449 stakeholders, found that 50 per cent of abusers were persons known to the child or in a position of trust and responsibility. It is hence not surprising that a majority of child sexual assault victims turn hostile somewhere during that long-winding judicial path to secure justice.

“So many times rapes and sexual abuse may happen within families and are hushed up only to save relations. What relations are these then that cannot respect another? It then becomes exceptionally important to teach young children, male and female, about safe and unsafe touch. This can be taught through pictorial cues. We don’t need to wait for issues as drastic as rape, a touch considered uncomfortable is equivalent to a rape, and it’s high time public and the policy makers understand such issues and treat them with primary importance,” says Shirodkar.

‘Beti Bachao, Beti
Padhao’ failing our girls

‘Women get raped because they expose their bodies.’ ‘Women get raped because they move out after 7 p.m’. ‘Women get raped because they don’t address all men as ‘bhaiyaa’’. These comments have been made by religious leaders, politicians and others. But when a child who doesn’t even understand the concept of sex is raped, what does that imply?

When Narendra Modi rose to power, he initiated the Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao campaign that aimed to generate awareness and improve the efficiency of welfare services intended for girls. Actor Shabana Azmi said after the recent rape cases that our ‘betis’ (daughters) should be alive and safe for the ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ campaign to be effective. People too share the same thought of prioritizing security for women.

Pawar however states that it is too early to comment whether this campaign is a success or failure because of the child abuse. “The campaign has a component of setting up of Balika Manch in every school. The state government needs to make this a reality to address the issues of girls. But, the government should also ensure safety of boys. Since the scheme focuses on creating awareness, there is also a need for sustainability using different methods,” she says.

Bali highlights that nearly 90 per cent of funds allocated last year for Beti Bachao Beti Padhao, remain unutilised, according to a parliamentary panel. Out of a total amount of Rs 43 crore that was set aside only Rs 5 crore has been correctly utilised. “The question we should be asking today is: Why does the BJP say ‘Beti Bachao’ and then do ‘Balatkari Bachao’? We saw it when BJP MP Subramanian Swamy defended Asaram, accused under the POCSO of aggravated sexual assault of a minor girl, and deliberately distorted facts in his tweets. We saw when BJP MP Babul Supriyo defended Haryana BJP chief Subhash Barala’s son Vikas Barala in the Chandigarh stalking case, and BJP spokesperson Shaina NC slut-shamed stalking survivor Varnika Kundu, when BJP government let rape-convict Ram Rahim’s supporters run amok, and BJP’s Unnao MP Sakshi Maharaj said that crores of people are supporting Ram Rahim, and only one person is complaining against him. Is one person right or are crores of people right?” she questions, adding that this scenario continues with the Unnao case where BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar, accused with his brother and others of gang-raping a teenager, is not arrested, but the victim’s father was arrested and later beaten to death by the MLA’s brother. “The teenager is forced to attempt suicide outside the CM’s residence — but the CM continues to meet a smiling Sengar, who calls the teenager and her father ‘lowly people’,” she adds.

Is death penalty the
solution?

Following the Unnao and Kathua rapes, death penalty was approved as a punishment for the rapists of girls below the age of 12, following an ordinance that amended an existing criminal law. While many in the country hail this decision, there are others who still question how the death penalty would function as a deterrent.

While a senior psychiatrist in Goa believes that sex education can’t solve the problem of rapes n the country, he also says that people who rape have to be dealt with an iron hand as rape permanently scars and cripples a survivor both mentally and physically.

 

Continued on page 4

 

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