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India Continues To Be Unsafe For Girl Child

THE police have arrested a 65-year-old woman from Baina-Vasco for allegedly kidnapping, torturing and assaulting eight school girls aged between 11 and 12 years. The cruel irony is that all the victims were adopted by the assailant. They were students of a reputed school. The acts of violence could have gone undetected had it not been for the alertness of a girl who noticed burn injury marks on the hands of the victims during the mass they attended on Saturday evening. It was based on the complaint from the girl that the law and order machinery sprung into action and raided the two flats where the girls were kept to rescue them. The police could not lay their hands on the papers to verify the claims of adoption. There is need to find out why the girls were being tortured and strictest action should be taken against the accused as the victims of her torture were all minor girls. With widespread trafficking of women in the country and world, the police should also investigate whether the girls were adopted for human trafficking and tortured because of their refusal to do the accused’s bidding.

The Vasco case just illustrates how vulnerable girl children are. Although the government and leaders of society continue to speak from lofty grounds of protecting the girl child, not a day passes when barbaric cases of discrimination, torture, rape and murder of girl children are not reported in the media. Even as the national revulsion and outrage over the alleged rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir and alleged rape of a 17-year-old girl in Makhi, Unnao in UP continues to pour out comes the shocking news of rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl in Surat whose body was found with 86 injury marks. The autopsy indicates that she was tortured and raped for at least a week before being murdered. Heartrending news of rape and murder of a four-year-old girl in Odisha and gang rape of another 17-year-old girl in Patna have followed.

Those who blame women’s provocative dresses for their sexual harassment and rape must change their view now. What provocative dress was the eight-year-old girl in Kathua wearing to incite the beast inside a whole group of men? She was the adopted daughter of a poor shepherd; she was in her ordinary faded much-worn clothes. What provocative dress was the Unnao girl wearing, to provoke the local BJP MLA so much as to lure her on the promise of a job to his room and rape her? Moral policing must direct its ire away from women to the men of the kinds of those who rape helpless, vulnerable girl children. The moral policemen should join women in solidarity to fight for the conviction of such men. They might start with the fight for the end of the culture of police complicity with the perpetrators of rape. A group of former civil servants has expressed serious concerns over the handling of rape cases in an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. They have described the current situation as a ‘moment of existential crisis’ in which the government’s response would determine whether the nation could overcome the crisis of constitutional values, of governance and the ethical order. The 49 signatories have referred to the Kathua and Unnao incidents as the result of a ‘culture of majoritarian belligerence and aggression.’

The national outrage over the rape of Nirbhaya has obviously not deterred men from raping and murdering women. One of the reasons is that though the law against rape has been made stronger, the nexus of police and politicians comes in the way of justice. The way the officers of the police station in Unnao, in whose jurisdiction the alleged rape by the local BJP MLA took place, behaved with the victim and her family suggests that the police and politicians do not care a bit about the rule of law. It is mandatory for the police to register an FIR giving details of the complaint of rape under the relevant sections of the IPC. However, the Unnao police diluted the complaint and excluded the sections they should have included. Even the FIR they registered against the brother and other relatives of the MLA in the case of assault on the victim’s father carried lighter sections of IPC. How can girl children hope to live with dignity when the nexus of politicians and policemen would not allow them to?

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