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Making Beaches Safe For Women

THE gang rape of a woman at the Betalbatim beach on Thursday night has made every woman in particular and Goans in general shudder with the thought that even a public place like a beach was not safe for women. Beaches are where tourists visit till late evenings, believing them to be totally safe. Goan families go for outings to beaches at all times of the day, also in late evenings. The victim woman had gone to the beach with her boy friend. So, leave aside a woman alone, even a woman accompanied by a man is not safe on beaches. The police have a great responsibility in getting the rapists punished.  Two of the three arrested have criminal background, one of them facing charges of rape and murder of a couple in Indore. The police have been quick in arresting the accused. They also got the antecedents of the accused from Indore police. The accused not only raped the woman but also filmed the rape incident and threatened to upload the video if the couple failed to pay money to them. The accused had double purpose on their minds: they had raped the woman and they also wanted to blackmail the couple to extort money.

In some cases, women do not report rape to police for fear of losing social respect. However, rape is but a violent attack on the freedom and body of a woman. It goes to the credit of the Betalbatim victim that she picked up courage to report the incident to police. Had she not registered her complaint, the accused would have left the state, making it difficult for the police to catch them. Her resolve to get the assailants punished did not let that happen. Perhaps here is a lesson for other women who might fall victim to violent attackers and rapists: she must quickly report the incident to the nearest police station.    At a time when the police have been facing flak for their inability to solve many criminal cases, they must be commended for solving the case in record time. The members of the Mahila Congress were perhaps not right in demanding that the police hand over the accused to them. The Mahila Congress or any group of citizens has no right to deal with accused in any case. That is police job. The Mahila Congress’s excited gathering at the Margao police station appeared in a mood to lynch the accused. The Congress is the oldest party of the country and has been in government at the Centre and in the state for long periods. How could they not respect the rule of law and the legitimate procedure and agency for investigation and prosecution of a criminal case?

Of course, the police have to become more vigilant, especially the officials posted at the police stations in the tourist-frequented coastal belt. The accused in the Betalbatim rape case had rented a room in which police found masks, a coita and a knife, which they used for committing the crime. They had a criminal bent of mind, which showed in the way the three dispersed after committing the gang rape in order to give the law enforcement officials a slip. While it may not be possible for police to identify and shadow every criminal, who faces one or more cases in another state, coming to Goa, they could use technology to build up a database and get other states to share such bases with them. In the Betalbatim case, it was easier for the police to access the criminals’ antecedents because they squealed what they had done and where they were from. However, the police should not rest assured that they have solved the case with the criminals’ admission to the crime, because people with such bent of mind can add twists to their statements, denting the prosecution case in the court. The police have to do a thorough probe and collect pieces of evidence that would not let the accused escape conviction.

Let us hope the director general of police (DGP) and his deputies draw a lesson from the Betalbatim rape and equip the police stations in tourist areas better. The policing in tourist areas which is focused on drug and prostitution has to put prevention of rape incidents at the top of the list. Beaches are not just visited by tourists at all hours of the day, but also by local residents. It would be humiliating for the police if Goans and tourists begin to avoid visiting beaches after sunset fearing their women might be attacked by rapists and robbers.

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