By: Layba Yaseen
Much havoc has been wreaked in the entire country over a very common criminal act, a rape case. Rape is not a new offence, it is prevalent in the society since ancient times, much like murder or robbery. But what makes it different from other offences is that for all these generations it has mostly been women and children who are at the receiving end of this torment.
What happened at UP’s Hathras Village?
A 19-year old girl was allegedly raped by four men on September 14th. She was not just raped but also injured brutally enough not to be able to speak about it for eight days straight and then to succumb to those injuries on September 29th. She was clandestinely cremated in the dead of the night, by the policemen, without prior permission from her family. However, district administration refutes the fact that the family was unaware of the hurried cremation and claims the cremation that happened without any rituals being followed was performed with their consent.
A parallel is being drawn on this case with the Nirbhaya, 2012. But what makes this casestand-out from the rest of the cases is that the girl was a Dalit and the alleged rapists belong to the Upper-Caste.
The supporters of the accused are basically Upper-Caste men from the village who are claiming that the accused are being falsely targeted and demand thata FIR should be lodged against the family of the woman.
The ongoing protests in the country however do not support this idea of justice and want a clear investigation in this case which apparently seems like a reflection of the dying democracy of the country, lapses in administration, casteism, and the plight of the women.
According to the reports, the village has been barricaded and the family of the woman was put under house arrest. They are not allowed to coordinate with the media because the media is apparently making false statements. By what is known, the family claims of being threatened to change their statements against the accused. They demanded a clear investigation supervised by the Supreme Court, suspension of the DM who allegedly threatened them and they keep blaming the police for burning their daughters’ body without following any rituals.
The Upper-Caste Community on the other hand, is asking for nothing more except justice for the four men who have been accused.They claim that the four men accused of the rape are completely innocent and they want strict action taken against the family.No signs suggestive of sexual intercourse have been found, in other words, no valid piece of evidence, specifically, semen, has been found in the samples. Hence, it cannot be proven that the girl was raped.
But according to a ruling made in 2012, by the Aurangabad bench of Bombay High Court, the absence of semen in the vaginal swab cannot be used as a defense in rape cases. “It is not acceptable in view of position and also for common sense.”, the court ruled. Even after 2013 amendment, are we still looking for semen samples? Even when Section 375 makes it clear that any kind of penetration will amount to rape,aren’t we degrading the very human dignity that our constitution wants to protect?
A plea has been filed by the UP government in the Supreme Court demanding a CBI led investigation into the matter and prove that this is an act orchestrated to defame the UP government.
UN in India has addressed concern towards the rising atrocities against women and girls and how their social status just makes them more vulnerable and at a greater risk of gender-based violence. And these remarks have been criticized as “unwarranted” and “unnecessary” by the MEA.
The Supreme Court has called this case “shocking” and “horrible” but has assured that proper investigation will be carried out.
The question arises, what possibly could have happened that resulted in such a dreadful condition of the girl? If nobody raped her, then was it some animal that pounced upon her in the field and shattered her being to such a state where she is hallucinating about four men having raped her? Would all of this have gotten this loud if the police had not cremated her body in the middle of the night?
Rape Laws in India
Rape has been defined under Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code. According to it, if a man forces himself upon a woman without her consent or after getting her consent by threatening her, it will amount to rape. A man having intercourse with a minor below 18 years of age, with or without consent, will amount to rape with an exception that the minor is his wife and is above 15 years of age.
Section 376 provided that man who commits rape under the subsections of Section 375, will have to a serve a jail term of not less than 10 years or could even extend to life imprisonment.
The identity of the rape victim is to be preserved and anyone guilty of revealing that is punishable by law under Section 228-A of the Indian Penal Code.
The punishment was made more stringent after the gang-rape and murder case of Delhi. 2012. Based on the recommendation of Justice J.S Verma Committee, certain amendments were made. The 2013 Act increased the jail term in most cases regarding sexual assault and also provided death penalty in rape cases that end up in death of the victim or leaves her in a vegetative state.
From 10 years to life imprisonment, the punishment for gang-rape was increased to 20 years to life imprisonment.
But perhaps, death penalties have only backfired and ended up complicating things further. It can take longer for the accused to be convicted because they can appeal to the higher courts.
Blaming Daughters: Blasphemy of the Apparent
Amid this uproar of people fighting against rape, casteism, and failing democracy, a few comments have been made on how families should teach their daughters certain good values in order to stop them from getting raped. And this of course, is nothing new, we have history of such statements from all sorts of leaders of political parties.
Some believe that our eating habits cause rape, some think it’s because men and women are allowed to interact freely. Some are of opinion that rapes are never deliberate but always accidental and sometimes right, while others think that it is because the women are crossing their moral limits. Probably right, the 6-year old girl, from Hathras, who was raped by her 15-year old cousin and died at a Delhi hospital on Tuesday should have known her moral boundaries.
Maybe it is about time we start teaching the men in our families the real meaning of consent, if not any good values? Instead of blaming the daughters and teaching them how to stay indoors after dark, let us maybe for once focus on why is it okay for a man to do so?This mindset of protecting women which is being followed religiously, socially, it needs to be relaxed.
Law and Order is not magic, it cannot control rapes from happening but maybe teaching our sons the value of consent and positive masculinity from the very beginning might help lessen the number of cases. Making them understand the concept of equality and breaking the gender stereotypes could perhaps be helpful. Because keeping our daughters under house arrest is clearly not helping the cause.
It will not take a day or just a law to fix it all. It will take years of collective efforts that have to start from now. Sons need to be taught values along with the daughters. Because if the daughters are to blame, then what about those animals who are getting raped, gang-raped? What about those men who are getting raped? How does an animal learn morals and become less wayward? Should a man stop interacting with other men as well?