On September 14, a 19-year-old was attacked while she was out cutting grass. The attackers brutally assaulted her on a field near her home in Uttar Pradesh. The woman was found by her family, naked, bleeding and paralysed, her tongue split and her spine broken. The woman was a Dalit, meaning she was from the so-called lowest Indian caste. And the suspects who lived next door are from the so-called higher caste. The use of sexual violence as a tool of oppression against oppressed castes has been on the rise in India, particularly in Uttar Pradesh. Protests have erupted all over India after the death of the young woman. Around 300 protestors from the Bhim Army, a party championing the rights of Dalits gathered outside the hospital in New Delhi demanding justice.
The conservative social mindset immediately blames the victims with a regressive narrative. "Why was she improperly dressed? Why was she in the wrong place at the wrong time?" The rape culture in India tells a woman how to dress so that she doesn't "ask for it", and it is this mindset which normalises male predatory behaviour.
Reactions across India
The entire country today is up in arms about the Hathras rape.
Last year, the environment was similar when the Hyderabad rape case made the news. The police officials shot the accused in the dead of the night saying that they tried to escape at 4 in the morning when they were taken to the site uncuffed. Many accused the police of a fake encounter. Many people also supported the police even though they agreed about the fake encounter saying that the killing would instil fear in the hearts of perpetrator, while many also said that the essence of justice has been lost.
Rape, sexual abuse, domestic violence and various forms of violence against woman has existed in India for a very long period. The downside is that while the call for a death penalty for rapists is omnipresent, the laws of delivering quick justice is still a far cry.
Lost faith in the Indian judicial system
The loss of faith of citizens is derived out of the alleged faulty governing dynamics working around the judiciary. For a layman, justice has meant since the-then days, as "an eye for an eye" but superseding this archaic philosophy, we have a well-defined procedural and substantive presence of what we address as a Court of Law.
Focus on women's safety and improving the conviction rate in rape cases by significant upping the level of investigation and evidence gathering is the need of the hour.
Law remains but the number of victims including minors continues to haunt the safety of women across India. However, laws alone don't prevent rape. Social conditioning, education, respect for women, swiftness of law and order, a guarantee of conviction and punishment play a vital role. Its high time to give up the blame game of who is to blame for the action and it's time to work towards the safety of women across the nation.
The way forward
Year after year the cases increase. The introduction of harsher penalties for rape and sexual assault has done little to curb the attacks.
The criminal justice system in India is broken today. We don't have to look far to find its evidence. It is time that India's government and criminal justice system set up to start effectively dealing with the epidemic of sexual and gender-based violence. It is time to stop victim-blaming and actually taking some steps to make India a safer country for a woman.