India Needs Sharia-Like Law On Rape Till Mindset Change

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Another girl raped in India. She could have been your daughter, or mine. Dr Priyanka Reddy was someone’s daughter. I can’t even begin to empathise with the anguish, the inextinguishable trauma that her parents would be going through. An educated working girl, she must have had so many dreams. Parents of 22-year olds usually sit back relaxed when their daughters settle in a career after education. They then begin to plan for her marriage.

My thoughts go back to the spine-chilling Sanjay and Geeta Chopra murder case of 1978. I was 11 years old then and had heard the word “rape” for the first time. Though no one explained the meaning to me, I gathered from newspapers that Geeta Chopra had been subjected to some kind of extreme physical violation by the taxi driver and his friend. The perpetrators Billa and Ranga were hanged in 1982, four years after the crime.  From Geeta Chopra in 1978 to Dr Priyanka Reddy in 2019 through Nirbhaya in 2012, and countless other unreported women molested, raped and murdered in between, stamp the new India, inspite of “MeToo” and “Beti Bachao”, as the rapist’s India. Sad but true, because statistics say that there is a rape in India every twenty minutes.

Lust has its roots in biology. Adolescent boys go through the bewildering turmoil of becoming aware of their own sexuality and a desire to fulfill their basic physical needs, just when Board examinations of Class 10 and 12 are knocking at the door. They are thus immensely distracted from studies, and parents have to undergo the nightmare of keeping their boys in check, more so, now, in this age of mobiles and other technical aids, which give them access to sexually explicit material and also facilitate easier communications with people across the world irrespective of age and gender. I believe, however, that parents must use this period in the life of their male offspring as an opportunity to educate them on their sexuality and related topics, instead of brushing away such adolescence issues, either by ignoring them, or by dealing with them with resistance and anger. Most problems are compounded as open discussions on sex and sexuality are still held as a taboo.

As we talk of changing mindsets, we must understand that this change has to begin at home, the inculcation to be nurtured by parents through right advice, exemplary attitude and actions. However, in a country and culture where a male progeny is still sought after over a female child, where households still uphold patriarchy and the superiority of the male child, where the girl child is prepared from an early age to bear children and look after home and hearth, and where, the glass ceiling still inhibits women despite their capabilities of standing shoulder to shoulder with men, the change in mindsets that we are hoping for seems implausible.

Relegating a girl to the background is the norm more often than not, in a diverse over-populated country like ours, where dark ages still prevail in large pockets due to lack of quality education and illiteracy. Chances of uneducated and impoverished parents imparting necessary values to their children are remote. Disrespect and abuse of women is what the boys see and what they eventually practice.

An entire generation of parents of boys has to come together if we are looking at achieving the objective of changing mindsets of men with regard to women. This, therefore, is not an immediate solution to combat the 50,000 reported rapes that happen every year in India. If anything can be a deterrent, then it is brutal punishment for rapists and perpetrators of crimes against women. We need a Sharia-like law for rapists. They have to be maimed and hanged in public, the visuals of such punishments made viral across our villages, towns, and cities. Boys and men have to be made aware of the harshest punishments for rape. This would perhaps be a faster means to changing mindsets.

In the meantime, I, as a mother of a 22-year old girl child, live without hope for change, without expectations from society. Candle marches and protests can help bring rape incidents to mainstream discussions for a while but our judicial process being the way it is, ensures that these issues lose steam after some time. Everyone talks about harsh punishments but it may be years before a rapist is convicted.

So the mother in me continues to live in a state of panic and anxiety, as my daughter pursues her studies outside of home. For the last four months, I have been much less anxious as she is on an exchange programme in a university in Europe. But the moment she comes back to campus in India, my nights of sleeplessness will resume. I will therefore continue to reinforce everything that I have been telling her since she was ten or eleven. That our cities, towns, villages, streets are unsafe for women, especially after it gets dark; whether day or night, lonely stretches are to be avoided, including subways in Metro stations; to avoid travelling in Uber/Ola/cabs after it gets dark; to avoid entering a lift alone; to avoid vacant Metro coaches; to avoid going out alone after dark and if it is imperative to do so, to always go in a group of at least four to five; to call or send me a message every hour if she goes out in the evening; to give me numbers of all the friends accompanying her and to never ever believe strangers offering assistance. To many, I would seem to be a paranoid mother but I have no hesitation in confirming my paranoia on these issues.

Perpetrators of crime against women will always be lurking, cutting across classes in society. Most such cases in the so-called upper classes are hushed up. Until dastardly and cowardly men consider it their birthright to oppress and violate the opposite gender, women will continue to be raped. Until the male considers the female as an equal partner in the human race, women will be victims of sexual violations of such a horrific magnitude. I have no words of consolation for the parents of Dr. Priyanka Reddy who will die a bit every day until they are alive, just like the parents of countless other rape victims. Only a silent expression of remorse, guilt and sadness at their loss.

(The Writer Is a Noted Conservationist)

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