Safety and Security of Women, How?
Ma Saraswati; the Goddess of Wisdom, Ma Durga; the Goddess of Courage and Ma Laxmi; the Goddess of Wealth have been worshiped in Indian culture and civilization since ancient times. It is the extreme form of providing honor to the dignity of womanhood. Contrary to this, sometimes we feel ashamed of current time's occurrence of events pertaining to heinous crimes like Delhi Gang rape in December last year & Mumbai Gang Rape a few days ago. Such incidents of assault on the modesty of woman compel us to review the plight and status of women in the existing so called modern society. Such incidents show the nadir point of dominance of lust-ridden mindset of perpetrators of crime against women which is not tolerable at all, which forced us to have concern for the security and safety of women in our society. The sparking of public outrage following Delhi Gang rape and self geared protests of men and women; young or old, even children on streets across the country for demanding Justice to brave heart led to amend the criminal Laws relating women. However it appears that mere enactment of strong Laws is not sufficient.
Justice J.S.Verma panel provided a valuable blueprint for women's safety on the basis of which the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 was enacted which provides not only the severest punishment for heinous crime against women but also added new specific crimes (though less heinous) as Sexual harassment, Stalking, Voyeurism, Disrobing of women at public places, Acid throwing, and Trafficking to be dealt with penal provisions. However, despite enactment of new Criminal Law, the crime against women neither mitigated nor curbed. The introduction of new specific offences in IPC against women were made with a view, for example; The stalking, if checked at earlier stage, may prevent stalker to become a rapists but the sad affairs of Indian society is that the small offences against female are generally taken for granted. How many cases have been registered of petty heinous crimes so far? Almost negligible, it is because the Legislature has done its job but our leaders, administrative machinery, Police, media and Social activists and organizations failed to convey the message to the people, especially to the girls and women who earnestly require the awareness. Moreover, the newly enacted Sexual Harassment Act,2013 also needs wide publicity to reach to the ears of working women in an organized or unorganized sector.
The criminal attitude & gender based discrimination is directly related to the psychology of a child which baffled dominating patriarchal environment in the house with the biased lowering treatment to girl child vis-à-vis the preferential treatment to boy, which in turn enhance misogynistic characteristics that may lead to commit crime against fair sex. Everyone knows, 'as you sow, so you will reap.' The mind of a child is like a blank slate, whatever you infuse in the vacant mind that will be reflected in future. Better, if we may be able to replace the patriarchal traits of suppression by the qualitative and value-based education at primary and elementary level of schooling. India is fortunate enough to have iconic personalities in our recent history like Mahatma Gandhi; the Father of the Nation, Swami Vivekananda; the spiritual National Saint, Indra Gandhi; the first lady prime minister of India etc. By mere inclusion a chapter compulsorily on Mahatma Gandhi in the curriculum of school of a child from 6 to 16 years of age we'll certainly be make him understand the value based meaning of Freedom and Liberty, Truth, and Non Violence. In the same way, we may teach the children of same age group the firmness and heroic achievement of Indra Gandhi, even though she was as being a woman, the concept of gender Equality may be taught. Besides, we must not hesitate to impart sex education in order to create gender friendly co-educational system which may be useful for their future life making fruitful in the modern perspective.
However, contrary to this, since childhood in the society, the young minds receive different scenario from domestic violence in the house to listening routine news of petty and heinous crimes against women. This is further vitiated the image of women by objectification of their figure through the medium of obnoxious TV serials, vulgar Cinema, Porn videos and item number songs and dances. In such surroundings the young ones may sensitize as– 'women belong to men;' this mindset acts as a catalyst,thus enhancing crimes against women. The safety and security of women in such situation is endangered and the sole accountability from prevention of all sorts of crimes to investigation, inquiry, collection of evidences, filling of charge sheet, putting culprits into prison and to release them, maintenance of Law and Order, escorting politicians and VIPs etc. is of Police. With such over-burdened workload, the offences against women get less priority.
It is worthy to note that the Delay is famous in administrative sphere firstly, of Police for not reaching to spot in time and secondly, of Judiciary for non-disposal of cases in time; that reveals there is something wrong in entire process of criminal justice delivery system. The reluctance of police at times as we find in registering complaints of less heinous cases of women and insensitive behavior of cops in registering FIR in heinous cases of rapes and gang rapes reveal the conservative outlook of British Regime as being they are still governed by the POLICE ACT of 1861.Moreover, they shrugged their responsibilities off on jurisdiction even in serious road accidents (as we have seen in case of Delhi victim) without respecting the dignity of dress they wearing. Besides they deemed to be involved in corruption in many cases favoring the accused during investigation and fact finding process. Such indecent attitude of cops needs to be changed. They must be provided gender sensitization during their training so the perception in dealing the cases against women reflect descent attitude towards fair sex.
For this, the long pending Police Reforms must be regulated and implemented and the cops including women should increasingly be recruited to maintain the police-population ratio. The cops engaged in maintaining the Law and Order should not be given task of investigation of heinous crimes of murder, rape, corruption etc. so the time is saved in completing the allotted function. In cases of crime against women generally the women cops must be deployed. Besides, fewer cops should be kept busy in escort service of leaders and to ensure safety of women the traffic and mobile police must be sensitized to remain alert on streets in female related matters. The safety and security of women can't be achieved without coordinated efforts of Police and Prosecution in trial courts. Frequent adjournment on trivial grounds, particularly at the whims of lawyers should be refused by the judges for speedy justice. Weak representation of sexual assault cases and ineffective prosecution leads to poor conviction rate particularly in rape cases is condemnable and must be criticized by the people at large. Victim in rape cases shouldn't be harassed during cross examination and dignity of womanhood should be upheld. More and more special courts for women should be set up where the victim of rape can put up their statements lucidly. We may cite the example of special court of Malda in W.B. in this connection where all employees from Judge to peon are running the court and criminal cases against women are disposed off with expediency.
Needless to say the Judicial Reforms too are urgently required in the country. Occasionally set up of Fast Track Courts as it is done after Delhi gang rape incident is not enough. Along with the policy framework of setting up of Fast Track Courts and Special Courts for women across India with proper guidelines to all states of such structural changes, increase the number of Judges according to Judge Population ratio to at least 50 per million is essential to address root of the problems of judiciary and for safety and security measures of half of the population. This requires the political will and adequate funds. The more the number of courts, Judges, and Forensic Laboratories with trained staff across the country better it is for accelerating speedily the disposal of cases and delaying practices will be stopped. Almost complete overhauling of criminal Justice delivery system through the Police and Judicial Reforms can serve the purpose of justice. Besides, as the ex-CJI Mr. Altamas Kabir once said the Judicial Officers are generally strict to 'letters of law', rather they should be sensitive enough to problems related to women and children because this section of Indian society is the most vulnerable; needed immediate attention. If such sensitivity is articulated in other responsible authorities, especially in the Indian police; who can make much difference in the society and crimes against women get declined.
Self defense is the birth right of every human being. If a woman is in the immediate threat of sexual assault, she must be prepared to struggle and report it, if any untoward incident has happened. This requires the development of confidence of an eagle than as of a pigeon. The confidence can be generated in the women and girls through proper training in the schools and colleges keeping the perspective of non discrimination and gender equality and organizing regular workshops and other programmes on the issues related to them. Some intelligent girls and women keep sophisticated gadgets and pepper spray available in the market and some others join Boxing and Karate classes to make themselves, fit to retain confidence and to face any eventuality for safety purpose.
To sum up, the mindset of People, Society, Police, Criminals and entire criminal Justice delivery Mechanism needs to be changed, as it is very much notorious and insensitive to maintain the dignity of women in the country. 'Enough is enough' was the thought perceived in the mind of people against the perpetrators, including the baddy juvenile of such heinous crime aftermath of Delhi Gang rape. The outstanding spirit of such remarkable reaction of people across the country demands in reflection the justice from the Nation. If our social, political and judicial systems as a composite society are able to sensitize ourselves to inflict severe deserved punishment to all culprits; Justice can be delivered to the Delhi & Mumbai Gang Rape victim.
--Dankeshwar Solanki, Jodhpur.