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Sexual Exploitation Against Women

NEED FOR DEFINITE LAWS AGAINST SEXUAL EXPLOITATION OF WOMEN

The number of rapes reported in the last month is seriously alarming and brings about the question of how safe are women in our societies today. From Kerala to Kashmir and from the west to east India, the rising number of rape and assault cases on women cast doubts on the status and security of the 'empowered, new generation' woman of India. And the sad fact is that most of the perpetrators of this heinous and cruel crime go unpunished and enjoy their respective lives, leaving the victim to suffer in ignominy.

The recent news of a girl in Kerala pushed out of the train and the unconscious girl raped and killed shows how even in a state that boasts of 100% literacy and high respect for women, such barbaric acts take place. The involvement of politicians in rape cases in states like UP and Maharashtra show that there is little the poor victim can do against such influential and powerful persons. Most of the victims therefore do not report cases of assault due to fear of humiliation and retaliation (by the perpetrator especially if he is influential). Our system of tackling this crime is also inefficient. Instead of encouraging the victim to register the complaint, she or her family members are threatened and dissuaded by the authorities against registering complaints. The delay in getting justice and the further inspection, examination and questions in police-stations and courts makes the victim feel humiliated and this experience is as bad as going through the trauma once again.

Our society is also not open and still regards women who are exploited, for no fault of theirs, with contempt. Society looks at a sexually abused woman in a totally different light than before she had been put through the torture. She becomes an object of gossip and talk. And above all this our patriarchal and conservative society blames it all on the woman or girl.

The present civil and penal laws in India also don't adequately provide for protection of women from sexual harassment. There is no definite punishment for the harasser. Even in workplaces, we see a lot of women being harassed and not treated equally or with dignity. The existing guidelines under law are not sufficient to ensure the protection of women nor is it enough to get justice to an exploited victim. There are many instances when the courts have let the accused walk-free citing lack of evidence of injury marks or accusing the victim of lying and consenting to sexual acts. Such heartless verdicts that do not take all the factor into consideration often deter other victims too from lodging their complaints, at the same time giving a 'go-ahead, green signal' to men to fulfill their lust.

There is a need to have a specific law in place against sexual harassment, especially in the case of exploitation of girl child. There is also a need to ensure that there are complaint cells in work places to cater to the needs of women against harassment in workplaces. We boast about women empowerment and 50% reservation for women in institutes, but what is the point of all these if she is still to be considered as an object to fulfill one's needs and then to be discarded. The Indian Government needs to look urgently into this matter as the number of cases of brutal rape and assaults are increasing and the victims are not delivered due justice in time.

Rape is a crime that merits punishment more stringent and harsher than murder, loot or arson because unlike in other crimes where the victim is dead and gone or has a chance to regain what is lost in the form of money or wealth, for a sexually assaulted woman, she is forced to live with her modesty outraged and dignity destroyed; virtues that can never be restored. This makes rape the most heinous of all crimes. The victim is forced to live throughout her life with the memory of the inhuman act and to bear the lewd and heartless remarks passed about her by the biased and conservative Indian society.

Laws and legislations may not be enough to restore what was lost but it will bring consolation to the victim that the accused doesn't go scot-free but will have to face its consequences. And this may even help to deter others from repeating this crime and hence help in reducing the number of cases of sexual exploitation of women in the country.

Gitanjali Maria