Nirbhaya – The Aftermath
A year has passed since the horrific and brutal gang-rape of a young medico happened in Delhi and shook the entire nation to its very core. The young victim has passed away and five of her attackers, except for the juvenile, have been awarded the death sentence. Now, it’s time for all of us to introspect. Has anything changed in the last one year? And if so, have these changes taken place for the better?
One positive change is the increase in the number of reported incidents of rape and other crimes against women. No, no. Don’t call me crazy yet. I’m not a masochist! I’m just trying to say that victims are now more willing to come forward and report crimes against them rather than remaining silent and passive. The general reticence shown by victims of sexual assault in coming forward and reporting the crimes due to social stigma attached to such incidents had emboldened the attackers into perpetrating more such crimes.
Since the Delhi gang-rape, I see more reports of crimes committed against women in the news media. This does not necessarily mean that such incidents have increased; no, it simply means that the victims and their families are more willing to come forward and report such crimes. This is a welcome development, isn’t it? I mean, without reporting a crime, how can a criminal be brought to justice?
Another positive I have seen in the year gone by is the interest the media is showing in highlighting crimes against women instead of treating such incidents as just another routine piece of news. Sure, the media does tend to get carried away and go overboard with the coverage sometimes, but overall, I’m happy to see that the furore didn’t die down with the Delhi gang-rape alone. Instead, a sustained effort is being made to provide adequate coverage to violent crimes against women, be it acid attacks, child sexual abuse or rape. It’s a welcome change, but the media still needs to stop depicting women as hapless damsels in distress. Instead, it should focus more attention and effort towards changing deep-seated beliefs about gender roles.
Then of course, all those mobile apps which focus on women’s safety. These didn’t exist this time last year. A very good thing, but such applications need to be developed with the masses in mind, since not every Indian woman can afford a smartphone that supports such applications.
I’m really heartened to see all these changes taking place, but the major change I was hoping for, the one thing that could bring down the number of such incidents, is too slow in happening. I’m talking about society’s mindset. We must remember that the victims of such crimes have already been through enough. Instead of subjecting them to further persecution, we must see that they get justice. And the practice of blaming the victims for everything needs to stop and stop right now.
The calls for tougher laws and more stringent punishments for violent crimes against women has brought about some changes, but these are not enough. The Juvenile Justice Act needs to be reviewed more thoroughly and provisions need to be made for particularly heinous crimes. Plus, it’s high time the lawmakers stepped out of their sheltered cocoon and acknowledge the fact that marital rape is a serious issue which needs to addressed at the earliest.
While writing this, a thought struck me. Maybe, just maybe, if our braveheart had lived, she might have become India’s answer to Malala. . . Just a thought. What do you think, Athenas?