Everyday Indian Dailies are filled with reports of rape, sexual harassment and physical abuse. These have become now part and parcel of our life which goes unspoken due to social stigma or fear of retribution. As per the latest estimate by Government of India, one woman is raped every 22 minutes in India. A poll conducted by TrustLaw, a legal news service by Thomson Reuters Foundation ranked India last in the list of G-20 countries with respect to Best and Worst Countries for Women. “In India, women and girls continue to be sold as chattels, married off as young as 10, burned alive as a result of dowry-related disputes and young girls exploited and abused as domestic slave labour,” said Gulshun Rehman, health program development adviser at Save the UK, told Reuters.
Recent Preity Zinta molestation case has added on to the list of offenders coming from high profile families and forcing us to think over if these gender specific crimes were prevalent only in population residing in ‘grey area’ found in interiors of upcoming cities and town in India. The clique of offenders is rising either due to increase in awareness leading to reporting the cases or due to omnipresent media coverage.
Molestation cases from power corridors can be traced back in history as well when second in lineage scion of Kaurvas, Dushasana at behest of his elder brother Duryodhana dragged Draupadi by the hair into the assembly and tried to disrobe her. An assembly which consequently led to the great war of Mahabharat which was fought for the establishment of Dharma.
The most dramatic molestation case in India, Ruchika Girhotra molestation case by Inspector General of Police S.P.S. Rathore in Harayana, India saw no stone unturned in systematically harassing the victim, her family and her friends by police officials which eventually led to suicide of the victim. The victim, a promising tennis player was molested by S.P.S. Rathore abusing his office of founding president of the Haryana Lawn Tennis Association. On 22nd December 2009 after almost two decades 40 adjournments, and more than 400 hearings, the court finally pronounced Rathore guilty under Section 354 IPC (molestation) and sentenced him to six months imprisonment and a fine of Rs 1,000. The case was brought up in Parliament for debate. In her statement CPI (M) leader Brinda Karat asked “After 19 years, the criminal has been found guilty but all he got as punishment was 6 months in prison. Within 10 minutes of conviction, he was out on bail. Is it not a shame for all of us?”. Consequently CBI Special Court enhanced his punishment from 6 months to one and a half year of rigorous imprisonment and immediately took into custody.
On 14th June 2009, Indian Cinema was taken aback when domestic helper of actor Shiney Ahuja accused him of raping her. Then Chief Minister of Maharashtra jumped the gun declaring “prima facie Shiney guilty” even when medical reports were pending, on 19th June 2009. This led to one sided media trial which left no room for getting hold of Shiney’s side. Though case is still pending with Mumbai High Court but it provided quick sneak peek into the behind the curtain scenes of the glamorous movie industry.
In November 2014, Indian legal fraternity was startled with a blog posted by a lawyer who interned in SC under Justice AK Ganguly and then WBHRC Chairman. The blog claimed, she was harassed on Christmas eve in a five star hotel. Taking the cognizance of gravity of the matter CJI Sathasivam set up a three-judge fact finding committee to look into the controversy. The committee comprising Justice RM Lodha, Justice HL Dattu and Justice Ranjana P Desai found prima facie evidence of unwelcome sexual behaviour on Justice Ganguly’s part towards the intern. After the report all round demand for Justice Ganguly’s resignation from West Bengal Human Rights Commission Chairman led to his forced resignation.
In this country we have seen people rising against the atrocities and fortunately we have an action plan for governance. There are positive signs that new government will tackle this problem more articulately. Addressing a joint session of Parliament, President Pranab Mukherjee said the government will have a policy of “zero tolerance” for violence against women, and was committed to providing 33 percent reservation to women in parliament and state legislatures. There need to be increase in coordination between various Ministries. Following the proverb, prevention is better than cure, we need to prevent violence before it happens. There must be a mass campaign focussing heart and head primarily targeting men and boys to instil that women are equal. Women and girls who have been raped do not need sympathy but support. Government must set up single window rehabilitation and crisis centres operating round the clock in the line of SEZ.
The hard won law of 2013 will hold no importance if we do not introduce any reform in Police force. We need to start operating with the ugliest part to get rid of this cancer. We certainly can not entrust our safeguarding powers with those who would laugh on our problem if we try to report them. Resting the ‘powers’ with women themselves might help in bringing the much sought respite. From legislature to judiciary we need to double their presence and representation. They must be representated in every decision making body with the removal of those convicted in any form of violence against women.
Sources and References: