‘Delhi Shuts Down’ reads one of the national daily’s headlines. ‘Outrage in India Gate’ reads another. ‘Thousands participate in mass protests’ adds another newspaper. With nation-wide media coverage, government closing down nine of the metro station, imposing section 144 (restricting gathering of more than four people) and using police force to disperse the crowd, it seems nothing less than a revolution.
But no political move is behind this fury. The public outrage was triggered after the gang rape of a 23 year old girl in the capital leading many to question the level of security for women once again. Cases of rape are not uncommon in the city. In fact, the capital has come to be known as the ‘rape capital’. Only this time the protest has taken a bigger shape.
‘Enough is enough’, says one woman participant. ‘How long will the government stay silent?’ A blogger quips, ‘A glance in the newspaper and you will notice that there is hardly any day where there isn’t an instance of harassment in Delhi’. Play cards in the demonstration read, ‘Hang the demons!’
So, what is the solution? Why are women so unsafe, that too in the capital city itself? Would hanging the criminals really solve the case?
Yes people are furious and, quite rightly, they have every reason to be so. But legal action cannot be driven by emotions. The crime was indeed horrendous and shameful. The perpetrators undoubtedly deserve the harshest of punishment. But death penalty is definitely not the permanent answer. A legal action as such might discourage a few potential miscreants, but will definitely not deter all the lawbreakers. As a matter of fact, at a time when anti-rape protests were being held in the capital, news of atrocities against women continued to pour in. A minor and a 35 year old were raped in the UP. Jammu and MP recorded similar cases. All this, when protestors were demanding death for the Delhi gang rape criminals.
From a psychological point of view, one can see that the punishment of any kind will not prevent a heinous offender’s mind driven as the person is by greed and lust to commit an offence. Many at times a semi-conscious mind under the influence of alcohol is the reason behind such crime. In that case, it would be very unlikely for a drunk criminal to get booed off by any penalty he might face later on. A death sentence or in fact any other sentence would be of no significance. A vivid example here is the death sentence awarded to the criminals convicted in the 1978 Ranga Billa kidnapping case. Two convicted criminals were hanged for kidnapping and rape. If at all, a death sentence were to dissuade such crimes, a sentence pronounced as early as in the 1970s would’ve already put a full stop to rapes.
So what then? The main transformation that should occur is in the mindset of the people, as clichéd as it may sound. India has long been a patriarchal society where women are largely treated as a mere sex object and a child-bearing machine. This traditional view is held more so in northern parts which explains the reason behind relatively more cases of women harassment in the states of UP, Bihar and Delhi. Traditionally, within family itself, it is not uncommon for women to face discrimination. As a result a child who has seen a woman being dominated learns the same. When there is so little respect held for women from the basic structure of the society itself, how can one expect a strict legal action to change things?
‘Education is the most powerful weapon that you can use to change the world’, Nelson Mandela once said. However, education in case of India hasn’t helped either. Educated businessmen, actors and teachers all have faced charges of molestation and harassment against women. The dominant male psychology has to change. Rape thus is just one medium where a male criminal gets to vent out his masculinity; a psychology which has been imbedded in his mind. Until and unless this view changes, no legal action on earth can stop violence against women!