IT ISN’T so much the possibility of a stranger lurking in the gullies you by-pass to reach home. There is a far greater chance it may be your neighbour or teacher, or even worse, your own brother or uncle. The year 2008, reported more than 20,000 rapes (and estimates say only about one in 69 cases is reported in India). In a staggering 92 per cent of the cases, the perpetrators were known to the victim.
One of the worst places for a woman to live in, in terms of personal safety and security, India
records 57 rape cases per day, up by 800 per cent if one considers the seven per day recorded in 1971. This is excluding the several others that are muffled or pushed under the carpet for reasons of ‘honour’ and ‘family name’. Rape is present as at least one of every four crimes recorded in India. Every hour, there are at least 20 crimes committed against women across the country. And out of all rape cases, only about 20 per cent actually see conviction for the offenders.
Are we ashamed? We ought to be. According to 2008 statistics, out of 35 cities checked for women’s security, national as well as rape capital Delhi
stood first, with an incredible one-third of total rapes happening here. If the capital of the country and one of its biggest cities does not guarantee safety, what will? And to think that these are estimates that don’t even reveal the whole truth. If one were to have the ‘real’ figures in hand, one would realise that there is indeed truth in the claim that rape is India’s biggest crime at the moment.
What compounds most of our problems is that we Indians tend to have stereotypes for everything. So, what would your typical rapist be like? The immediate thought that comes to mind is of a red-eyed, sinister-looking and lecherous guy who stares you at the bus stop or in the office or at the departmental store. We know little about him, except that we have comfortably assumed it is a rank stranger. Well, we couldn’t be more mistaken. Research of several years has revealed that in India, you needn’t be a stranger to perpetrate sexual crimes. Which is why women need to be afraid. You need to be alert to the male figures already around you, instead of assuming he will come from another planet.
A stupendous 92 per cent of all rape victims already knew and decently well, the ones than violated them. These figures are clearly indicative of the Indian social fabric indeed being so designed that it leaves little scope for a woman to express her resentment of anything, even intrusion in her own space. The knowledge that she will keep quiet for fear of being ill-treated and taunted is exactly what drives most rapists to their crime. And not only that, the rate of conviction of rapists is also insignificant. Put together, these two factors create a lethal combination that encourages rape, for the fear of being caught and punished is insignificant while the chances of getting away with the crime are very high.
Psychologists say it is a result of a dangerously lopsided equation between the sexes. On one hand, you have men who still possess more or less the same set of values they did in the 16th century and on the other, women are getting increasingly empowered. So now, the new breed we have is one of women who make no bones about taking their decisions on their own, and on the other hand, we have men who are very evidently squirming in their seats about these new developments, for the Indian style of bringing up children contains no chapter on gender equality or harmony. With the woman increasingly being perceived in extremes, either as a sex object or as a threateningly confident force, violence against them has steadily been on the rise. This, according to estimates, is a major reason why rape has become so commonplace.
Whatever the reasons, one thing is painfully clear: rape is very evidently India’s biggest crime threat. Even as we move ahead on the path to equal participation of women in the economy, it makes sense to wonder whether we are indeed creating a climate that’s good enough for them to want to step out of their homes in the first place.