Yet another statistic, yet another dark splotch on the sheet... Today's Times of India (August 1, 2009) reports that a 22-year old newly-wed woman was gang-raped in Thane by five as-yet unidentified young men. The police suspect that local thugs may be involved. Who knows when (or rather, if) they will be ever apprehended and brought to justice.
Also reported in today's Times of India, a twenty-something woman was gang-raped by four persons at Savitribai Phule slums in Nagpur in front of two kids in the early morning of Friday. Gagged with a cloth and threatened with sharp weapons, the victim could do little to help herself or her neighbor's two kids, who were sleeping with her, and cowered in one corner of the room during the incident.
This past Wednesday (July 29, 2009), Indian Express reported that a 30-year-old kitchen help in the hostel of Central Government-run Navodaya Vidyalaya was gang-raped and later set on fire by her co-workers in Belora village of the district in Gujarat. The victim is struggling for life in the government hospital here with 95% burns.
Three reported rape incidents in just a matter of a week. Also on Wednesday, a Times of India report conferred a dubious distinction on Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal; India has been recording a rise in the number of rape cases during the past five years with states like Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal registering maximum number of them, the parliament was informed Wednesday.
According to the National Crime Record Bureau, an astounding 20737 rape cases were registered in 2007 alone. And that is just the tip of a huge iceberg. Rape in India is largely a safe crime to carry out as it is plagued by very poor reporting levels due to the stigma involved. Delhi-based psychologist Rajat Mitra, who is active in this issue and even counsels imprisoned offenders, says: "People from the upper class and the middle class do not report rape cases. It is mostly the people from the lower class that come out to seek police intervention." It is estimated that as many as 90% of the rape cases actually remain unreported.
What is it with Indian men and rape?
Is it about sexual gratification in a country where, inexplicably, sex is still a taboo subject and the Indian male is a lustful, prurient, sex-starved lot eager to carry out rape to fulfill a sexual fantasy whenever opportunity presents? Is it about power and control over certain individuals, or a group of people - an uncontrollable urge to dominate? Or, is it a violent response, a lashing out, of the patriarchal societal establishment to the increasing economic and social emancipation of the Indian women, whom it finds it cannot subjugate any further?
In India, it probably is all of the above. Rapes are often not crimes of opportunity carried out in the spur of the moment, but in most cases are well-planned and a considered act. The rapist actually enacts the rape in his mind for many times before he actually carries it out; the opportunity in most of the cases is created by manipulating the situation carefully or casing out the vulnerabilities of the intended victim.
Perhaps a lot of it has to do with the traditional Indian male attitude towards women. "streeyaashcharitram devaa na jaananti, kutoh manushyaah" - Rajasthan deputy chief minister Hari Shankar Bhabra quoted a Sanskrit shloka in the State Assembly, no less, to say, "Why talk of humans, even the gods cannot say anything definite about a woman's character..." when commenting upon Bhanwari Devi, a low-caste victim of gang-rape by upper-caste thugs, in 1998. The comment sums up the prevalent general Indian attitude to sexual assaults, carefully couched behind an appropriate Sanskrit shloka to render some legitimacy to it. Rape is assumed to be the woman's fault and a test of her character.
Holy cow! When did we become so utterly insensitive and inhuman?