Women. They form that part of the gender spectrum that has faced extreme levels of struggle and hurdles to become independent and successful. They are usually reduced to stereotypes and societal norms that confine women to resort only household work, trapping them within multiple metaphorical walls. They had to bear the brunt of their own family members in order to gain the freedom required to make their own future. Thankfully, in the current scenario, women have learnt to stand up and raise their voices for themselves. And this confidence and fire in them have led them onto great paths and many achievements in multiple sectors. But that has had no effect on a society that still objectifies and materializes them.
New Delhi, the capital of India, received a new nickname after the unforgettable Nirbhaya gang-rape incident of 2012; the ‘rape capital of India’. The city alone reported 1400+ cases in the year 2013 and 1800+ cases in the year 2014, thereby gaining this degrading title. The city was not able to provide an answer to the questions concerning the safety of its women and only proved to worsen with each year. The number of rape cases that Delhi showed was terrifying and it traumatised a lot of families.
But according to the statistics shown in 2019, Uttar Pradesh takes the lead. Sadly, it is strictly on the rise to becoming the next rape capital of India. Uttar Pradesh was deemed to be really unsafe for women by the National Crime Records Bureau in 2017 with 50,000+ cases being reported from the state. The Unnao rape case of 2017 struck fire in the hearts of considerate citizens. We can clearly see that there is no respect given to justice in our country when the rape victim had to threaten to light herself on fire in front of the Chief Minister’s residence before she got the attention she needed. It was a long fight before the accused got the deserved legal punishment in 2019 – life imprisonment. But no lesson was learnt.
2019 statistics revealed that 86 rape cases were reported from Unnao alone, making it the rape capital of Uttar Pradesh. In one such case, a 23-year-old survivor of rape had filed a case in 2019 against the 2 rapists and got them arrested. After being released on bail, the accused threatened her. This 23-year-old was then abducted by 5 men and set ablaze, after which she had to run for a kilometre before she could get help. But the help soon failed as she died due to cardiac arrest.
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy and people’s lives, in general, has proven to be drastic and extremely challenging. But even the pandemic failed to stop criminals from performing their heinous crimes. Rape cases were reported at large during the beginning of the lockdown. And UP has again managed to grab the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.
On March 12th this year, a 9-year old girl was found bleeding in the fields of Unnao after being brutally raped and died at LLR hospital, Kanpur. This is yet another example that proves that even kids are not safe. This was not the only case reported.
17th April also saw a rape case: a 23-year-old woman was raped by a ration provider who visited her house promising free ration.
On 29th April, a 16-year old was raped by her neighbor who was a 21 year-old.
On 17th May, a 15- year old was raped by 2 people in Manipuri, while she had gone to a Tailor shop. She returned the next day to report the incident to her parents.
A recent news report, one released on the 6th of August, was from a small village in the Hapur district of UP. A 6-year old was subjected to physical torture and rape following which she was shifted to 3 hospitals and underwent surgery to tend to her wounds. This hideous crime could have just been put away, but the young survivor managed to recognize the culprit from police sketches. The accused is still on the loose.
The list never seems to end. In fact, we cannot know for sure whether the available list is exactly true. All these cases that have emerged are mostly reported from the villages or small towns and only tend to occupy a small sector of the media coverage. Only when there is an outrage do the other minor cases pop up and get to share the limelight. This is tragic as justice is to be served in each such incident. Majority of the cases are not tended to. The police of Uttar Pradesh paid less heed to the safety of the Unnao rape victim after her abusers were released on a bail. This ended up in her being set on fire which could have been easily prevented. Those who have been accused of rape, are not served proper punishment and are let out on bail. When the accused are imposed with financial punishments or temporary punishments, they tend to display their anger and frustration in an even more violent way that ends in murdering the rape victim. A case in UP where a 17-year-old rape victim and her mother were crushed under a tractor by the accused who got released via bail is a perfect example of this. This is atrocious as the victims are not protected in any way. They do not seem to be getting any support from the government and as a result resort to staying silent. Even if they do report justice is not served.
India is a country with great potential. It is bursting with culture and talent in almost all its states. But the pride of our rich and varied heritage under one roof is largely stained by incidents like these. According to data, a woman is raped every 15 to 20 minutes in our country. An activist once stated that sexual violence is taking place with a terrifying regularity in our country. That is true! In all forms of media, we come across on a daily basis, we are bound to find at the least one rape case in a day being reported in the smallest of spaces. And the most affected in this are women, though there are some cases of men being raped and abused (an incident reported from Sathankulam, Tamil Nadu where 2 men: father and son, were raped and physically abused which went viral on social media). Women, who bore many hardships to get the freedom they currently possess are now scared to utilise it because they are afraid of ending up a victim of rape and sexual abuse. Sexual abuse and harassment are a whole new chapter which is still in the dark. Very few cases have emerged and people fail to understand the serious damage it can cause to the victim. Uttar Pradesh has also managed to cover this spectrum, unfortunately. Sudiksha Bhati, a 20-year old student studying in the US was subjected to eve-teasing and harassment by 2 boys as she was travelling on a bike with her uncle which resulted in a road accident that took her life. This incident happened on 10th August 2020.
Uttar Pradesh recently celebrated the beginning of the construction of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya with great pomp and grandeur. What is the use of establishing the temple that worships a righteous and just king when there is no justice prevailing in the state? The pathetic truth is that the importance showered upon building a temple from rock and stone is not shown for the safety of women of their own society.
The effect that rape has on the victim’s life is intense and torments them for life. A report by the Pacific Standard released in June 2017, talks about rape and its consequences. It states that rape victims experience a different type of trauma – one that is long-lasting accompanied by both mental and physical problems. And the wound leaves a scar. Always. But for the wound to heal, society has to play its part by supporting the victim instead of the usual victim-blaming. Kuwert, who studies rape and war since 2006, stated that “Social acknowledgement is one of the most important healing effects”.
Rape cases never seem to face a steady decline in our country. All of us look forward to the day when a statistical report could show that India is becoming extremely safe for women. But that day is still not anywhere near. And the possibility of that happening is also turning bleak.