Dr Jyotsna Bhattacharjee
It was terribly sad news and the whole Country is mourning the death of the 23 year old gang rape victim. After battling for life for more than 13 days at a stretch, she succumbed to her injuries in the Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore on Saturday, the 29th December. She was at Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi for 10 days and was shifted and flown to the Singapore hospital, which is considered to be a multi-organ specialty hospital. But all these attempts by the doctors failed to cure the brave young girl. That Saturday will go down in the Indian history as a black day. The rape victim left the world, which is full of evil forces, in despair. A bright promising young girl’s dreams were shattered and her life came to an end because of the monstrous activities of six brutes masquerading as human beings. There is an adage that when an animal becomes a man, he becomes more ferocious than animals.
The entire world was shocked over the inhuman attack on the young girl and her 28 years old male friend by those six monsters in the garb of human beings in a moving bus on 16 December night in South Delhi. India can never hold up her head again. The dignity and the prestige of the country have been lost forever due to this disgraceful incident. The gang-rape victim had been on ventilator support in a critical state in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) since being admitted in the Delhi Hospital on 16 December night. She underwent several major and minor surgeries for 10 days. Then she was flown to the Singapore hospital where she breathed her last. It is so terribly sad. The rapists certainly deserve stringent punishment for their monstrous crime with such kind of punishment which would deter others from indulging in such kind of inhuman and horrible activities. No wonder that the country is boiling with rage and anguish over the terrible incident of gang-rape. Once India was famed for spiritualism and high principle of moral values, but now our great country has turned into an abode of criminals. There is not a trace of spiritualism to be noticed here.
The recent shameful incident and many others like that have clearly indicated that man can no larger claim to be the greatest creation on earth. By his own atrocious activities he has degraded himself into the lowest of the low. The Logic state is that man is a rational animal. The connotation of man is animality and rationality. But apparently the rationality factor has deserted us and we are left only with animality. Hence all these terrible crimes have occurred in the earth. It is a wonder that mother Earth is still bearing the burden of the depraved humanity. Philosophers have remarked that God created man in his own image. But we can no longer hold to this view, since humanity is embroiled in crimes up to its neck. By his own activities man has shown that he cannot possibly be an image of God.
Man and woman are like two parts of a whole. They complement one another and are like two sides of a coin. Without either of them the humanity will become extinct. Yet women have always been a neglected species in our country, and possibly elsewhere also. Even in the epic age their position was somewhat inferior to that of their male counterparts. Their only aim seemed to be to serve and obey their respective husbands, who were supposed to be their lords and masters. She was supposed to serve and obey her husband like a slave and die along with her dead husband in the funeral pyre. The husband’s word was law to the wife. But in a way women were respected in that age and could move around freely.
Leaving aside the epic age, we might consider the plight of the women through the years. Till some years back little girls were married off to men, old enough to be their grand fathers. A woman had to shave off her hair and stick to rigid white and simple vegetarian meals after the death of her husband. The ‘Sati’ system was fortunately banned by the British. In spite of the reformation measures, women had to go through a kind of living death. They were treated as second class citizens and a woman’s virtue consisted in obeying her husband and bearing his children.
Now we are in the 21st century and women have progressed a lot. They are getting education and have become coheirs to the parental property. Women have entered into such sectors, which were exclusively reserved for men till some years back. At the beginning they were considered to be suitable only for the jobs of typists, receptionists, office assistants, teachers and the like. But now women are working along with men in every sphere, including defense and space missions. They have done very well in every sector and in some cases, have left the men far behind. University results often show that girls perform as well, and sometimes even better than the boys. Women have proved by sheer grit that they are not inferior to men in any way. In addition to the office work they have to mind their homes and children as well. Yet their work goes unrecognized and they are denied justice by society. They have not been able to get rid of their second class stamp. For the humiliation and indignity meted out to the women, society seems to be largely responsible. The mental set up of the male-dominated society has to be changed.
Even today the birth of a son is an occasion to celebrate, while the birth of a girl brings gloom to the family. Female foetus is destroyed before birth and abandoned or killed after birth. Boys are pampered by the parents, while the girls are relegated to the background. The future plan usually includes the boys, but not the girls. In rural areas the condition of the girls is worse. Even today the woman is supposed to be submissive to her husband in any matter. She may be a high executive in her office, but at home she is just a shadow of her husband. Hence it is obvious that society is largely responsible for the sad plight of the women.
Bride burning is rising at an alarming rate. Assam was once free from the dowry menace but now it is no longer so. Bride-burning has become a common event in our own state. Women are beaten to death in various rural areas on the assumption that they are witches. It can be seen that crimes against women are increasing year after year. Even after the gruesome tragedy of the Delhi gang-rape victim, newspapers have reported cases of rape in other places. Unable to bear the shame of being raped some girls take recourse to suicide. Even little girls are not safe from the brutes in the shape of human beings. It is a matter of great shame that even in this enlightened era of the 21st century when man has almost conquered nature; the crimes against women are on the rise. The rate of the number of rapes far exceeds the rate of the number of general crimes. In 1996, in connection with a rape case in Punjab, Justice A.S. Anand and Justice Sagir Ahmed remarked in their judgment, “A rapist not only violates the primary and personal integrity, but mentally causes serious psychological and physical harm in the process.”
The fact is that in a case of rape no woman would normally go to the court merely to make a damaging statement against her honor. Hence it is difficult to rely on the evidence of the woman to bring the culprit to justice. The main factor of the non-admission of rape is the inhibited nature of Indian women and unmarried girls in a tradition bound non-permissive Indian society. Our society may forgive the rapist, but not the victim. Hence young girls are often reluctant to even admit any incidents that might sully the name of their family, and which may lead to the danger of being ostracized by society. It is the girl, who bears the stigma of being a rape victim, but not a boy. Often the rapists go scot free. According to the rule of the Supreme Court, even a promiscuous woman has the right to refuse to submit herself to anyone. There is no justice for rendering such women vulnerable objects. Rape is the most despicable crime amongst all other crimes. It is worse than even murder. Rape permits a total exposure of the private life of its victim.
According to the statistics of the National Crime Record Bureau, a rape is committed every 40 minutes somewhere in the country. On the average, according to the report, 37 rapes are committed every day. In most of the cases, the accused gets acquitted, for some reason or the other. Molestation of women is also as contemptible as rape. But this kind of crime also goes undeclared and undetected. Due to shame or fear most of the girls do not admit to being molested by some men and hence such crimes remain under cover. Women are often regarded as play things by men and they think that women were created for their amusement. They never bother to feel the mortifications of the victim concerned. Such kind of sexual harassment of women should be stopped at any cost. It is only fair that the rapists should get the punishment which they deserve for their atrocious crime. The supreme sacrifice of the gang-rape victim must not go in vain. At a time when the country is being rocked by the terrible crime, the rape cases in other places are being reported by the media. So it is very clear that the enormity of the Delhi crimes has not made any impact on the rapists. Hence it is time the Government took stern measures to stop such heinous crimes.
It is also time society changed its mental set up and treated women with the respect they deserve. They are not door mats to be trampled upon. They are independent individuals with intelligence and confidence. They are not born to serve the men folk. Women are created to function in their own rights and not to work like robots according to the commands of the husband. Nobody has helped them so far. But they have to themselves by raising their voices against the injustice meted out to them. They should realize that they are not inferior to anybody and they have to gather enough courage to face the men’s world with conviction and commitment. The Government should also take proper measures to make the life of women safe and peaceful. We hope and pray that the young victim of the gang-rape finally gets eternal peace, which was denied to her in this world.
(The writer is a former Head, Department of Philosophy, Cotton College, Guwahati)