Nirbhaya: One year later

IBNLive Blog - Dec 16, 2013

It's been a year since the infamous Nirbhaya incident took place in the streets of Delhi. The events of December 16th last year shook the nation's conscience and triggered a women's rights revolution across the nation. The events that unfolded not only stirred the women's rights movement, it brought the issue to the national center stage. Has anything changed over the last one year? Why is this being depicted globally as a pan Indian phenomena? As always, more questions than answers.

Ever since the incident last December, the number of rape incidents across the country has not decreased. According to the Delhi Police, there have been 1,493 cases in the last one year. Even though a new legislation has been brought into place to curb the menace, things seem to be worse because of various factors. One of the major factors is that the implementation of these laws has to come from a bottom-up approach. It has to come from a greater sanitation and awareness from the social strata and from the police authorities to file these cases. Moreover, the law and order situation also needs to evolve to create a fear amidst people on the consequences of rape. These consequences will be highlighted more only when there are more convictions. How would there be accountability if the convictions are not swift and fast? Why are there fast track courts only for incidents such as Nirbhaya and not other cases also? These are questions that one has to ponder. However, there have been positive developments that have happened since last year.

The media has been relentless in its pursuit of cases since day one. There has seen an increase in the number of cases reported over the last year with an increase in the number of cases that have been filed by common citizens due to the greater awareness that been created. Lets accept it, the media has played a role in placing the news in dinner table discourse of most middle class houses. Women are coming out more and more to share their ordeal on crimes related to women (A total of 3,237 cases on molestation in Delhi were registered as against 625 last year most of which was attributed to more people coming out). This last year has provided that impetus to encourage more women to come out and open up. Years ago, women in India would have multiple times over to come out, now they feel confident in coming out even against the mighty. Years ago, the episode of Tehelka founder's misdemeanor would have been chucked to the gossip pages of Lutyens Delhi unlike the non stop coverage that it received for almost a week and half on mainstream media. However, the argument that India is the 'rape capital' of the world is not just derogatory but also smacks of double standards.

The issue of rape is a global issue not just an India centric issue as portrayed by certain sections. The analogy that the developed countries are much better in handling women gender issues and rape related complaints is an aberration to say the least. The conviction rate in countries such as the UK and the US are less than India by a wide margin. For example, in the UK, the conviction rate is less than 7 percent in 2012, Sweden has 10 percent and France has 25% conviction rates. However, India has on the other hand has a conviction rate of 24.2 percent during the same period (This is itself such a low figure). It is amazing to see the audacity with which certain western commentators can label India as a haven for rapists. While it is important that we are using this momentum to create greater accountability, to demean and look down on India only through this prism, reflects a colonialist mindset and narrow minded view on things. Rape is one of the most horrendous crimes that one commits and irrespective of where it is committed it needs to be condemned and given the strictest of punishments. However, as much as one likes to castigate and take on India, one also needs to be mature in doing comparisons instead of bragging around why India is one of the "feared" countries in the world. It results in comparisons being made and that does not reflect the West and other developed countries in good light either. This observation is very important since I find that the "India always screws up" category of people is using this to unnecessary make a generic judgment of the country and its people. To tantamount this and make an assumption on the country's ethos based on a particular issue is not conducive for a matured discussion in any manner.

In hindsight, the last year has been a year of mixed reactions. On the one hand, there is a much greater awareness and fire from society to deal with such heinous crimes. The attitudes are gradually being changed and women are being given the confidence to come out and share their stories irrespective of who is involved. On the other hand, the system is lethargic and still trying to find its way through. The instantaneous response from the system is lacking and the sensitivity to such issues needs to be also sanitized much more across the social spectrum.

Nirbhaya has indeed created an upsurge in this country, it is to be seen how this can translate into a much safer and accountable India for the future.

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