Why is India so bad for women?
India carries the shameful tag of being an unsafe place for woman. In fact, it has been labeled as the worst place to be a woman among all G20 nations. And this, despite the fact, that it is world’s largest democracy. Atrocities against women come in all shocking forms, each more outrageous than the other. What is worse is that the judicial process is too slow to catch with such crimes and politicians have so far not been keen in arming the law to make it more effective.
Recently, a young woman, returning from a late night movie, was tricked into a bus, and gang raped and assaulted severely before being thrown out of the moving bus. The critically injured girl was flown out of the country for organ replacement. But her condition worsened and she soon lost her battle for life.
Not long back, in Guwahati, a young student left a bar and was set upon by a gang of at least 18 men. They dragged her into the road by her hair, tried to rip off her clothes and groped her breasts. The attack was captured on camera and the attackers smiled at the cameras that filmed it all. It took the police 45 minutes to reach the spot and whisk away the girl. It was only after the incident hit national headlines that the police woke up to nab the perpetrators.
Girls in India are forcibly married off before they step out of their teens. Rich Arabs fly into the country to marry small girls, enjoy a fortnight’s stay, before divorcing them and heading back to their country. Dowry related deaths are far too common along with exploitation and abuse of young girls as domestic slave labor. Honor killing of women is another growing trend. Last month, the brother of a girl who had dared to elope, confronted her on the streets, ripped her head-off in full public view and walked into the police station with the severed head.
A research from the Unicef in 2012 found that 57% of adolescent boys believe that wife bashing is justified. The National Crime Records Bureau in India found that there was a 7.1% hike in recorded crimes against women between 2010 and 2011. The biggest leap was in cases under the “dowry prohibition act” (up 27.7%). This was followed by kidnapping and abduction (up 19.4% year on year) and rape (up 9.2%). A study by the Lancet in 2011 found that preference for sons and fear of having to pay a dowry resulted in 12 million female feticide over the past three decades.
The tardy legal process has in a way contributed hugely towards abatement of crimes against women. It takes years for rape or dowry victims to get justice. Justice, however, is not guaranteed as reports of judges or the police, on whose account the outcome of such cases rest, being bought over is quite common. Recently, in Punjab, a young girl committed suicide as the police refused to register a case of rape and instead coaxed her to accept a settlement amount. Rape laws in India are outdated and riddled with loopholes. There is no special law against sexual assault or harassment, and rape stands established only if there is vaginal penetration by a penis. Perpetrators of the Guwahati crime would be booked for “outraging the modesty of a woman” the maximum punishment for which is a year’s imprisonment, or a fine, or both.
Given the lack of political will to usher in reforms in law, there isn’t any hope of things changing towards better in the near future. The question now is how worse can things get for women in India.