New Delhi - the rape capital of India?

Mumbai cop rapes girl in Marine Drive

Rapes are being reported from the capital of India with alarming regularity. The latest has been the rape of a Swiss diplomat who was abducted from the IFFI parking lot and raped in her own car. The same day, a girl student was raped by a school principal.

The intention of this story is not to declare Delhi, or any other city, the rape capital. We try to examine the social causes specific to the cities under discussion that lead to rapes and associated crimes.

There is no intention in this article to justify rape. But we do seriously plan to examine the issue of rape in all its aspects. We shall try to steer clear of conventional wisdom. After all, conventional wisdom has been around for as long as society existed, and rapes still do continue.

(Latest update on the Swiss diplomat rape investigation - Click here 12 Nov 2003)

Who gets raped?

Everyone. According to some statistics, only one in 69 rape cases in India are even reported. Only 20 % of those reported result in convictions for the rape accused.

Rapes happen across the social strata in India. In the Indian villages, it is the poor villager's wife or sister or daughter who gets raped by another poor rowdy villager, and everyone from the local thanedar to the landlord. These rapes, unless the news becomes public due to unavoidable reasons, are never reported. It is reported in the newspapers or reaches the police only when a rape becomes part of a larger caste battle, family feud or political game. We do not hear about the massive number of them happening all the time. The media will report a rape only when it is a different kind of rape - a 'normal' rape is not news. The police, even when they get to know of a rape, or even when a rape victim approaches them, almost always discourages the family from filing a complaint. Often they are threatened, if the alleged rapist is someone in a powerful position. Some other times, the police reminds the victim's family of the social repercussions and attention (and permanent social humiliation, no marriages for anyone else in the family etc. etc) and the victim returns home to wash away all evidence of the crime.

Everyone from little girls - six month old children's rapes are becoming routine now - to grandmothers are raped. Age is no barrier.

Class is no barrier either. The rich, the educated, woman has no safety either. These are the rapes we notice. Because often, the rape becomes public in some unexpected way. Even these rapes are hushed up - and the victim herself in this case pretty well understands the consequences of outing the criminal. Family and acquaintances are often rapists - fathers, uncles, cousins. These are almost always treated as a matter of family honour and token punishment (the rapist may get slapped or sent out of town) is meted out to the rapist.

In rapes that occur in Indian families, the males and females are equally to blame as everyone supports each other and the rapist for the sake of family honour. It is only the rape victim who has no chance of justice. In a cruel way, this often forces the rape victim to accept rape as an unfortunate occasional occurance within all families, and she herself may acquiesce in hushing up another rape tomorrow.

Why do women get raped? Why do men rape?

Do we get psychological here or sociological?

Some women get raped because some men want to rape. Let us try to see if there is a way in which we can generalise the type of women who gets raped and type of man who rapes. Now, do not get all hot and bothered - I said 'try'.

Rape has always been a part of human history. Almost all cultures have a history of rape. During all wars, the winning army ravaged the women of the loser. If we look back at known human history, we see a history of male superiority and aggressive behavior. Till the recent past, a rapist was not even 'publicly' looked down upon. Worldwide, in all cultures, mythologicals are full of rapes, attempted rapes, abductions, molestations.. In every country that faced an invasion in its history, rape was common. Prevalent social norms accepted sex (or rather forced sex) as the inescapable right of the conqueror. 

True, there were always those who looked down upon rape. But it is only with the more or less wide acceptance of human rights, modern values and laws that rape was uniformly condemned.

So dark fact 1: Rape was the norm, rather than the exception.

2: All societies condemned rape when it was perpetrated on its own women, and encouraged or closed their eyes to it when it was perpetrated on their enemy's women. (example: Pakistanis do not believe and are enraged if you dare suggest to them that Muslims raped Hindu women during the partition trauma. Hindus are similarly furious if you accuse their community of rapes of Muslim women.)

It is only with the rising equality of women in modern civilization that rape was at least publicly accepted as a crime. But the society is still pretty much gender-unequal, and old attitudes are not that old yet.

Why don't women report rapes to the police?

Haha. Rape is physically and mentally traumatic for victims. (I have one male friend who argues it shouldn't be - he says one should treat it as just another physical assault.) Now, let us focus here on the situation in India.

One: Honour. Often family honour, as rapists are often known to the victim or are often a family member/ relative. So the matter is hushed up. 

Two: Police. Police is the reason.

Have you ever taken a good look at the average Indian policeman? have you ever been to a police station?

A police station is an intimidating place. The cultural sophistication of the average policeman in India is pretty much that of the average roadside thug. Your average policeman hardly knows how to talk politely, is barely educated, is uncouth, brash and rude. Is this the paragon of sensitivity a victim of rape will run to? Add to this the rising number of custodial rapes which every one knows about. People will turn to a policeman only when they are desperate. Educated, rich people are abused by the police in India routinely and they have to call upon their networks and call upon little netas to get the policemen to treat them with some consideration.

Expect a policeman to humiliate a rape victim, turn her back, discourage her, be foul-mouthed or maybe rape her in turn. The last may happen very rarely, but it is generally accepted in India that the Indian policeman is a rowdy who has the law to back him. The better off IPS and higher ranks of policemen are often double-faced. In their parties or social circles, they are the paragons of virtue while when in their element, they are as dangerous as the rest of their lower rung colleagues.  (There are real reasons why the Indian policeman is a shame to the country. Many of them are of the society's own making. I will write about it in the near future.)

Even if a rape victim passes this hurdle, what remains is the great Indian judicial system. The system offers the perfect means for an accused rapist to wear out the victim. Murder trials last for decades in India. Often, verdicts are produced only after the deaths of the accused or complainant. Just what is the point of filing a case when everything - society, family, police, legal seems to throw hurdles in your path? Isn't it normal for someone to just want to try and forget the rape and get on with it?

More to come: What is the legal definition of rape? Is it accurate? Is it helpful?

How does a rape trial happen?

Why do rape cases in India do no result in convictions?

How to avoid rape?

Rape prevention

Punishment for rape

Rape and politics in India







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