Failing India’s Women
In the past few weeks gender violence and discrimination have been at the centre of every discussion in Indian society. This curiosity is obviously due to the on-going controversy regarding the sentencing of the 4 accused in the Nirbhaya rape and murder case. The Centre on Sunday sought to remove the stay on the execution of the four convicts in the December 16, 2012 Nirbhaya gang-rape and murder case, asserting that the credibility of the judiciary and its ability to execute death sentences were at stake. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Home Ministry, argued that the convicts were moving to the court one after other, Mr. Mehta argued there was “a deliberate, calculated, well-thought-out design to frustrate the mandate of the law”.
This delay in the conviction of these individuals has frustrated many especially after the action taken by the police in the state of Telengana where the state police carried out a highly questionable “encounter” of the 4 individuals accused of rape and murder. Hence in the last six months we have seen two different responses to cases of gender violence. Now both these examples are reflective of two extremes and both are related to the punishment of individuals accused of hideous crimes. While the nature of punishment in both these cases have differed the response of the media and the larger society reflects a concerning trend.
Whilst the response to both the cases was widespread and similar most of the discussion has been centred on the nature of the punishment for the accused and the convicts. This, while understandable, is also problematic as it highlights the short comings of Indian society in relation to gender equality. This assumption is showcased by the lack of any improvement in the general condition of women and the LGBTQ community. More concerning is the fact that the Indian judiciary system is still not properly equipped to deal with more complex cases such as molestation and harassment. Even though 2019 saw the rise of the #metoo movement the movement was largely restricted to a particular section of the urban population and failed to spread any awareness among the general population. Another important factor to note is that India still has a wide gender gap in most indicators of gender equality for example literacy rates, enrolment ratio, etc.
One of the most important factors that need to be highlighted is the nature of the cases that are in the spotlight of public discourse. This becomes an important factor as both the cases mentioned above relate to incidents that took place in urban areas and led to massive public pressure and received enormous media attention. The popular debates that these cases sparked in the news studios didn’t lead to any significant decrease in the number of cases of violence against women nor did it lead to any improvement in the mechanism of law enforcement.
Hence, while the wide spread concern in relation to the convicts of the Nirbhaya cases is understandable it is also reflective of the systematic problem of gender discrimination that has existed in the Indian sub-continent for decades and the present trends showcase the continued failure of Indian society in dealing with these realities.