If rape victims honour doesnt lie in the vagina why should justice mean castrationPTI
Voices Gender Tuesday, May 10, 2016 - 16:23

Some instances of injustice move people more than others, the rape and brutal murder of Jisha was one such. The spontaneous outpouring of anger at Jisha’s sexual assault and murder got the state government – dithering until then – to wake up and go through the motions of an investigation. Over 10 days have passed after the murder, but the police have no definitive leads. 

Since the Delhi gang rape case of 2012, a momentum of anger at instances of sexual assault committed by strangers has been on standby. It is a good thing that the diverse people across the country react strongly to such crimes, as it indicates that it is no longer acceptable to blame the victim for being sexually assaulted.

But in practically every case, what follows outrage are calls for harsh punishment – death sentences, castration, calls for chopping of genitals. The brutality of the crime prompts people to call for punishments to match. 

But in the enthusiasm of demanding punishment for a crime that is perceived to be the end of a woman’s life, there is a deafening silence on how the victim will heal. Almost no thought goes into asking how she will cope, both with the trauma of the actual assault, and the subsequent legal hassles. 

Among the measures that indirectly resulted from the 2012 movement, were the central government’s plans to set up 660 one-stop centres (OSC), one in each district, to fill in this gap. But a report published by The Ladies Finger indicated that once the announcement was made, the central government did very little to make sure that the system was put in place, and that once set up, it worked. 

On paper, the system looks great: A single-window doorway to justice for a victim of sexual assault, with everything from legal assistance to psychological counselling all under one roof.

To achieve the thoughts and ideas that are captured in the word justice, a number of little actions have to be physically implemented. Left to themselves, the various government departments supposed to get the OSCs up and running, have shown little inclination to create the infrastructure of justice, let alone make it work like a well-oiled machine. Why is there public silence on this, while there is outrage, loud and clear when the assault occurs?

This phenomenon then, is a reaction to events, to specific instances of sexual assault; one that cannot be bothered to ask why the assault occurs in the first place. For many of those outraged by the idea of a man sexually assaulting a woman in a public space, the brutality of “rape” – with all its stigma – overshadows the innumerable smaller and lesser unfreedoms, discriminations, violence, attitudes, on which sexual violence by strangers it rests. These other kinds of violence underpinned by sexist and misogynist attitudes, not only outnumber instances of sexual violence but actually make it possible.

Data released by the National Crime Records Bureau between 2010-14 shows that the single largest number of cases under the section Crimes Against Women are cruelty by husbands and in-laws. This is followed by cases of molestation, and kidnapping and abduction come third. Rape comes fourth. A look at the numbers indicates the proportion.

Source: NCRB 

All this is rendered invisible by the shock value of a man raping a woman, a stranger to him, on the streets or in public spaces brutality; it makes for a skewed perspective.

Those who are angered by sexual assault, are unlikely to fully buy into the idea that a woman loses her ‘honour’ if she is raped. But perhaps because they are not entirely convinced of that, the illogical perception that castration or death is the right punishment persists.

Sexual assault, like all assault against women is a pattern of structural violence, not an isolated incident. The call for one man’s castration is not going to solve anything - neither reduce sexual assault nor change the attitudes that underpin this violence.

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