Any news of rape generates an instant response of rage, revenge and retribution across all societies including ours and wherever a state structure exists people demand extreme/ exemplary punishment against the offender through the instrumentality of state. Obviously that would be the correct approach but not in places where the conviction rate in crimes is almost non existent.
I haven’t heard a rapist having ever being convicted and sentenced in Jammu and Kashmir (except in one case that is still in the appellate court, if I am correct). Even if there is a conviction here or there like the Nirbhaya rape case in New Delhi, it doesnt work as a deterrent. In fact deterrence by punishing a convict alone, including by way of capital punishment seldom stops the recurrence of a crime anywhere in the world. And then in our societies more than 99 percent rape victims would never report the crime to the law enforcement agencies due to the “social” pressures they face. So while we may seek retribution through state it is the society that has to take a call how to prevent recurrence of such crimes. But unfortunately the fact is that it is our collective social behaviour and attitude that is directly responsible for the occurrence of such crimes. It is our mindset that works round the clock, 24/7, against the female folk.
We narrate, interpret, preach and practice verse and chapter from our homes, class rooms, pulpits, workplaces to ensure that females are treated as unequal, incapable, relatively unintelligent lesser humans. It doesn’t ever prick our conscience when we resort to abortions of the female foetuses in the neighbourhood clinics. No one raises an eyebrow when we ask our daughters to prepare and serve food to our sons or wash and iron their clothes. We treat our daughters and sisters as our “honour” and not as people with their own individuality or personality and then resort to honour killings as per our convenience.
I don’t know how many honour killings are reported by our media but having lived here I know personally that crimes of honour killings are committed now and then. It is a fact that honour killings in Muslim societies far exceed those in other societies. I haven’t heard many voices here speaking against such honour killings either in private conversations or public discourse. When it comes to inheritance about 95 percent of women don’t inherit any ancestral property. We spare no effort in conditioning our daughters to take pride in relinquishing their share in ancestral property in favor of their brothers. Not more than a few dozen females have made it to the legislature in last over seven decades. Female employment both in the public and the private sector is minuscule. We may have reduced the mortality of women giving birth to children but a huge majority of them suffer from malnutrition. In fact almost one third of women here suffer from one or the other post traumatic disorder. Domestic violence against women is a norm even among the most literate families.
While some of us are offended when someone speaks against tripple talaq especially if the speaker is a woman, others spend hours explaining the utility and benefits of it. Any discussion about matrimonial rape is considered blasphemous. We consider and articulate shamelessly that the dress a woman is wearing is the chief contributing factor when she is harassed, abused or molested. In our functions including the prayer meetings, festivals and other gatherings our main concern is segregation of males and females. We reserve the worst idioms for those females who attempt to contribute in public life.
I may be wrong but as far as I know we don’t have any dedicated research organizations that would collect and publish data about female abuse that would create awareness and bring out in the open the quantum of such abuse in public domain. In the absence of credible data it is almost impossible to measure the atrocities suffered by women. From my personal experience I feel that things have gone from bad to worse during the last forty or so years. I vividly remember that in our villages there were no compound walls till the mid seventies of the last century. My sisters would go to fixed open spaces holding hands of young kids to sing in chorus along with other women each day after Iftar in Ramzan for an hour reciting religious stories in Kashmiri. All of a sudden with the arrival of petro dollars and petro influence I saw the sudden building of compound walls, disappearance of common spaces and the post Iftar gatherings of women. Soon vigilantes could be seen everywhere enforcing their skewed “moral” code. “Roaf” and “wanehw’un” almost disappeared from the scene, destroying the ethos that was introduced by our saints and painful built by our ancestors into the our social fabric. It was the only formal source of information and education of for women for at least one millennium.
We as a society don’t realise the gravity of the abuse and the trauma that women suffer but instead do and say everything to create an environment where women are regularly molested and raped and as these crimes are not reported we indulge in the luxury of selective social outrage as and when one such crime surfaces. In fact we are instrumental in suppressing any and all information about these crimes. When I was discussing with some of my colleagues that I, as a child, am witness to at least two events of gang rape sanctioned against women in our vicinity by the village “elders” and carried out by young men, they were shocked in disbelief. As I recall the events the fate of Mukhtaran Mai of Pakistan or the women who were subjected to similar punishment in different parts of India by the Khap panchayats would pale in comparison. (I don’t want to in any way to trivialise the sufferings of either Mukhtaran Mai or those other women but recollection of those events in my vicinity is too horrifying). I think that the practice of sanctioned gang rapes no more exists here but I am pretty skeptical.
Another rape that we have always kept under wraps is the rape of young boys. It is equally rampant and probably its occurrence surpasses the rape of women. Haven’t heard ever such a rape being reported to state authorities and haven’t seen our media speaking about it. We may like to hide this heinous crime but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t a regular feature on our social life. It is.
If we are really honest and sincere we got to know that our mindset, our attitude and our general behaviour (individual as well as collective behaviour) is responsible for the creation of conditions where some lunatic is waiting to commit the gory crime of rape against a woman, a young boy or a minor. It is no use to show selective outrage. In fact it is hypocrisy.