The year 2012, at its fag end, had assumed significance in terms of gender struggles due to the rallying of young people around the ghastly gang rape in the nation’s capital and subsequent death of the victim. Never before has any rape victim been paid such homage, not even in fiction!
The significance of the year on another count, with special emphasis on the city, has been lost on the people of Hyderabad, who are taking out protest marches and candle light vigils in solidarity with the Delhi victim. Midway through this year, the police cracked a two-year mystery behind the rape and murder of 14-year-old Triveni of Borabanda.
Even the year 2010, when the girl was brutally raped by a gang of four, had not assumed such significance. A watchman’s daughter, Triveni was rudely awakened one night when the assailants – including a 42-year-old man, barged into their house and hit her two brothers into oblivion. She too was hit on the head before all the four men forced themselves on the hapless little girl. Reason for the monstrous act: the girl and her brothers refused to allow one of the perpetrators to park his bike in front of the complex.
Away from the media glare and Prime Minister’s sympathies in Gandhi Hospital, the minor girl suffered for 10 days, before breathing her last, which was dismissed by the media in a brief report.
Pitching one victim over another, especially at a time when a never-before debate on sexual atrocities is taking place in the country, certainly reeks of cynicism.
But it is also an undeniable fact that with the exception of the present furore, news about sexual violence has never really shaken the public consciousness.
Triveni’s is one of those many incidents of rape which regularly got reported in the media, but was forgotten as soon as the page was turned. If statistics are anything to go by, five times as many incidents get muffled in the voices of the victims and their kin, for fear of stigma.
Releasing the crime statistics for the year, city’s Police Commissioner Anurag Sharma stirred up a hornet’s nest by announcing that in majority of the rape cases, the assailants were known to the victim. While what he meant remains ambiguous, what remained unmentioned was, that majority of the rape incidents also go unregistered.
For instance, repeated rape of an orphan student for a whole year by a 40-year-old government school teacher in Secunderabad came to light in the previous year only after child rights activists intervened. There must have been innumerable incidents which the activists failed to notice.
Same was the case with the continual rape of a 13-year-old by her would-be-father-in-law in Shamshabad, which was reported only after the ‘father-in-law’ had gone back on his promise of marrying the girl! Had the old man agreed to marry the minor girl, the crime would have been hushed up by the girl’s own kin. Difficult to accept, these are the invisible facts of our everyday lives.
“According to a study we conducted, only about 22 per cent of the rape incidents come to light. Even the victims who approach us, do it after a considerable time lag, and make it impossible to gather evidence to file a police case. If we have to protest, pay homage, and light candles for every victim, the state machinery will come to a grinding halt,” says Sandhya from the Progressive Organisation of Women.
For a programmed mind, it is either a scantily-clad woman, or woman roaming the roads alone in the night, or woman of “loose morals”, or woman soliciting sex, but its always a woman that triggers sexual atrocities. Officials and politicians occupying highest positions are not exempt from this contorted understanding, as could be seen from the statements made by DGP Dinesh Reddy at the start of the year, and by APPCC chief Botcha Satyanarayana by its end. No wonder that such attitude informs the behaviour of the lowest cadre too in both the spheres.
“People’s representatives are by their core values, anti-women. They are yet to assimilate the concept of an independent woman. This outrage against the Delhi rape incident is a good development, in that many women have made it clear like never before that even if they come naked, it is not an invitation to rape,” says K. Sajaya from Caring Citizens’ Collective.