Opinion » Lead

Updated: April 22, 2013 00:43 IST

The crisis in our community

Nilanjana S. Roy
Comment (52)   ·   print   ·   T  T  

“Stopping rape” isn’t possible unless we change the way we tackle and think about ordinary violence

Some images stay branded on your mind. The brutality visited on three young girls, before their bodies were found in a well; the pain of a five-year-old whose rapist used candles and an oil bottle to violate her further; the anger of the Dalit rape survivor in Uttar Pradesh who was told by a policeman, “Who will rape you at your age?”

Since the brutal gang rape and death of a young woman in December 2012, the Indian middle class has made its collective discovery of the fact of rape. For many, the instinctive compassion, sadness and empathy they feel at the atrocity of the day are matched only by a growing despair.

Television anchors asked, with touching naïveté, why the protests, demonstrations and new laws of the last few months have not “stopped rape.” No laws anywhere in the world have “stopped” rape, any more than laws have stopped murder. But better laws, changes in policing, and societal change have sometimes combined to bring both sexual violence and homicide rates down in several countries.

Danger of fatigue

Behind the outrage, there is the very real danger of compassion fatigue. There is only so much in the way of traumatic news that anyone can stand to hear or see. We’re cutting through decades of mainstream denial about the extreme violence that women in India often experience. But there’s a risk that we’re setting up a weighing scale of horror, deciding which rape deserves our empathy. (So far, collective compassion has been able to slice through class barriers, but not necessarily caste.)

The routine gang rape of Dalit women, the brutal rapes of children too young to have learned the word for “vagina,” the everyday rapes of women in major cities: which one of these gets the candlelight vigil of the week? There might be a tipping point, as there was with dowry deaths. We don’t really “see” dowry deaths any more, and we don’t respond to the terrible suffering inflicted on women who are killed in those cold calculations the way we used to some decades ago.

Why aren’t we outraged by the miscarriage and death of the pregnant woman who was beaten with bamboo staves and iron lathis by her husband and in-laws? Saima, 21, died in Uttar Pradesh last week. Or the woman who was strangled by her in-laws in Navi Mumbai — Madhu Yadav, 28, was allegedly killed over dowry demands in 2012. Because we haven’t been able to stop the roughly 8,000-plus recorded dowry deaths that show up on the NCRB statistics every year. Keep the spotlight focused on rape in India long enough, and people will turn away. Compassion can swiftly become helplessness, and then apathy.

It doesn’t have to be this way. We’re only beginning to understand the extent to which violence is tolerated, and found acceptable, across wide swathes of India.

Most Indian men experience a frightening amount of violence as they grow up. Indian boys are just as vulnerable as Indian girls to being abused as children (54 per cent of boys had experienced physical or sexual violence, according to a landmark 2007 study).

Boys are slightly more vulnerable to being hit or beaten by their male relatives. And as adults, they will often join communities, colleges and professions where they experience both verbal and extreme physical abuse as a matter of course. If violence looms as a threat over the lives of women, it is so tightly woven into the common experience of Indian men that it is rendered invisible.

Some years ago, Steven Pinker wrote a remarkable book about the decline of human violence over the centuries. Better reportage might make us think that we are still as violent as our ancestors, but the truth is markedly different. We have relatively fewer wars, and a very modern refusal to countenance acts of torture that were once considered acceptable.

If anything, Indians today show a decreasing tolerance for violence, and a new willingness to question old verities — for instance, the belief that women invite their own rapes, or that men have the right to rape. But if there has been a slow shift, it is towards the idea that sexual violence is unacceptable, with more and more Indians expressing anger and sadness over crimes against women, now that these are more visible.

As a society, though, we still have a very high acceptance of everyday violence — and much of this is violence experienced by men. In a key 2006 study of domestic violence in North India, Michael Koenig, Rob Stephenson, Shirin Jeejeebhoy and others made a fascinating observation.

Passed through generations

Domestic violence, they argued, is transmitted — almost like a disease — from one generation to another. “Even after control for the effects of other risk factors,” they write, “husbands who had witnessed their fathers beating their mothers as children were 4.7 times more likely to physically beat their own wives than men who had not witnessed such violence, and they were three times more likely to sexually coerce their wives.”

What is missing from India’s current obsession with rape is an assessment of what Indian men have experienced or witnessed in the way of violence. Few studies examine the impact violence has had on their lives, as either victims or perpetrators. Just as an example: in all our talk of police reform, we have no data on how many of India’s police officers have witnessed violence in their own homes and communities, or what impact this might have on their ability to respond to reports of rape, domestic and sexual violence.

We want the police to stop blaming victims for the violence done to them, to stop trying to silence those who report rapes by either bribing or threatening them. In that case, we need to understand how to undo the beliefs surrounding violence — especially violence visited on women — that the police might carry into their workplaces from their personal lives.

If we’re serious about “stopping rape”, or at least bringing down the high incidence of sexual violence in India, we should start with the violence we can attempt to control. That implies tackling our own homes and communities.

This requires long-term change, though, and what most Indians want right now are easily implementable solutions. The suggestions for solving the problem of sexual violence are many. Some want the death penalty —highly problematic given the slow and unreliable justice system. Some suggest keeping women corralled at home, which ignores the reality of changing migration flows, and the fact that many more Indian women join the workforce each year. Some demand castration of rapists, though there is little evidence to suggest that castration is a deterrent. And there are regular calls for more and better policing, or for the establishment of rape crisis centres.

What actually works? The answer might startle Indians. The economist, Steven Levitt, wrote a brilliant paper in 2004, asking why crime rates dropped sharply in the U.S. in the 1990s. One sobering conclusion is that it’s unrealistic to expect just one kind of crime to lessen. In the case of the U.S., according to Levitt’s data (and in several parts of Europe, according to Pinker), crime rates dropped uniformly, rape cases dropping along with homicides and other kinds of violent crime. Significantly, the drop in crime rates was universal — crime went down across geographical areas and across different economic classes.

Factors that had, in Levitt’s opinion, little or no effect on the fall in crime rates ranged from “better policing” to “capital punishment”, to “shifting demographics”. But a rise in the number of police personnel, irrespective of whether they were better trained or not, made a big difference. So did a rise in the number of people in the prison system. The other two factors Levitt cites are particular to the U.S. — the receding crack cocaine epidemic, and the legalisation of abortion, because unwanted children were found to be far more likely to engage in crime, chiefly because of neglect or cruelty from their families.

In India, there is little data on what has actually had an impact on crime rates, in the few areas where they might have dropped. Do we need to increase the number of police officers, along with pressing for better training? If imprisoning perpetrators has an effect on crime rates, we might want to consider that many crimes, including rape, have poor conviction rates.

Casual acceptance

There must be other factors, particular to India, that influence crime rates. Koenig’s paper hints, for instance, that if domestic violence is transmitted between generations, we should work on reversing the lessons some men learn from witnessing violence in the home. We have to stop seeing rape in isolation. It is part of a bigger problem, linked to the casual Indian acceptance of violence in our homes, schools and clans as natural and inevitable.

Tomorrow’s headlines will bring their raft of despair, the almost unbearable pain of violence and rape forced on the innocent and the unwilling. Instead of giving in to that despair or that apathy, it might be more useful to start looking at crime and violence as something that should be tackled in the same way as polio or malaria, or any other disease. If studies from the U.S. and Europe demonstrate anything at all, it is that the violence we take for granted is not inevitable. Find the right levers, and change could happen faster than we currently believe possible.

(Nilanjana S. Roy is a New Delhi-based writer)

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Let's face reality. We are a democracy, and that too one that has a tendency to be a secular liberal one, not pro-right wing. Hence drastic stuff like castration, death penalty, quick justice, etc cannot happen. Those can only happen if we move to a dictatorial form of government like in the Chinese/Singaporean/Saudi etc systems. In our democracy, which we cherish for various 'freedom' reasons, the progress is slow because it is meant to be careful and include lots of checks and balances to prevent misuse.
Hence, if the change needed in people to stop rapes is to be seen, it must come slowly from within the people themselves through the institutions of family, school and religion, which define values, good vs bad, and laud ideals like respect for the body feminine.
And that will take a long long time since it is a gradual process of evolution.
So in the meantime, kindly expect rapes to continue. The cure is slow, hence prevention is needed. In other words, just be careful all the time.

from:  Rajeev Iyer
Posted on: Apr 24, 2013 at 10:00 IST

Changing the mindset of society will take decades so are we going to
wait till then? Just implement the existing laws, fast track rape cases,
focus on the deprived sections who don't even come out to report, treat
the guilty as traitors of the society, setup examples to deter others,
sensitize policeforce, punish the guilty in the system, and finally stop
being a hypocrite.

from:  sanjay
Posted on: Apr 23, 2013 at 14:04 IST

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere", says Martin Luther King, Jr.
The country insolently witnessed women from disadvantaged sections, dalit and tribal, being raped and ravaged in hundreds across the country. Those who have been crying hoarse from housetops were silent hitherto. Why have they suddenly become so concerned? Is it because a girl from higher social crest has fallen prey to the rapists? This question is sad but inescapable. The rapists have started targeting new pasture. This has threatened the complacence of the glittering privileged.
Sad. But we are convinced this is the reason.

from:  A. K. Biswas
Posted on: Apr 23, 2013 at 11:20 IST

Ms Roy, this is the first time I have read your article and I am
impressed to the core. Unlike many writers who hold men responsible
for everything that takes place against women, you have discussed the
root causes of the problem. Moreover, the solution you have suggested,
on the basis of the data you gave and the changes that have taken
place in other countries, are appreciable. The change should come from
within the society. Holing police and politicians responsible for
every crime against women will not solve any purpose. I wish to meet
you some day and take lessons for writing good articles. Hope to read
more of your articles in The Hindu.

from:  Pratham Dwivedi
Posted on: Apr 23, 2013 at 01:46 IST

The article raises a very important question of what is acceptable
rape and what is not. Between December 16 and April 19 several cases
of rape were reported. Why did the rape of a 5 year old girl raise
such hue and cry and an appalling case like Soni Sori’s did not? Such
discrimination only reduces the gravity of rape in general. It becomes
acceptable until it is not as brutal. In such cases even the police
do not respond seriously as there is no pressure.
I do not agree with the point that boys are more vulnerable to being
hit. Both are vulnerable, girls a little more. Girls are often
discriminated and ill-treated as they are unwanted. Girls brought up
in such atmosphere do not rape in order to vent their anger. The fact
that men rape and women do not is a reflection of a patriarchal
society. Girls learn to control and boys learn to dominate. This has
to change. Even boys should be taught anger management and how to
control their sexual urges.Parents and school have a role to play.

from:  Vatsala Singh
Posted on: Apr 23, 2013 at 00:53 IST

It's nice to finally read an article that talks to the solution. I have been analyzing addicts and alcoholics for over a decade now, and I have seen that child abuse, and even child sexual-abuse, of boys in our country is quite rampant. The reason I have found is that parents and teachers do not know how to handle their anger.
I have also discovered a simple analysis method, coupled with a simple meditative technique of ancient India, which quickly gets rid of resentments/hatred and calms raging emotions. I have written two books on it and in the past two years have presented four scientific papers on it, which you can find on our website:
To get an idea of the problem and its solution, you can also watch the presentation of my paper for a Seminar on the "Psychology of Trauma: Women and Children in Violent Conflict" last month here:
I sincerely hope that your paper can inform our people about it.

from:  Rajiv Bhole
Posted on: Apr 22, 2013 at 23:52 IST

Without respect/some love for fellow human beings, how will such things
ever end?
However short term goal can be to end such things at least using the
tool of fear (through policing, law, rules etc that can be implemented).
But, who doesn't know the answer. It is just that we as a society
haven't cared to implement it.

from:  Krishna Chaitanya
Posted on: Apr 22, 2013 at 23:02 IST

When something bad happens and we are not sure who did it, we blame the police for not acting swiftly enough to bring them to justice. When police capture, however belatedly,perpetrators of a henious crime and charge them, we talk abstact and distant philosophy. This armchair reform movement will only serve to divert attention from the need for speedy disposal of such cases and a possible conviction.
Why are we not talking simple notions of crime and punishment?
Why are we not discussing the abysymal conviction rates in our country ?

And where have all the champions of human rights gone ?

from:  Krishna
Posted on: Apr 22, 2013 at 21:29 IST

The opposition has lost its sense of proportion. They speak as if
the Union Home Minister has committed rapes. In stead of reasoned
discussion on the social problem, they are attributing all sins on the
Central Govt. What were they doing when hundreds of women were raped
and killed during the 2002 riots in Gujarat ? The Congress and other
UPA allies behave like dumb and go on hearing these senseless
allegations against the Home Minister. Thee Opposition MPs are
picking Shinde up for allegations , because he is from Scheduled
Castes. Had there been some Brahmin MP asd the Home Minister, their
attitude would have quite different.

from:  Bharatbhai R Pandya
Posted on: Apr 22, 2013 at 20:53 IST

A really nice article! I really appreciate the points raised in this. Yes we feel a lot of despair about these rape cases, but we should not expect any quick fix of this problem. The important thing is that the young generation of today has to set an example by respecting women. Automatically the children that they produce will see that women are respected in their homes and naturally do the same things themselves. It is gonna take at least a couple of generations to get a handle on this problem, but we have to start now.

from:  Kirit
Posted on: Apr 22, 2013 at 20:34 IST

Ms. Roy presents a very convincing argument for the need of a detailed scientific analysis of the factors influencing gender-based violence at homes. Since the police officers are indeed part of the civil society, it is only too logical to see the consequences of the mindset of a police officer in his/ her duty in his/ her office. The long term strategy must certainly include our education system, women's rights activists, and most importantly, in my opinion, uncompromising, competent leadership at the higher levels of IPS committed to the task of reforming our police system. We, as citizens must start with specific solutions such as - blowing the whistle whenever an officer fails to register an FIR in our local police stations, and providing support to the aggrieved as a community. If we collectively hold the Sub Inspectors in our local police stations accountable to their duties in everyday civil life, I'm sure of changes happening locally, and precipitating over other localities.

from:  Srinivas Kirthy
Posted on: Apr 22, 2013 at 20:17 IST

MS Kavya Kumar: You state: “...Laws that castrate men who rape, execution to those who kill etc need to implemented now..”
Predictably, after media focus on such horrendous assaults, publicity seeking politicians and their naive middle class backers will call for stringent punishment. Never mind the fact that India cannot even enforce simple traffic rules.
This clamour for capital punishment and castration of rapists articulated both by politicians and many commentators such as Ms Kumar does not factor in major
ground realities of the Indian state, particularly its weak institutions. We have politicians who get elected despite being charged for offenses against women,
policemen who rape and a male population which has a warped attitude to women.
Besides, do you want the corrupt and largely uneducated police force and the
inefficient and inept judiciary to be vested with powers to carry out such serious punishment ? A recipe for disaster and miscarriage of justice.

from:  V.Suresh
Posted on: Apr 22, 2013 at 19:12 IST

Even as we struggle towards speedy development, our society is faced with a number of intractable maladies with deep sociological roots. In the book "Blink" by Malcolm Gladwell, there is an interesting case study of male domination in classical orchestras of western music; only about 5% of the professional musicians were women. Even as there were debates of the kind we are now having about sexual violence, they made a simple change in the method of selections to the orchestras. The candidates were made to do their auditions from behind a screen and the selectors had no way of knowing the gender, appearance or even the name of the candidates. In the course of 30 years after this simple chnage was made, the number of female members in the orchestras went up by five fold. We would do well to seek for similar pragmatic remedies for our pressing social problems, even as we analyse their roots and attempt soical engineering.

from:  P. Zachariah
Posted on: Apr 22, 2013 at 18:50 IST

How true.
I actually know a police officer personally who beats his wife and kids on a daily basis. How will we feel safe in our country if the wife and kids of a police man are afraid that he might come and murder them in the dead of the night in their own home. The very same official is also being tried for a murder he committed in one of rages. These are the people who we trust to solve our problems.
What a shame.

from:  Srishti Tomer
Posted on: Apr 22, 2013 at 18:31 IST

This is great article, you highlight many important and relevant points here. However, you seem to have completely missed out a major issue. Outdated and inadequate justice system that is unable to bring about speedy justice and protect the innocent. Today most criminals and to be criminals enjoy the fact that even if one is arrested, there is a good chance that in their lifetime they will not be convicted and therefore not punished. E.g. our big screen heroes who have been convicted of heinous crimes, yet they freely carry on about their lives. One can ignore the law claiming to be busy when summoned to court even on a murder charge. So if there is no fear of punishment, there is no deterrent and so, automatically no protection to the innocent.
Fundamental change is necessary, but not in society, this change must come in the justice system. Help society return its trust back in the justice system. It is the seams that holds the fabric of society. Please dont let it rot away.

from:  S Varghese
Posted on: Apr 22, 2013 at 18:04 IST

Excellent article. I bet a number of people who read this would have learned something new from it.

from:  Hitarth
Posted on: Apr 22, 2013 at 18:01 IST

Very well written..."DANGER OF FATIGUE" is a real one.We are raising our pitch for crimes which involves high degree of Brutality. We are ignoring most of the cases. It Particularly stating that we lost our sensitivity towards crimes which involves less violence.Our social attitude really needs to be change to control violence against women.

from:  vijay kanth
Posted on: Apr 22, 2013 at 16:55 IST

An informative and thought provoking article. All the scenarios listed are quite well though
and penned. Nevrtheless, It's not only the law enforcers who are the protagonists of our
socitey, but we ourselves have to be the saviour of our socitey. Unless we start educating
our children on human values, respecting opposite sex and life of probity, little will be
achieved. In today's world children are being "trained" to become more materialistic and
selfish, and parents have "no time" to educate them on values. We can't abdicate our
responsibility by bluntly blaming others for their apathy or lethargy. Today's socitey is our
very own Frankestine.

The rise in domestic violence, homicide or any other crime, are the secondary products of
our "struggle for existence", a euphemism for our lust for power and wealth. The time is ripe
for us to accept our fault and start taking corrective actions. As the cliché goes,
"Be the change you want to see in the world" ~ MK Gandhi

from:  Sunil Tomar
Posted on: Apr 22, 2013 at 15:53 IST

The article is only superficially impressive; it makes internal claims that are way too general and casteist. Further, to cite Pinker's extremely unscientific "happy talk" is to display one's own lack of rigour as a reader. It is unfortunate how people could impressed by such loose talk.

from:  Kalpana
Posted on: Apr 22, 2013 at 15:05 IST

We wont create an awareness in the society unless we have basic sex
education in schools. I remember teachers in my school skipping topics
on safe-sex and STDs because we wouldn't get any questions in the exams
related to the same. If the case in private schools is such, I can
surely imagine the situation in public schools to be worse. I feel we
have a long way to go but we have to start now - beginning with our own
house-holds and openly discussing matters such as these rather than
keeping kids in the dark.

from:  Vineet
Posted on: Apr 22, 2013 at 14:54 IST

I agree with the general sentiment of the article which highlights the violence children face (male, female both) and treating it as a social issue.
I would like to add a few more points:
- The high degree to vulgurness our society is exposed to by media - print, television, films, internet. There must be a control over them if we want sane individuals dwelling in our surroundings.
- Also, passing the buck to the police is not the solution. I see political parties slogging the police. I agree our policemen have attitude problems, but what can the police do when the society is not in control. Moral policing is better then supervisory policing.
- Also going through the HT today I read Priyanka Chopra's comment - "I'm so shocked...I mean she's just five. She's not even a girl completely. she's still a child". It should have been moderated, but this is blatantly posted on front page of a national newspaper. I think we have lost our conscience.

from:  Amit Singh
Posted on: Apr 22, 2013 at 14:31 IST

Ms Roy, your article showcases extensive research however, I find all this to be an excuse for what is happening today.May be your research may have some bearing in the long run.One can stack up tons and tons of statistics but NOTHING can justify a 3 year old being raped. Abused or not it is just not acceptable. Unfathomable that a 3 year old can be an object of sexual desire. We need to have laws and punishments that instill fear amongst law breakers ( since we are talking about overall crime rates). Fear is the key.Reiteration that money cannot change the law is the need of this hour. What are we portraying our country to be to the outside world?!?! Why is that our public has such short term memory when it comes to issues like this? The public protest/empathize/ sympathize and do nothing about it. We should be ashamed to call ourselves the world's largest democracy. Laws that castrate men who rape, execution to those who kill etc need to implemented now.

from:  Kavya Kumar
Posted on: Apr 22, 2013 at 13:55 IST

The article represents a sane voice in a veritable cacophony of noise
and protests on the street! The point made about a fatigue setting in
in our collective psyche is a real one and must be avoided. Of course
better policing and looking within our own communities and families
will help but in the midst of an exploding population devoid of
education and basic human needs, growing class and cultural divides
there will always be a predator lurking around. I feel such
depravities as rape stem from anger of being in the margins of the
society and need to exert one's manliness in frustration. The growing
permissiveness and promiscuity in the society reflected in the cinema
of today stokes it further. Displaced families due to men moving to
cities in search of jobs, soldiers having to serve away from home for
extended periods of time, well contributory reasons too innumerable
to list here. Finally look into the mind of the male to seek solution.
A woman can't do that and we know it!

from:  Anil Dubey
Posted on: Apr 22, 2013 at 13:37 IST

Well articulated article, in fact a brilliant one amid the clamour of TV
anchor shouting for resignation/death penalty/castration etc...

from:  Satyajit Kumar
Posted on: Apr 22, 2013 at 13:18 IST

A solution-oriented article, with a deep insight into the problem.
Though I still believe that it lacked Patriarchy and its effect as well.
Anyway, well written.

from:  Abhishek
Posted on: Apr 22, 2013 at 13:17 IST

Great article that tlaks about all the angles comprehensively. The mindset of the people has to change

from:  Lavanya
Posted on: Apr 22, 2013 at 12:59 IST

Why is the author comparing us to the US, a country which is not only much more
egalitarian but also law-abiding. We are nowhere in that league but closer to
Africa, sub-saharan Africa when it comes to corruption and lawlessness and any
realistic solution to our problems needs to start by acknowledging this fact.
Until our potentates (read our politicians) are forced to relinquish the power they wield above the law and our police force and justice system reformed that there really is a rule of law instead of goonda-raj, we aren't going to solve any of our problems.

from:  Vivek
Posted on: Apr 22, 2013 at 12:57 IST

The writer has suggested very long term solutions. What about today? How
can we stop such crimes and violence in present scenario, the writer
hasn't mentioned any solutions in this regard. Also specific long term
solution to tackle with the problem of declining moral values in our
society is not covered in the article. Nevertheless, some nice facts
were mentioned related to home violence and specially against male

from:  Akshay Dhadda
Posted on: Apr 22, 2013 at 12:08 IST

A remarkable deep insight into the possible reasons for the crimes such as rape or domestic violence. An eye opening statistic that the children who witnessed domestic violence in their home have more proclivity to repeat the same.
From this statistic we should realise that sometimes these small things have a huge impact on the adolescent's mind. After all it is the parents who set the precedence for their children and based on that a foundation is made in the way a child forms an opinion about certain regularities of life.
Taking into account these satistics and findings, Indian governmnet should arrange psychological sessions for policemen on the sensitive issues of domestic violence and rape so that their perspective towards women and these issues is changed.

from:  Sahil Bhatia
Posted on: Apr 22, 2013 at 11:56 IST

It is rightly pointed out in the article that we should stop finding solution for rape in isolation, as it is only a part of bigger problem. It is that bigger problem which should be addressed by proper policies and amendments by the government.Instead of devising stringent measures to punish the crooked, rather we should lay platforms for producing better individuals, which will greately reduce the violence inflicted on fellow human beings.

from:  Balachandar K
Posted on: Apr 22, 2013 at 11:54 IST

A refreshingly insightful article. I congratulate the author for having the vision to see that rape as a crime cannot be isolated. Increase in rape is a measure of the corresponding degradation of moral values in society. any strategy to counter rape is bound to fail if divorced from the goal of lowering the rate of crime and violence in general.
The idea presented here of the effect of domestic violence on the attitude of men require serious consideration. If a child saw her mother being repeatedly beaten by his father, then it is very probable that the child will lose his ability to respect women. he would unleash that cynical cycle of violence upon his own wife.
A comprehensive strategy to deal with all sorts of violence, be it sexual/domestic/individual/communal is the need of hour. Neglecting one domain can lead to the failure of the entire process.

from:  Mukut Ray
Posted on: Apr 22, 2013 at 11:51 IST

very good article . The most sanest one in quite some while on this issue, a journalistic gem .

from:  Dushyant Singh
Posted on: Apr 22, 2013 at 11:08 IST

Deterrence from Crime
One of the major purposes of punishment is deterrence, or intimidating
people into refraining from crime. There are two basic forms of
deterrence identified by criminology, individual and general.
The purpose of general deterrence is to discourage people from
committing crimes by setting an example of what the consequences of
crime can be. A "Tow-Away Zone" sign is one of the lighter examples of general deterrence, while decimation (the ancient Roman military law
practice of killing one out of every ten soldiers when a serious crime
was committed and no one stepped forward to take the blame) is perhaps
one of the harshest forms of general deterrence ever enacted.
To be effective, the punishment must be harsh enough to actually deter
people from committing crimes.
A more effective way is the “carrot and stick” policy, in which the law abider is given an incentive to follow rules, and is punished if he does not. While few would really argue against taking the bite out of punishment, there are some arguments that deterrence is not nearly as effective as we'd like it to be. Statistics showing high crime rates among people who have already been in prisons, or punished in other ways can easily be used to demonstrate that deterrence isn't so very effective. The sheer threat of punishment is not enough to ensure the smooth functioning of a law-abiding society, as countless examples of tyranny and police states illustrate. Those predisposed towards crime
are usually people, with backgrounds of poverty, alienation, and violence, and a majority of criminals aren't the sort to stop and weigh the consequences of their actions anyway. Therefore the best deterrent to crime is good education, loving our neighbors, by being friendly with them, and sharing in their sorrows and helping them out in their difficulties. It is chiefly our neighbor's expectation of us, and our God's, along with the desire for what is best for
ourselves and others that allows a law-abiding society to function.
These arguments will probably not convince anyone that deterrence is
undesirable. But it's helpful to keep them in mind while thinking
about why society punishes criminals, and what the goals of a healthy
society really are.

from:  Tony Francis
Posted on: Apr 22, 2013 at 10:50 IST

very true..rape is part of a much larger picture

Posted on: Apr 22, 2013 at 10:45 IST

a sex ratio below 900 in a society that has historically treated women
as slaves...well good luck!

from:  mayukh
Posted on: Apr 22, 2013 at 10:39 IST

A very well written article based on research findings. In a society swayed by the hype of digital media and the culture of immediate gratification, a sensible voice telling us to introspect and reform ourselves and our homes first, while we attempt reforming the society. And pointing to the only ray of hope, not just in case of rape and other crimes but, in all aspects of human life - to be more sensitive,
thoughtful and respectful ourselves in our thoughts and deeds and to impart and nurture the same in and towards people around us irrespective of their gender, caste, creed or social class.

from:  Sumit Roy
Posted on: Apr 22, 2013 at 10:04 IST

A very important piece of writing at this juncture....the all
pervasive violence on women and men and feudal power structures are
very much a part of the same problem.

from:  venkat
Posted on: Apr 22, 2013 at 09:40 IST

Brilliant piece! Waiting to see someone write holistically about violence and this is it.

from:  Bhaskar Mothali
Posted on: Apr 22, 2013 at 09:11 IST

Your assessment of the lack of data on policy correlations with effects is spot on. Data vacuum in India has for long hamstrung any real ability to evolve existing institutional practice. That being said I feel the American story should be taken with a grain of salt. While violent crime reduced across major metropolis in the 1990s, often the devil in the details, was over zealous incarceration of targeted ethnic groups and gentrification of neighborhoods forcing mass migrations into surrounding counties. This allowed for a seeming "averaging" out of crime statistics. Having lived in more than one low-income neighborhood in both India and the US, I have seen the violence first hand and also looked at the community for reasons for such. The failure of a justice and broader public service architecture is constantly at the forefront of our debates. But, what needs to be further highlighted is the trauma caused by poverty. The psychology and hopelessness in these communities are overbearing

from:  ritodhi chakraborty
Posted on: Apr 22, 2013 at 09:07 IST

What we is a bigger problem, we a need a army of Moral preachers to
eradicate this in the society.. it is a vicious circle..Yes law will
help in the short run.. but law cannot protect.. using law is more of
reactive approach to the problem. It will take time but the best way is
to Educate and restore a sense of Moral value in to our society.

from:  Varun
Posted on: Apr 22, 2013 at 08:57 IST

I hope more and more Indians accept logical thinking like the author. When tackling violence the first think people will suggest is ban alcohol and look people who have fun partying in low light. Sick community!! we just don't accept that we need to change. It is always someone else that needs to change for a better society. Hope we will out grow that mentality too..

from:  Nick
Posted on: Apr 22, 2013 at 08:54 IST

The argument makes sense, but violence has many forms and subtleties in India. The unseen violence imposed by economic travails in an upwardly mobile society where success and survival is closely linked to how much money you have is one such factor. Men who cannot manage to live within their means take out their frustration on their family members. Drinking and drug abuse induces violent behavior by men against women and children usually their family members. The vivid imagery of women as sexual objects in media bombarded with great effect through advertising and films also has it negative effect of men conforming their attitudes towards women. Finally, a great many in our society grow up witnessing violence at home or around us which legitimizes and induces violent behavior in us.

from:  Manish
Posted on: Apr 22, 2013 at 08:53 IST

When speeding vehicles don't and/or don't have to stop at a zebra
crossing for pedestrians to walk from one side of the road to the
other, we know how degraded and depraved our nations and its citizens
are. When fuel stations vend 900 millilitres or less and collect money
for 1,000 millilitres, we know how degraded and depraved our nation's
institutions are. When cars with red beacons and symbols of government
power routinely violate road rules, we know how degraded and depraved
our governance is. Rape signals the rotting of our core. It's no
surprise then that mothers no longer wish to give birth to daughters.
It's an intimidated society's response to its own cruelty, brutality
and beastliness.

from:  G Ramachandran
Posted on: Apr 22, 2013 at 08:37 IST

the Indian society needs reorientation in every field as per the
modern times. whole thing is very complex and there are no easy
solutions. but one thing is sure, the media has to take a major
responsibility in modernizing our society.
First we have to remember that India has missed renaissance,
traditionally we have a feeling of inequality, more than 50% of our
society was not allowed to read & write for centuries, the Indian
concept of secularism has tried to denigrate religions &
our traditions and the attitude of politicizing everything thing is
responsible for many of the ills our nation and society are facing. In
this context we have to change our whole attitude towards various
things and issues including women.
The media has to be more knowledgeable about basics of issues
otherwise we will continue to move in circles as has been happening
since independence and will lead to nowhere.
The rapes are happening all over the country so changing Delhi police
commissioner is no solution

from:  R. Pandya
Posted on: Apr 22, 2013 at 08:36 IST

Violence in guise of ragging was common when I went to college 25 years
ago in Tamil Nadu. I hope that has since changed. Still we were
immunised to watching a guy getting walloped physically.

from:  Chakravarti
Posted on: Apr 22, 2013 at 08:32 IST

Well said, Castration/Capital Punishment will never be a deterrent to
these crimes. We need Social Change. The change process which if
initiated now will take effect in two decades time.

The Criminal Law has been amended in 2013 and those Officials who have
not taken appropriate action in time will be dealt with. Protesting
against Government like the ones happening in Delhi time and again is
not healthy to our society.

from:  Joseph
Posted on: Apr 22, 2013 at 08:27 IST

Policy makers, social scientists,social activists and their ilk seem to be oblivious of the pithy
statement, " set right the Man and the world will be alright ". Religion took upon itself this role
for ages but these days religion is considered an unhealthy influence on the minds of the
public as against the influence of science and scientific studies. The writer wants the desired
change to start from the families. It would do well to monitor the mental pablum of the
general public because " what goes in, comes out ".

from:  G.Rajaram.
Posted on: Apr 22, 2013 at 08:22 IST

I am obliged to Nilanjana Roy for writing this informative and thoughtful article. Discussion of
violence towards men, particularly young boys, is practically a taboo in Indian society. No
wonder sexual assault against young boys are never reported though studies show that it is
as common as assaults on girls. That means, along with our sisters and daughters, our
young sons also suffer in silence. I hope it will become possible for our society to
acknowledge and prosecute acts of sexual crimes against our boys as we are recently
starting to do in the case of sexual assaults against women. Ms. Roy has history, research
and evidence on her side. Hopefully, we will all listen to her sound suggestions.

from:  Hoshiar Singh
Posted on: Apr 22, 2013 at 06:37 IST

What is immediately required to minimize incidences of rapes in the country is first the Home Minister should have serious concern and commitment and he should be accountable to people. He should place him as the parents of the victim.Secondly, why police in a majority of cases refuse bluntly to record FIR? When law is already there what the hierarchial police organization from the ground to the top has been doing? This shows, since the Home Minister is not having a concern, commitment and accountability, how police force will demonstrate that concern? Day in and day out several cases of rapes are reported by media but in rarest of the rare people agitate and demand action. How long people have to come out, leaving their job to earn livelihood, for this purpose. It is shame for the PM, HM,top executives in the Home Ministry,IGP/DGP, Ms Sonia, Ms Meira Kumar, Ms Sheela Dixit, Ms Shusma Swaraj, Ms Mayawati, Ms Jaylalita, Ms Mamta, among others.

from:  Dr Amrit Patel
Posted on: Apr 22, 2013 at 06:15 IST

It may look crude when everyone wants death sentence to be abolished,
but for rapists, terrorists, corrupt politicians,death sentence isthe
only answer in our country.

from:  S.Bala
Posted on: Apr 22, 2013 at 03:54 IST

Ms. Roy, Thank you for a wonderful insight into a complicated matter, but more than that
kudos for revealing the complexity. Many of my discussions with my peers have led me to
reflect upon the possible causes of such an atrocity by a male on a female. Before I proceed
to ramble my own thoughts, I want to state that your analysis of such voilence being
considered as isolated crime as one of the problems, is right on the target. I have on similar
lines maintained this behavior to be a psychological disorder. How can one explain this:
while the entire country is focused on one case of rape of a minor, not far away there is
another case happening - I can't explain this. To be able to do this, there needs to be
something awfully wrong with the person's brain. To come back to your words on the regard
of such voilence as isolated and facing the difference in thoughts from sympathy to apathy, I
wish there were more people like you in the visual media to avoid that from happening. -

from:  Raj Gosavi
Posted on: Apr 22, 2013 at 03:24 IST

Nilanjaa Roy touches only the fringes of the problem.
The bestiality in households in all communities, Hindus, Muslims orothers has been very prevalent. Rushdie mentions this in his Midnights Children.
Migration of young illiterate unskilled labour from their own home states to other states thousands of kms away gives rise to a sense of loneliness. That does not, by itself, justify bestiality which we have recently witnessed as in the violation of innocentchildren who do not even know what their body parts are.What a tragedy

from:  subbanarasu divakaran
Posted on: Apr 22, 2013 at 01:36 IST
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