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Gang rape of school student in Shimla: How little things have changed

Shaguna Gahilote
Shaguna GahiloteJul 21, 2017 | 15:57

Gang rape of school student in Shimla: How little things have changed

We only wake up to brutality, to crime, to rape. We don’t make any efforts to understand or resolve it. We’ve become a country of stopgap arrangements. We look for instant solutions and then get back to our lives after the heat of the moment has passed. Never curing it in totality. Never addressing it to the core.

You can see this in all walks of life. We don’t produce any good research, we only copy ideas. All our products and solutions are bought and borrowed from the West and the East. We only generate short-term remedies. We don't create indigenous approaches to our local problems. We go around potholes and remember them while manoeuvring our vehicles on those roads. We don’t fill them, instead accuse the government for doing nothing.

We’ve learnt to live by. And that is why we deserve what we get. We are not a country of lasting solutions, short-term respite is good for us.

Every state saw rape cases after the Nirbhaya incident of December 16, 2012, some reported others not, some filed others not, some solved others not, some as brutal while others not. But the outrage was only limited to December 2012,when the whole world spoke about it, from the UN to the locals. What after that? Did we focus on finding the cause and working towards a long-term solution?

rape1_072117033440.jpgRape, like somebody rightly pointed out, is not about sex. It's about violence. (Credit: Reuters photo for representational purpose)

After a generous sprinkling of cases across the country, today we stare at a similar incident in Himachal Pradesh, the brutal rape and murder of a Class 10 girl. Her "mistake", that she believed that her village was a safe place and that she was old and strong enough to cover the distance from her school to home alone.

What she didn't know was that the world is out there to prove girls like her wrong. They’d like to challenge their freedom, their free-thinking, their success, their education and put them down to being just creatures to procreate.

The anger that Himachal Pradesh feels today is what Delhi felt in 2012, it hits one most when it’s closer home. Himachalis are feeling let down as their pain is not reverberated among the powers of Delhi or covered as widely in the national media. Delhi on its part, did its bit in 2012, and got on with its business of life.

The city did not become any safer, nor the number of rape cases any fewer or less brutal. What instead happened was that it all became a part of their lives. Women were uploaded with instructions; phones downloaded with apps and those who could afford bought cars and scooters in the name of safety.

What still didn’t change was our own value system, our mindset, our view of women, their objectification, especially in films and advertising. Our obsession for a male child did not change, including in places like Himachal, which now has private vans providing sex-determination in the interiors of the state.

Himachal not only reduced the number of girls against boys in their gender index, but also put them at risk. In times to come, the girls will not only face assault in open spaces outside their homes but will be in a greater danger within the four walls of their own houses.

What also didn’t change was our mentality that boys would look after us in old age and cremation at their hands would open the doors of heaven. Dowry has only found stronger roots in our cultural landscape and domestic violence greater acceptance.

The number of women in the workforce has spiralled down, the glass ceiling is still a reality and salary parity remains a distant dream.

How can then one expect the status of women to improve. How can then cases like "Nirbhaya" or "Gudiya" ever be a thing of the past?

Rape, like somebody rightly pointed out, is not about sex. It's about violence. It’s not an attack on an individual woman’s body but an attack on women’s status and their flight.

Our we-know-it-all attitude doesn’t work anymore; it's time we invest to understand what triggers rape and the many manifestations of violence. When and why it starts and where can it be nipped.

The Nirbhaya fund for long was put to no use. We need it now to undertake in-depth research at universities, enroll psychiatrists in mohalla clinics and offices where people can go and talk about their problems. Organise sensitisation programmes in schools for both girls and boys including topics such as life in jail and crime and its consequences.

The society needs to check its "boys" when it sees them eve-teasing, cat-calling and disrespecting. Like I said in an earlier article let’s have conversations with our sons.

Instead of defending and protecting them, check them and stop them while it's still not late.

Solving each case individually and taking the perpetrators to justice alone won’t help. Some might even challenge death penalty as it leads to murder after rape. The increase in lynching and trolls is only adding to a wider acceptability of a culture of violence in our society.

We need to stop treating these cases as isolated incidents and instead join the dots and look at the bigger picture, bringing in holistic solutions. Slogan-raising and on-paper programmes need to transform into changes in society.

Unless we progress culturally, we will not be able to make a safe haven for our women. And it’s not just for the government to fill these potholes, it’s we who need to cover and seal the ones that we see in front of us.

Last updated: July 21, 2017 | 15:57
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