Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Curbing RAPE

The recent horrendous gang rape incident in Delhi has again brought people together in large groups. There are protests across the country. It is really heartening to see so many people coming together and raising ruckus in Raisina Hill. It reminds me of the mass gathering during Anna Hazare’s round one. Sadly, all this enthusiasm will die down soon.
In the last couple of days, this is all I have been seeing in the papers, blogs and all TV channels are discussing it non-stop. I am however amazed at the tangential thoughts of various people and shallow oratory approach to this horrific deep issue. Capital punishment? Yes, why not! But that will only happen when we manage to convict people. That will happen when we are able to establish a crime has been committed. That will happen when a suspect is caught and the evidence is handled properly. That will happen when the courts give dates. That will happen when the victim is able to lodge a FIR. A solution to this problem will not appear with the swish of Dumbledore’s wand.
Rape as an issue needs to be handled from a heterogeneous perspective.  We have to find a long term deterrent solution to curb these incidences. Yes, curb not eradicate because crimes will still be committed. The aim should be to improve the statistics and lower the incidences, to make the society safer for women and children. What we need today is for various segments of the society, government and legal and enforcement agencies to come together to address the issue and find a lasting resounding answer not some stop gap arrangement or fire fighting in the short term.
There are few broad areas where a lot of attention is needed.
1.     Police Force
a.       We need more women cops at all levels. Every police station should have atleast 30% women force and officers of both genders at each rank. These women should be in the station 24 X 7 so that women can enter any police station without any fear or apprehension. Filing FIR should be a straight forward process. No questions asked, no bias, no judgment. Everything has to come out of detailed investigation.
b.      There has to be hard core accountability for the police force. Today, police is often accused of sloppy handling of cases or insensitivity towards complainants. There is a need for a mechanism where even the police persons should be aware that a sword dangles around their neck for not acting “appropriately”.
c.       These people need long term focused sensitivity training. They should learn to do their jobs and not judge people on the basis of caste, creed, gender, sexual orientation, social position or the clothes they wear. This is a difficult proposition because it is deeply affected by point 6 – culture.
d.      Making the job prestigious. Joining the police force should be a strong prerogative of our younger generation. We need more educated people in various ranks of the police force. People who are intent on making a positive difference. The entire recruitment, promotion, career path etc need to be revamped. We have to modernize the force entirely.
2.      Science and Technology
a.       Forensics! Look at the technology that is being used in other countries. We need strong forensics personnel. Even the course offered in universities and colleges need to be revamped. How many police stations are equipped to handle swabs etc after a rape has been committed to secure vital evidence? How many technicians are available in each city to collect DNA samples and process them? How many laboratories exist in the country for such crimes?
b.      Technology like close circuit cameras etc should be increased to improve the response time amongst the police force as well as crime scene technicians or specialists.
c.       Vehicles also need tracking system to help in detection in case of a crime. There is technology available, only it needs to be more accessible and cost – effective.
d.      Regular audits should be done to check adherence to protocol and effectiveness of the process. Fire drill is not the only thing. Preparedness to respond to a rape crime can also be a regular drill.
e.       People should be made aware how easily they can be caught if they have committed a crime. It is a huge deterrent.
3.     Legal Framework
a.       Capital punishment or death is not a solution. Punishment should be commensurate to the crime. A rape victim does not die physically; she suffers her pain every living day of the rest of her life. The equivalent punishment is lifelong (till death) incarceration in solitary confinement and no reprieve, no pleas, absolutely nothing! Chemical castration is also an alternative and the convicted criminal should be publicly identified through media. The records of such people should be made available in public through directories. Everywhere the person goes; people should be able to identify him (them).
b.      Government has to work on changing the laws and making them more effective. The country is still clinging on to century old laws and making random amendments. It is time for total revamp!
c.       The focus should be on fast track handling of these cases on highest priority (other than terrorism) and immediate punishment. The laws should be straight forward and clear. The punishment should be exemplary. How many people would go to Saudi Arabia and commit adultery or carry drugs?
d.      The price that one has to pay for raping another individual should be publicly announced and notified. Every person in this country should be aware of their rights and punishment. There has to be strong incentive for the enforcers for successfully closing legitimate cases in record time.
e.       Most important is that people should know that they WILL be caught if they commit a crime and then they WILL have to pay a hard price. Criminals in this country should be hunted down and punished with public declaration of their fate.
4.     Psychological Counseling
a.       There is a very negative attitude in our country towards counseling. It is looked down upon and people never wish to speak about it in the open. There are very little avenue for people to make use of these specialized services.
b.      We need support groups. These are the networks which allow victims to open up and speak, reduce their pain and learn how to take control of their lives and achieve. These groups can help embed the victims back into the society with renewed purpose and drive their ambitions.
c.       Counseling should be available for people in general and it should be encouraged. Many crimes can be averted if people get timely help and medical intervention to handle their condition.
5.     Safety
a.       Many crimes occur with women traveling alone at night. Companies should have more secure transport facilities for their employees. Human resource teams should work with employees to understand their issues, group them and find appropriate solutions.
b.      More women cab drivers from airports and railway stations would be a boon. There is a wide opportunity for entrepreneurs to focus into this segment.
c.       Youngsters, college going crowd, women in general need to build their own safety net. There is no harm in going to a party, but try to return in groups instead of alone. Let friends and family know about whereabouts. Yes, it is the job of the law enforcers and government to protect us, but we also need to take initiative to address the issue. Everyone needs to pitch in. 
6.     Society and Cultural Transformation
a.       The toughest and the most important area that needs attention is social and cultural transformation. Our attitude towards a patriarchal society where men are always alpha is the root cause of this rape issue. Unless people in our homes change their attitude and approach, much of the above changes will never occur. We have to transform our thought process and evolve.
b.      The burgeoning population of this nation is the biggest cause. The number of law enforcers per thousand is very less. It is also difficult to detect criminals in such huge and migrant population where we do not have proper identification system. Look at the state of the UID project.
c.       Education, employment and economic development are other areas which will have long term impact in curbing the issue of rape. As society progresses, people become more adherent to laws and social conformation. With education and jobs, they have better purpose in life rather than engaging in such violent thoughts and action.
d.      Quite often there are instances of people in important position making comments about women instigating men to behave in the manner they do because of the way they carry themselves or the clothes that they wear. We have become too prejudiced and judgmental. Everything has to fit in a template that appeals us. In which universe is a saree conservative to a pair of jeans and t-shirt? What we fail to understand is that no woman wants such heinous behavior against them under any circumstances!  
Simply gathering large masses and demonstrating is not going to solve the issue. People need to introspect and understand the causes, the enablers. Rapes will continue to be committed unless dealt with gravely. It is time for all walks of the society to wake up and act intelligently. The woman who is getting raped is not a statistic or someone we just read in the papers. You never know when it can hit closer to home.
It is going to be a long drawn prospect to devise a solution but steps have to be initiated rapidly. Every solution can be broken down into three parts – short, medium and long term. Let us start with the short term solutions. Make small achievements, reach small milestones. Create a sense of direction for people. It is time for action and not careless remarks on talk shows!
Maybe, for 2014 elections, people will look for every party’s actionable plan towards curbing rape in the election manifesto. We are too tied up with food, water, housing, jobs and electricity. There are other important matters that need attention. But then again first we have to vote responsibly! And now I am deviating and that is a different discussion altogether! Be safe!

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