Violence against Women: IS ANYONE LISTENING?

Will gender equality and justice remain a hollow claim or will there be a sincere effort to make them real?

Umakant New Delhi 

The brutal gang-rape and the attempted murder of a 23 year old young woman in a moving private bus in the night on December 16, 2012 in South Delhi came as a bolt from blue and even numbed the sensitivity of every right thinking person. While recovering this numbness, the students from Jawaharlal Nehru University mustered enough courage to speak out against this barbaric act of rape and attempted murder by leading a massive protest at the Vasant Vihar Police Station on December 18, 2012 and blocked the traffic for couple of hours in Munirka in South Delhi. On not getting any reasonable and satisfactory assurance from the Police, the students continued with regular protests at India Gate, Safdarjung Hospital and even near the seats of power- the President House, Prime Minister’s Office, Ministry of Home Affairs and so on. Women organisations, students both boys and girls from several other places joined the protests and have continued to fight pitched battles with Delhi Police.  The fight with a war cry “We Want Justice” goes on. The spontaneous and largely leaderless protests in the capital city may or not continue, but it has certainly jolted the Government and the entire country. Its effectiveness further would be tasted how much pressure it is able to mount on the Government to commit to bring in measures in principles and also in practice to end violence against women.   

The spontaneous protests after the brutal gang rape in Delhi has galvanised similar protest though not in the same manner at several other places in different parts of the country. However, rape cases are being reported at regular intervals from Delhi and other States. The brutality with which rape and other kinds of violence happens against women not only highlights the failure of the criminal justice administration in the country, but also testifies to the fact about moral/ethical and cultural decay and insensitivity on gender issues in the society at large. But most importantly it is also an opportunity to make an honest and sincere assessment about the status of criminal justice administration system as practiced in the country and an attempt to find out whether ending violence against women and girl child is a priority or not? Will gender equality and justice remain a hollow claim or will there be a sincere effort to make them real? 

Taking a suo motu cognisance of this brutal rape on 19 December 2012 the Delhi High Court decided to monitor its probe by directing the Police to carry a "high standard" investigation and file the charge-sheet only after the court's perusal. "None of the details we sought have been mentioned. The bus couldn't be detected for 40 long minutes so we asked who were the policemen on duty on the route who manned the barricades and PCR vans? When we had asked specific questions why the report is evasive?". Standing orders were passed on to Delhi Police on 21 December 2012 to report on 9 January 2013 with all the detailed information that the Court had sought from the Police and ensure forensic examination in the crime be "expeditiously conducted by experts" since in many cases delay in DNA and CFSL reports affects the prosecution case.