Thursday, 25 October 2012

Agony and redress for molestation & rape of women in Haryana

Haryana rocked by rapes
Time for social reform movement
by D.R. Chaudhry
A large number of rape cases in Haryana in the recent past have rocked the state. Since September 9, when a Dalit girl in a village in Hissar district was gang-raped, as many as 21 rape cases have occurred in the state. 

As stressed editorially in The Tribune (October 10), “Instead of hiding behind some data, the callous bureaucrats should read the fine print behind crimes against women and treat them with sensitivity.” It further emphasises the point (October 11) by pointing out that “you will find the entire discourse of the state and the law and order machinery revolving around seeking justification for such crimes…When such insensitivity exists among those who are supposed to take care of the vulnerable sections of society, it explains why crime against women continues to be on the rise.”
It is an open secret that the law-enforcing agencies in Haryana have become dysfunctional and are amenable to all kinds of socio-political pressures and economic allurements. One cannot expect speedy action from this decrepit structure against criminals. This understanding drove the father of a girl, a victim of gang-rape in Hissar district, and a similarly placed girl in Jind district to commit suicide.

The quality of the administrative structure in Haryana, undoubtedly, has contributed to the menace of mass rapes in the state. However, its roots are deeper and the problem needs sociological analysis to grasp the essence of the phenomenon. Haryana is a male-dominated society with strong patriarchal structures. Woman has always been treated as an inferior creature here. The common male perception about women in Haryana’s rural hinterland is very painful. There are many adages denigrating woman popular in the folklore in the state. If a woman tries to argue to stress her individuality she is dubbed as one whose “sir phir gaya hai” (her mind has gone astray). The male often says, “Jo jiada bolti hai wohi pitati hai (the one who speaks too much gets beaten up).

The highly skewed sex ratio in Haryana is an important contributory factor. Haryana’s record in this respect is the worst not only in India but also in the whole world. Even Sub-Saharan African countries often afflicted with civil war, epidemics and famine have a better record than Haryana. According to the 2011 census, the child sex ratio in Haryana is 830 girls for 1,000 boys. Many a youth has to bear the curse of chronic bachelorhood. In every big village in Haryana there are several hundred young men with no prospect of getting married. To meet this deficit the girls are bought from distant places and sold in Haryana. They are mere commodities to satiate male lust.
Unemployment has further added woes to the youths. The failure of law and order machinery, the pain of bachelorhood and unemployment make a lethal cocktail which has thrown up a large number of lumens in society for whom crime is a major occupation, especially with regard to women. Some khap leaders in Haryana have suggested a novel solution to deal with the problem. Lower the age of marriage and the problem would disappear. The suggestion is bizarre, to say the least. A six-year-old girl was gang-raped in Gurgaon recently. Should the girls aged six be married off?

A good number of the girls raped so far are teen-agers. There are instances of married women raped by married men. In Kaithal district, a five-month pregnant woman was raped by two men. In the Hissar rape case, four of the rapists are married. Early marriage involves the risk of early childbirth which causes death of many such mothers, according to the Human Rights Watch.
The khap panchayats claim to be the custodians of social morality. On the slightest deviation from the marital norms set by them, they have been organising the social boycott of families and often creating mass frenzy resulting in the cases of honour killings. Why don’t they apply the same standard to deal with rapists in the state? By following their logic, they should have banned the entry of the rapists in their respective villages and approached their families to disown them, failing which such families should have been ostracised.

The argument of lowering the marriageable age on grounds of girls reaching the biological age at 15 or 16 tends to put the blame on the girls for their rape. On reaching the biological age they are supposed to invite the male for fornication which later on is passed off as rape. One Congress leader has lent weight to this argument by suggesting that 90 per cent rapes in the state are consensual.

This worldview is in tune with the recent decision of some khap panchayats in western UP prohibiting girls from using mobile phones, wearing jeans, going to market alone, etc. Lowering the marriage age would deprive the girls of higher education and jobs. This is what the khaps want, to make the girls galley slaves in the four walls of their houses.
A holistic approach is needed to tackle the problem in its totality. The present development model based on GDP, FDI, etc, and building some industrial hubs which are fast becoming unmanageable monstrous habitats — Gurgaon provides an apt illustration — leaving the bulk of the population languishing in poverty and squalor has to be given up. The crisis in agriculture has to be tackled to make small landholding so viable as to provide occupation to a family’s youths by diversifying it through setting up cottage and agro-industries and promoting dairy and animal husbandry and other agriculture-related activities.

Unfortunately, the state is depriving peasants of their traditional occupation without providing any alternative, especially in the NCR region. Peasants in this region these days can be heard complaining: “Sarkar hamare khood bikwane par tuli huai hai” (the government is bent upon selling off our land.) The nexus involving land speculators, builders and property dealers on the one hand and our political and bureaucratic elite on the other is too evident now to need elaboration. This would prove ruinous in times to come.

The law and order agencies must be whipped to shed off their complacence and corrupt practices. Over and above all this, the problem relates to civil society, which is at present fragile in the state. Haryana needs a powerful social reform movement to confront and overturn its patriarchal structures. This is a challenge to all those who are genuinely worried at the present state of affairs in the state.
(Accessed from www.tribuneindia.com on 25 Oct. 2012 at 1420 hrs.)
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In response to above article the following response was sent to The Tribune via e-mail for consideration of publication but it seems to have been rejected. Hence its reproduction here for kind perusal by friends and followers:


Molestation of women preventable
only through emancipation


I couldn’t have expected Prof. D.R.Chaudhry to be as non-descript and inconspicuous in building tangible arguments followed by lack of effective and feasible solutions than in his article (Haryana rocked by rapes –time for social reform movement, in The Tribune, Oct.19, 2012). Instead of fetching socially feasible plans, the article has atoned itself as another piece of accusation on political and administrative machinery and attempts to singularly holding deficient governance to intervene into intangible matters. Does Prof Chaudhry mean that the political masters should start harshly intervening into the intangible lives of the people through the ‘brutish’ police force and ‘insensitive’ district officers? Are these professional bodies so naïve as couldn’t see the design of a ‘rapist’ or his accomplice in addition to reading the mindset of those that may commit a ‘honor killing’ sometime in the future. Culling news items from daily papers and compiling only those facts, figures and responses in a selective and purposeful manner as could enable an author to easily advance his point of view is the job of novices and not of person having the status of Prof Chaudhry. One cannot take Folklore as an express statement about the status of women in Haryana, in perpetual submission and secondary to masculinity.  With education and good teachers we could have transformed the male attitude and status of womanhood in Haryana. Regularly putting Haryana into awful light on grounds of rapidly occurring incidents of rape, honor killing, land scams, deficiency of governance looks as if the media-scanner is more forceful than the individual culturing and enhancement in so many other sectors such as sports, IT, teaching, health, apparel designing, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, nutrition, automobiles and marketing. If our women remain uneducated, unhealthy, physically weak, confined to homes and timid good governance and even a vigil police cannot prevent rapes and honor killings. And, never through Prof Chaudhry’s assailing suggestions, I feel. As preventive medicine, our socially relevant interventional strategies have to be planned through brainstorming sessions by social activists, high profile teachers and professional, which could be implemented with full steam for a period of at least two decades through the joint mechanism put in place by Khaps, Universities, NGOs and the media. We have the Bibipur model before us that need to be streamlined and pursued with vigor for better results. By the way, are we really interested in framing a policy for woman’s emancipation?

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