In India, women’s safety is a promise no one can keep
It was Mother’s Day recently and we couldn’t stop gushing in our seasonal tribute about our love and gratitude for our parent. The rest of the day, we patted ourselves on the back and declared ourselves super mommies who deserved their day in the sun or rather the spa.
But away from all the bleeding hearts and not too far away from the national capital, a mother spent the day watching her 10-year-old girl in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Days later, she continues to do so. There can’t be a bigger irony, because our declarations on social media don’t have a pulse on how easily and with complete blasé the mothers and their daughters across the country are being violently attacked and we seem incapable of stopping the cycle. The girl was repeatedly raped by her stepfather and is reportedly in a precarious condition. The doctors will decide if this child should be forced to keep her child.
In recent days, the newspaper headlines read like something out of a crime novel, and sadly most of us are now desensitised to the daily dose of violence. This incident in Rohtak town which is just two hours from Delhi may have remained just another statistic, except for the pregnancy of the girl. The state of Haryana in recent years has given us several sports champions including women, but seems incapable of shrugging its past, that of the land of skewed sex ratio where honour killings and infanticide are a reality more than a burden.
To avoid terminating a female fetus, abortion after 20 weeks is illegal in the country, as is sex determination cases. But time is running out for the little girl in Rohtak; she has four months to deliver and each passing day makes her health more vulnerable. But no matter the urgency, nothing moves forward unless a commission or a committee sits down. So now a panel of doctors will decide her fate and life, and of her child.
Unless the delivery in itself is a health risk, is there even a debate?
These past few days have been Rohtak’s week of shame. The pregnancy of the child became public barely a few hours after the mutilated body of a 23-year-old was found in a vacant plot in the same town. The victim had reportedly been gang-raped by seven men and if that wasn’t heinous enough, her head had been smashed and a vehicle ran over her. Furthermore, dogs had eaten away her face and lower body. It is believed that even the police were stunned to see the condition of the young woman’s body.
It is no longer about just respect for women, although the centuries-old fascination with the male heir that remains so deeply entrenched in our mindsets contributes to the male depravity that no longer seems to know any bounds. How deep-rooted this thinking is, can be judged by what politician Mulayam Singh once said on rape,
“Boys will be boys, they make mistakes.”
Families are still looked down upon if they don’t deliver a son and our erstwhile royals are known to re-marry for the same reason.
But the biggest deterrent continues to be the lack of swift justice. In the high profile Nirabhya case, where a girl was gang-raped in a moving bus and her body destroyed beyond hope, the Supreme Court upheld the death sentence for four of the perpetrators. But five years after the incident, as the court had said created a ‘tsunami of shock’. The fifth person involved, who was perhaps the most aggressive, is now out because he was a juvenile.
When the verdict was announced, all those in court broke out into applause, but in the time that it took for justice to be delivered, countless men became more emboldened and numerous women became their victims. We can continue to debate corporate punishment, but can one rehabilitate men who hit the head of a woman against a rock and then drive their car over her body?
So, Mother’s Day makes little sense when a 10-year-old daughter is pregnant and fighting for her life or a 23-year-old daughter has been mauled beyond recognition. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Beti bachao beti padao’ (Save the girl, educate the girl) will always remain a pipedream because those who are mentally debauched, continue to hit the ground running and fearlessly escape. The safety of women is a promise no one seems to be able to keep. Like in the Nirbhaya case, the men who attack may be finally punished but it is always too late. Our memory span seems to be quite short.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.