ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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More Outrage, Less Action

By scaling down the number of rape crisis centres, the government stands exposed.

The raging controversy over the banning of the documentary film India’s Daughter by British documentary film-maker Leslee Udwin, which focused on the 16 December 2012 gang rape in Delhi, has revived the discussion around rape in India. Yet the discussion around the government’s decision to ban the film in India, and around the world (a preposterous demand), overlooked the central issue that still waits to be addressed. Instead of arguing about the merits of this one film, we should have been discussing why, despite changes in the law, the incidence of rape continues to grow and the conviction rate remains abysmally low — a mere 27% in 2013. Instead of being surprised and repelled by the despicable attitudes of the defence lawyers interviewed in the film, we should have asked, what is being done to change male attitudes? And we should have questioned why at every stage when sexually assaulted women turn to the criminal justice system, it continues to fall so short, from the response of the police to the way rape cases are conducted in the court.

Not only were these questions not asked but unfortunately, the unrepentant and misogynist statements of the convicted rapist Mukesh Singh in the film fuelled renewed demands for death penalty for rapists. These coincided with the 5 March 2015 tragic public lynching and death of an Assamese Muslim man accused of raping a Naga woman in Dimapur, Nagaland. Within hours of this there were calls for summary justice for rapists by some members of the ruling party and others. Once again, instead of addressing the complexities of dealing with violence against women, we reinforced the popular belief that the delivery of death (even better if public) is the best preventive medicine.

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