Hoshiarpur, now

Winds of change are blowing through Indian homes long stuck in patriarchy and preference for son, The Tribune reported yesterday, pointing to findings of the National Family Health Survey that the proportion of couples with only two daughters who accepted sterilisation has more than doubled over a 25-year period. The rigidity around the mindset is waning even in Punjab and Haryana, states that had gained notoriety for sex-determination tests in the fixation for a male child. It’s a positive reflection on the slow-but-sure transformation towards gender sensitisation and equal rights. That said, reality strikes home almost on a daily basis, be it the Hathras rape-murder case or that in Hoshiarpur. The circumstances may be different, the reaction of the law and order machinery may vary, but it is the frequency and severity of crime that is frightening and adds to the despair.

What every political functionary and member of the civil society should feel outraged over is the normalisation of criminality. Instead, the slugfest is reserved for who expressed what extent of rage over which rape or murder and in which state. Expecting the BJP not to react to the Hoshiarpur rape-murder would have been political naivety, but comparisons with the Hathras case are imprudent. The police in Punjab at least did not force the victim’s family to undergo a narco test. There was, unlike in Uttar Pradesh, no delay or obfuscation. But a heinous crime was committed. The trauma the child was subjected to and what the family will live with is indescribable. That should be the talking point, the trigger for winds of change.

The 2012 Nirbhaya case led to a host of reforms, but partial implementation and under-utilisation of the safety fund are huge drawbacks. The low conviction rate for rape cases, the increase in crimes against women, and insensitive-untrained first-responders are major problem areas. These ought to be subjects of every debate on such crime and punishment. The change that is sought is too slow, and too less.

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