As yet another girl of an Uttar Pradesh village succumbs to the brutal physical torture that she was subjected to following her gang-rape in a field where she was working, it is clear that there is a long road still ahead towards purging our culture and psyche of the deeply embedded toxicity of male dominance. The case mirrors a typical caste-ridden patriarchal setup that bestows a sense of entitlement on a certain section of men and engenders the objectification of women. The horrific act is characterised by the age-old features: upper-caste youths assaulting a Dalit woman and inflicting fatal injuries on her. Equally archetypal is the fact that the delay in the arrest of the beastly perpetrators of the crime, who brazenly threaten the victim’s family against speaking out. That the authorities jailed them only five days later — after the shocking case sparked public outrage — flies in the face of the much tom-tommed laws for the prevention of sexual assault on women that were tightened after the 2012 Nirbhaya rape-murder.
When the convicts in the Nirbhaya case were hanged to death as an exemplary punishment in March this year, her mother’s reaction was: ‘Women now will feel safe.’ Sadly, the string of cases since then bears out that our daughters remain vulnerable to violence as ever, as sexual offenders and predators are not deterred enough. The two separate incidents of violent sexual assault on two adolescent girls, followed by the killing of one of them in mid-August in Uttar Pradesh, are fresh in memory.
Clearly, a two-pronged approach is needed to take on this reprehensible evil. Foremost, the boys have to be sensitised towards respecting girls as equal partners and with agency of their own, both at home and in school. Secondly, the law enforcement system, particularly in UP, must be made accountable by punishing cops for dragging their feet. The government had last September proposed to set up over 1,000 fast-track special courts to dispose of the nearly 1.66 lakh pending cases of crime against women and children. Till the social prejudice that devalues women is not rooted out, it is not quite a country for women.