New Delhi, March 19: Is the Indian government serious about handling the anti-rape bill? The authorities have lost precious time in introducing the bill as three months have passed since the horrific gangrape in Delhi stirred up the nation and put the rulers under great pressure to initiate law to curb crime against women.
But debates on age of consent for sex or whether marital rape should be considered a criminal offence or not say that the Indian mind is still to overcome a considerable distance before settling its fragmented perception of sex and the reality which surrounds it.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi said the law has to be passed by March 22. The law can be rushed through for political convenience but will the mind come off age so early? One feels apprehensive that through pushing these laws, we are going to create a rigid gender division in our society that might challenge the very basic rule of nature that 'opposite sex attracts'.
Why don't we broaden our view at the moment of rectifying our vision? Sexual crime is not something which occurs just when the roads are empty at night or when a girl's skirt is too short. The roots of such crimes which we are struggling to curb despite a powerful police force and existent laws is because they are deeply entrenched in our minds.
Stricter laws means strengthening the hands of the police and the judiciary but are we intending to cause a bigger harm by focusing only on the police aspects? May be yes.
Many politicians in the Lok Sabha while the House was dealing with the bill spoke on factors which encourage crime against women. They include: mobile phones, internet, condom advertisements, reality shows and what not.
And take this. One Samajwadi Party MP, while saying that it's women's sense of wearing clothes which is the reason for all problems, even told Jayaprada, the actor-turned-politican?: "Jayaprada ji, I have seen you films. I watch them...," leaving the dresses that the latter had worn in her film to the imagination.
Another MP said all things western were responsible for the crime against women. Did he mean that the Swiss woman, who was gangraped in a forest in Madhya Pradesh, was responsible for the tragedy?
It is very, very difficult for this country to get rid of crime against women no matter how much strict laws are made because our very mindset on this issue is largely loose. We have not cared to arrest the moral degeneration and not law but a reform in terms of education and moral training can only help us achieve the target.
On Monday, the Swiss Ambassador to India expressed his disappointment that India did not take care of this aspect despite being a great country and this one-liner, although disappointing, says it all. We have not taken care of the basics.
The legal initiative on rape and crime against women are being taken only because of the Delhi incident which had shaken the whole country. The law-makers did not make a move till a major ruckus engulfed the streets of the capital. The death of the gangrape victim had fuelled the anger further and had she survived, the initiative might not have thus far.
Rapes have been continuing across the country and there is little hope that they will decrease once the tough laws come into effect. Will these laws keep a poor rural woman informed that she is better equipped while going out for nature's call before the sunrise? Will these laws shield a raped woman from undergoing humiliating tests to confirm that she had indeed been raped? Will these strict norms tell the police officers or doctors to handle a victimised woman with care?
The domain of gender crime is not just limited to what's the age of having sex or what happens when a boy stalks a girl. A comprehensive approach is required for the betterment of the ground reality. We have taken a step. It's welcome. But we need to keep working to improve the living conditions for women. It's a long process and will take time.
Do the vote-mongers have time in their hand?