Haryana, Skewed Sex Ratio and the Politics of Rape

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What is wrong with Haryana? Around 17 gang-rape cases have been reported from the state within the past month. Instead of culprits being arrested and imposed with strictest of punishment, politics has ensued over the episodes of violence against women. It seems rape has become a major election subject in the state. True justice should be delivered to the victims, but not at the cost of politicians trying to gain electoral benefits by trivialising the whole issue of rape.

Every politician has something or the other to say on recent spate of rape incidents in Haryana. From bizarre to ridiculous, statements from political class smack of hypocrisy. All they are looking at is to appease a particular section or caste to benefit their vote bank. Sadly, no leader of our country is brave enough to provide safety and security to anxious women of the nation.

Politicians and their bizarre bytes

Haryana Women

Why Congress President Sonia Gandhi did not question the integrity of Bhupinder Singh Hooda government? Rather she refused to comment on Hooda government and its failure to provide a secure environment to women in Haryana. Many have also seen Sonia's recent visit to the state as a mere "political stunt". She went and met rape victims, but was clearly not sensitive enough when she said, "It is not just restricted to Haryana alone. It is happening everywhere across the country."

Moreover, Sonia tried her best to save Congress-government in the state and showed her utmost solidarity to Hooda. Asked about the Haryana government's "failure" in controlling such crimes that also involved many Dalit victims, Sonia said, "I have said what I had to say that such barbaric acts are condemnable."

But, Sonia is not alone to be blamed. Our politicians have always been insensitive towards women related issues. Otherwise, how could a senior leader like Om Prakash Chautala can endorse medieval ideas of Khap? Like the influential caste councils, Chautala also wants girls to be married off at an early age to control rising rape incidents. Is it not worst of statements to come out from a former chief minister? Does it not reflect the kind of treatment meted out towards womenfolk in India?

After Chautala, another politician has come out with an outrageous comment on rising rapes in the state. Congress spokesperson Dharambir Goyat has blamed the women and said that 90 per cent of rapes happen due to consensual sex. In a shocking and bizarre statement, the Congress leader said, "I don't feel any hesitation in saying that 90 per cent of the girls want to have sex intentionally but they don't know that they would be gang raped further as they find some lusty and pervasive people in the way ahead."

Now, isn't it indulging in cheap political stunt and trying to save Congress's government in the state by blaming the victims themselves?

Congress and Opposition and their stand on rising rape cases

Congress spokesperson Renuka Chowdhury's contention on Haryana's rising crime graph well depicts party's stand on rape.

"Why blame Haryana's Congress government?" asked Chowdhury. "Crime against women has risen. Not only in our country but all over the world. This is an issue that challenges all intelligent people," added Chowdhury.

Opposition parties are not lagging behind and have jumped into the fray as debate over rape incidents has started across the country.

In a press conference held shortly after Sonia's visit, the leader of the Opposition in Haryana, Om Prakash Chautala, said spending a few minutes with the victim's family and promising them money meant nothing.

"While women are being raped in the state every day, Sonia Gandhi, by spending 10 minutes with a victim's family, is shying away from the main issue," he said.

The Opposition leader also rubbished Sonia's argument that "such incidents (crime against women) happen all over the country", quoting government figures that suggested that rapes in Haryana, an average of two per day, outnumbered crimes of this nature anywhere else in the country.

BJP leader Balbir Punj said: "Chief minister Hooda should have been shown the exit door following the rise in atrocities against women in the state. Instead of politicising the sensitive issue, she (Sonia) should have pulled up the chief minister."

Some former Opposition ministers said that while several heinous crimes of a similar nature have been committed in Haryana, Sonia chose the particular household because both the victim and perpetrators belonged to the lower caste - Valmiki sect.

Caste and crime against women

Why is it that most of the rape victims in Haryana are Dalits? Does it depict the age-old tradition of violence and abuse used against people belonging to lower-caste by upper-caste in states like Haryana? Or, victims being Dalits are just a coincidence? But, such coincidences cannot occur so frequently.

Perhaps that is why the father of a 16-year-old Dalit girl in Dabra in Hisar, Haryana, had no other option but to commit suicide as he failed to get support from police and administration in nabbing the culprits. Another 16-year-old Dalit girl committed suicide after she was allegedly raped by a man in Sachcha Kheda village in Haryana's Jind district.

Abuse and discrimination meted on people because of their caste is not new in Haryana. It is an age-old tradition which they following diligently in 21st century also.

Time to denounce Khap and their diktats?

The Khap is a system of social administration and organisation in states like Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh since ancient times. Khap is a term for a social - political grouping and used in a geographical sense. Over the ages, Khap has metamorphosised into a powerful group and decides on several important issues in the society. Moreover, they enjoy great political clout.

The influential caste councils have always been in fore-front in deciding important social and political topics in rural areas of Haryana. In regard to rising rape cases in the state, Khap members have come out with a bizarre solution.

Khap panchayats want marriageable age limit should be abolished and girls should be married off as early as possible to decrease incidents of rape.

"Boys and girls should be married by the time they turn 16-year-old, so that they do not stray... this will decrease the incidents of rape," Sube Singh, a Khap representative, said.

Another Khap member said, "As soon as the children attain puberty, it is natural for them to have sexual desires but when these are not fulfilled, they stray... so there should not be any minimum age limit for marriage."

Thankfully, Sonia snubbed such diktats and said that Khap cannot decide law.

"Khap cannot decide law, it is in the hands of the judiciary," said Sonia.

Skewed sex ratio and violence against women

In 2011, a total of 733 rape cases were registered in Haryana. In the first six months of this year, 367 rape cases were reported. Experts say the rise in rape cases in Haryana is nothing but a clear indication of skewed sex ratio in the state.

The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) said that the spate of rapes in Haryana is a reflection of the adverse sex ratio in the state as well as the way females are treated in society. The Commission has demanded severe punishment for the rapists.

"Gender discrimination and caste discrimination is reflected in the adverse sex ratio in Haryana. It is reflected in the way girls are treated," Shanta Sinha, NCPCR chairperson, told a TV channel.

"There has to be a concerted action by civil society and the government at the highest level to see that such violence on girls is not perpetrated," she added.

The rising rape cases, experts say, are a result of low sex ratio - 830 girls for 1000 boys as per 2011 census. Also, there is a huge gender bias in the state and high incidences of foeticide contributing to the low sex ratio.

Why to call rising rapes in Haryana a shameful reality of the state only? Isn't it a collective shame of the entire nation where minors girls, married women, and even old widows are raped and abused, without any fear of being punished.

Such a tragic reality was well documented in a heart-numbing scene in the critically acclaimed film Matrubhoomi: A Nation Without Women, written and directed by Manish Jha, where Kalki (actor Tulip Joshi) was chained to a post in the cow shed and gang raped mercilessly night after night by village men.

Are we heading towards such bestiality by 2050 as depicted in the film?

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