We won against polio, why can't we do it against rape?

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Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said at the launch of National Immunisation Day Polio Round 2013 recently that India has completed two full years without a single case of wild polio virus. The minister said despite all the difficulty, the government will fight polio for the risk of the disease continues as long as the wild polio virus exists. The Indian government has also drawn up an emergency plan to deal with the case of polio importation.

The minister said under the plan, a case of polio virus found in any corner of the country will be treated as a public health emergency and Rapid Response Teams will be deployed to respond effectively to handle the situation. Azad asserted that the focus was on vulnerable migrants, young children and people who live in adverse conditions. Each and every child, no matter how distant it is, is being aimed to be guarded against polio, he said.


In the 1980s, somewhere between 2 to 4 lakh children aged under 5 years were annually found to be paralysed by polio. In 1988, the country joined the global effort to eradicate the endemic and in February 2012, the World Health Organisation (WHO) removed India from the list of polio endemic nations. If no new polio case is reported by next year, the country will be officially declared polio-free. On January 20, the nationwide immunisation round started against polio began. India spent about Rs 1,000 crore every year since 2000 and is aware that the contagious wild polio virus does not enter its territory from neighbouring countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan, which have not yet eradicated the disease.

India's record against polio has been splendid no doubt. But while one endemic has been proudly dealt with, another has come to engulf the nation. the second one is a social endemic and it is called rape.

Rape is indeed turning into an endemic in this country and can not be just set aside as statistics only. Th national capital is turning into a graveyard for women with various other parts in close pursuit. The country's media created a huge uproar recently over the brutal rape and assault of a young paramedic student in a moving bus in New Delhi. The victim could not overcome the horrific injuries that were inflicted by the pervert assailants and died at a hospital in Singapore after two weeks.

The incident saw a massive flare-up in the capital and saw authorities both indulging in crackdowns on the angry protesters and also engaging in talks with them. The legal proceeding that followed the case saw immense importance attached to it.

The administrative-legal-political circles were rattled by this barbaric crime against women but the bottomline remained that India continued to be unsafe for women as ever. We saw protests and police retaliation and endless oral dyarrhoea from insenstitive and chauvinist individuals, mostly politicians, promise from the home ministry to check crime against women but nothing really improved on the ground. Rape went on in the Indian society, across the spectrum. We think dresses provoke rapists because our mindset hasn't been liberated. If dresses are the only reasons for rape, then why are minors raped?

We recently saw a horror surfacing in Goa where a minor student was raped inside the school and was left shivering in the toilet. Where are we heading?

If we understand the threat that polio poses to us, then why not rape? May be the problem is that the anti-polio drive is more an institutionalised initiative, which is difficult to take against rape. To prevent rape, our social mindset has to change, something which is creating a huge problem when it comes to eradicate polio in a country like Pakistan.

The pathetic institutional response to the victims of sexual assault in our society allows the perpetrators of the crime gain confidence to escape law. The victims, on the other hand, bear humiliating remarks (Why are you crying? you have only been raped!) and actions (two-finger test). Such a pathetic approach when it comes to deal with crime against women has left us an ashamed lot.

Just like the emergency approach that Azad spoke about to curb polio, why isn't there uniform national standards and protocol for treating victims of sexual assault or mechanism to make the police and doctors to handle such sensitive cases with care? The health ministry has at least though out an improved protocol that rules out questions whether the rape victim is 'habituated to sex' but still the therapeutic care needs to be more standardised. Why is the aspect of human rights overlooked in such cases where humanity is murdered?

No one has a clue how about India can cope to this menace, which is turning increasingly threatening. Even a police officer gets killed in today's india while trying to protect his daughter's dignity. We feel angry but yet helpless. There is something more than polio that has left us paralysed today.

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