Lindsay Pereira: We don't care about women

Updated: 21 April, 2018 06:29 IST | Lindsay Pereira | Mumbai

The fate of an eight-year-old girl reveals how desensitised we have become, and how unimportant women are to the land of Bharat Mata

Several people across the country protested against the rape and murder of the eight-year-old in Kathua. Pic/PTI
Several people across the country protested against the rape and murder of the eight-year-old in Kathua. Pic/PTI

Lindsay PereiraEveryone knows what happened to that 8-year-old girl in the town of Kathua. There has been enough written about how she was kidnapped, given sedatives, raped several times by different men for three days, then strangled and hit twice on the head with a stone to ensure she was dead. It's what happened months after this murder that should make us accept what we have suspected for years: India only pretends to care about women and the girl child.

Our indifference and hate was most obvious online, where armies of people emboldened by a government of bigots chose to question the girl's fate, then went to the extent of demanding justice for the men accused on the basis of their faith. We no longer pretend to care about the well-being of people as much as we care about religion. We no longer read what our religious texts say, but focus instead on attacking people who read other texts and bow to other gods. We no longer think about how a woman has been treated by men just like us, because the political beliefs of those men have become more important.

For a while, it seemed as if things would change, when a girl in Delhi was gang-raped. There were rallies, public walks for justice, a slew of hashtags, calls for punishment. The men accused of that heinous crime were jailed, and we went about our business. And yet, nothing has changed.

A week ago, a special court constituted under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act ordered an enquiry into incidents in which police officers allegedly intimidated a rape survivor while escorting her to and from the court. According to media reports, the girl was a victim of multiple sexual assaults as a 13-year old in 2012. She complained about officers trying to discourage her from testifying against the people who had assaulted her. Worse, she claimed the police refused to register an FIR and forced her to marry one of the accused instead. This news report was buried amid a number of other reports listing the daily atrocities perpetrated upon millions of people too poor to complain, or too unimportant to merit a walk for justice.

It boggles the mind just how much women in India have to put up with on an hourly basis, from the rampant sexism at work to the constant harassment on the streets. They don't have the luxury of choosing to wear anything they like, millions are prevented from eating what they want to on account of religious impositions, and even the people they must marry or live with are chosen for them. And yet, all of this is conveniently brushed under a carpet the minute a religious or political crisis erupts, because we supposedly belong to a land of peaceful cow-worshipping people, a land of Bharatiya Sanskriti that supposedly treats all women with respect, where a fictional being called Bharat Mata is invoked whenever we feel the need to proclaim our nationalism.

According to data from the National Crime Records Bureau, crimes against women in India increased 34 per cent over the last four years to 2015. The most widely reported crime was cruelty by husbands and relatives, which says a lot about how millions of men are raised to treat the women in their families. The rate of crime against women also went up from 41.7 to 53.9 between 2012 and 2015, and some believe this may have more to do with the fact that more women are reporting crimes against them. There was a five per cent increase in attempt to commit rape, four per cent increase in abetment of suicide by women, and 8 per cent increase in cases related to the protection of women from domestic violence. The most reported crimes against women in 2015 came from Uttar Pradesh (35,527), Maharashtra (31,126) and West Bengal (33,218). If this is data related to reported crimes though, it's staggering to try and imagine the statistics related to what is unreported on a daily basis.

The names creep into our collective consciousness and fade away quickly. Girls and women of all ages reduced to headlines and cast away as new horrific crimes are unearthed. It's time for us to stop pretending to care about the women of India. Because we don't.

When he isn't ranting about all things Mumbai, Lindsay Pereira can be almost sweet. He tweets @lindsaypereira. Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

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First Published: 21 April, 2018 06:13 IST

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