Monday, April 22, 2013

An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind

I have recieved responses on my facebook and also on phone from people arguing passionaltely that the men raping women should be castrated, have their limbs amputated and tortured to put the fear of law in them. While I understand the anger and helplessness (these are precisely the thoughts that come to my mind when I read about these atrocities first thing in the morning) I feel we can not yield to mass histeria and turn into a barbaric country. The more severe the punishment, the more cautious are the courts in giving the punishment and such cases will always remain as rarest of rare cases with regular violence going on unabated. Do we wait for a molester to turn in to a rapist to act?

It is not the severity of the punishment but the immediacy, promptness and efficiency of meting out punishment that is important. Recently, I had two experiences of dealing with police. First was when I lost my wallet and wanted to lodge a complaint in the police station. I was asked the exact location where I lost the wallet as the complaint had to be lodged in the police station which has jurisdiction over that area.

The second is a sexual harrassment case in a college where a boy has been sending obscene messages to a girl. When the college complained to the police, the police put the fear of law in the mind of the ..... girl, presenting her a bleak picture of having to run around police stations and courts if she filed an FIR against her tormentor. Predicatably, the girl refused to file the complaint and the boy was let off by the college with a warning and an apology to the girl. And it was not his first offence. He was a repeat offender. Who is responsible if he indulges in a bigger crime?

If we want to stop violence against women we should have prompt action against violators and a social  dissaproval from the community. The man who raped the little girl, married the girl he raped under the orders from the Panchayat an he is also suspected in the rape and murder of his sister-in law. If only action was taken at the first instance, we would not have had to live with the image of the girl so brutalized by him.

But why do police not want to register cases? I think it has got to do a lot with performance appraisals which are based on absence of crimes in their area. Therefore. they would like to keep the figures low. I think it is time that police are evaluated on more qualitative indicators like the process of investigation, number of cases standing judicial scrutiny, number of cases where they worked with the community to address gender violence issues  etc. Incentivising these not just interms of money but also interms of awards and recognition may also help.

Once the community members are confident that the police will act and the offenders will be punished, there will be more people coming forward to file cases as well as support the police in investigations. Professionalizing the police force is the need of the hour along with addressing the larger social development issues that underpin the violence.

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