For some time now I have been wondering aloud about the demonstrations that were held in Delhi and some other parts of the country. I understand candlelight walks expressing solidarity and regret, but I am unable to fully comprehend the reasons for the rest of the protests that targeted the Government. While I get the fact that the demonstrators want better safety for women and stricter implementation of the law and faster track courts to punish the perpetrators, what I am unable to get my head around is why the pot is calling the kettle black.
We are all part of a system today where the fear of the law has significantly diminished. When I was in my 20s, we were scared to run a traffic light…there was some shame attached to being caught by the cop and significant embarrassment if you had to bribe your way through and a lot of pain if you wanted to follow the actual course of law. This was also true in other spheres of life, whether it was concealment of income, embezzlement or murder. Rape unfortunately, was rarely discussed openly for a variety of social reasons.
Today, there is scant respect for the law, mostly because of the way it is enforced and partly because many of those currently in their 20s truly believe it doesn’t matter. When the system enforces drunk-driving laws strictly, we find that most people don’t drink and drive. But for all other traffic related offenses, no one bothers. Riding the wrong way or on the pavement or breaking traffic lights are issues so common place now that most people committing these offenses believe they aren’t doing anything wrong.
These are also pretty much the same people who want better implementation of rape-related laws.
Agreed that breaking traffic laws and committing rape are crimes of vastly different magnitudes and not really comparable. And if rapists were to know that when caught they would be tried within a year and sentenced and face extremely severe punishment, the incidence of rape might come down. Perhaps!
When there is a general lack of respect and fear of the law and most other public institutions, even with fast-track courts and speedy trials, it is unlikely that those who truly believe they can get away with almost anything will necessarily change.
It all starts with small things. Once you believe that you need not following traffic rules, at some point you believe that you can bribe your way through every income-tax, sales tax, customs and excise officer and then it is just one more step to more serious crime, if you have that bent of mind.
We are currently focusing on one specific issue and hiring 2000 judges to man fast track courts for rape victims and related crimes. Why can’t we do the same for other issues, so that people start believing that crime does not pay in this country? Until that happens, large masses of Indians will see no reason to follow the law of the land.
This is not to say that all those who break traffic lights are potential rapists. But if a situation were to arise, someone who is used to breaking traffic laws with impunity, instead of walking away, might just be tempted to go ahead. Those who have been protesting and demonstrating should make sure that they follow the law of the land in all aspects, not just the ones they want.
Everything is interlinked! Rape and abuse do not occur in a vacuum!