The Indian media is currently 24/7 focused on a young girl who was gang-raped on a moving bus and is now fighting for her life. She was beaten, stripped and thrown out of the bus along with her friend by the five accused in this case. Indian media, politicians, citizens and netizens alike are protesting the gruesome deed and demanding strict action, even capital punishment.
The outrage over the crime is heartening and sad at the same time. While the protests and outrage show that there is hope for change, the knee jerk reaction, the medieval demand for capital punishment instead of actually addressing the larger problem is very worrying.
The Indian society, to the outside world, can be easily portrayed as an example of women empowerment what with scores of educated women joining the workforce, feisty and ambitious women political leaders who don’t shy away from ruling with an iron fist, or the many Goddesses such as Laxmi, Saraswati or Durga who are highly revered and piously worshiped in the country.
And yet, alongside this, the society is full of incidents such as female infanticide, dowry deaths, domestic violence, sexual harassment, rapes, honor killings and more. The Delhi rape case is symptomatic of the deep-rooted problems in Indian society that need to be addressed on war footing if Indian women are to feel safe.
The tendency to rape stems out of a basic lack of respect for the woman as an individual and human being. The gender discrimination that begins at home with wanting a son over a daughter, to prioritizing a son’s education/nutrition over the daughter’s extends into the social life where women lose out on jobs, are paid lower wages, and looked at as sexual objects among other things.
To fight the problem, the Indian government should consider creating a National Sexual Offenders’ Registry complete with pictures and updated location of the perpetrator, making it difficult for them to gain jobs or loans for those on the list. The social shame and easy availability to a vigilant society can be effective deterrents. The US has established a good precedent in this regard with a Sex Offenders Registry that is easily accessible online and identifies such offenders in any given location through its zip code. Concerned neighbors, police, banks, educational institutions etc. can access the registry and in their own way keep the offenders at bay.
High crime rates against women are a reflection on the moral and social values of a society; and it will require a balance of social and individual reflection and reformation, alongside an efficient law enforcement mechanism implementing strong laws to help reduce the crime rate. If this most recent instance can set the ball rolling on the debate and reformation within the society and administration, the victim would have found some justice.