‘Boys Will Be Boys’...Hang The Women?: An Insensitive Uttar Pradesh
By David Lal
17 June, 2014
For long violence is employed as a weapon against women to establish the authority of men over women. If the patriarchy as a structure operates through cultural and traditional norms, then violence is the foundation which provides force for the operation. It is, likewise, used as a disciplining mechanism to punish an individual and the entire community. Apart from various issues in the national election, women’s security was ‘the most primary’ concern of different political parties in 2014 General Elections. It therefore reflected in their election manifesto as well. Congress in its manifesto highlighted Suraksha (security), samman (self-respect and dignity) and samanta (equality) in its agenda for women. BJP focussed on Beti-Bachao, Beti-Padao Abhiyan (Save Daughter-Educate Daughter campaign) as its core focus on women. Other national parties such as CPI, CPI-M too made security as the most significant agenda along with other issues referred to women. Still, with less than a month after the election, Uttar Pradesh, a northern state in India, witnessed an atrocious act against two teenage girls. The horrifying picture of two young girls hanging in the tree with their own duppatta (scarf) in Badaun district shows the continuous oppression of women and also the triviality of law and order in UP. This incident, furthermore, becomes significant for one more reason. It has occurred after Samajwadi Party chief of ruling party made an infamous comment on rape issue a month ago. He called rape as ‘Mistake of Boys, Boys will be Boys, Why hang them’. Such a message by former Chief Minister did add to the occurrence of this gruesome nature. Statements like these lead to normalisation of rape in the society.
Violence against Women in Uttar Pradesh
Uttar Pradesh (UP), an agrarian centric state has always been violent prone, either based on religion, caste or gender. Rape, molestation and sexual assault against women are very high in the state. A glance at the Crime in India data highlights the rising violence against women in the state. It includes Indian Penal Code (IPC) crimes of murder, rape (Sec 376 IPC), Molestation (Sec 354 IPC), Insult to Modesty of Women (Sexual Harassment Sec 509 IPC), Cruelty by Husband or his relatives (Sec 498A IPC), Dowry Deaths (Sec 302/304B IPC), Kidnapping and Abduction (Sec 363-373) Importation of girls from foreign country (Sec 366-B IPC), and Special and Local Laws (SLL), Immoral Traffic Prevention Act, Dowry Prohibition Act, Indecent Representation of Women (P) Act, the Commission of Sati Prevention Act.
From 2001 to 2012, more than 200,000 cases have been reported for crime against women with an average of 19000 cases each year. Uttar Pradesh’s share in the total crimes against women in India is 10 percent. The rate of crime against women is 12 percent, which is calculated out of the total crimes against women versus total women population in the state. Rape is used as a weapon to control women’s bodies and their communities. Rape therefore becomes a tool to retain power.. The year 2001-12 saw as many as 19,000 cases of Rape in UP. On an average 16000, cases are reported each year, and many go un-reported due to social stigma,the issue of ‘honour’ attached to women, distrust in the judicial process and also fear of revenge. It shares 8 percent of rape cases occur across the country. In many cases, due to the fear of the police complaints the accused either critically injures the survivor or in some instances, they are slain. Molestation (Defined in law as assault on women with intent to outrage her modesty) is another sexual violence with a total of 30,000 cases reported from 2001-12 with an average of 2200 cases reported each year. Around 7 percent of total molestation cases are reported from UP alone. Another form of violence against women is Insult to Modesty of Women (sexual harassment). As many as 26000 cases have been reported in 2001-12 with an average of 2200 cases each year. It is 11.5 percent of the total crimes against women in UP. Every day, 206 women across the state, report cases of sexual violence.
Some cases of sexual violence receive much political attention while, other crimes seldom attract media coverage and public attention. In other words, it can be argued that some offenses against women are normalized by not being taken up politically and by media. One such crime is kidnapping and abduction. Approximately, 48000 cases of abduction are reported with an average of 4000 cases each year. UP contributes 16 percent of cases of abduction each year to all India percentages. In 2012, out of the total crime against women in UP, 33 percent crimes were of kidnapping and abduction. UP tops in kidnapping and abduction cases. Most of the abduction cases against women also result in sexual violence, such as rape, molestation and sexual assault. Patriarchy dominates through the family as once eloquently described by Frederick Engels (1884). Women in UP suffer the most from the in-law’s family. Another normalised crime is cruelty by husband and his relatives. Around 78000 cases have been registered in the last 12 years, which is 34 percent of the total crimes against women in the state. Most of the cases are related to domination, dowry, and preference for a male heir. The state is also infamous for the deaths of women due to dowry-related issues. Each year, about 2000 women breathe their last because they cannot meet the dowry demands of the husband and in-laws. Every day, five women die in UP alone. There are also 400 cases reported every year under the Dowry prohibition Act with a total of 4831 cases in 12 years from 2001-12. In spite of strict laws against dowry, each year 2400 cases are reported in the state. Among the crimes under other special laws such as Importation of girls from foreign country, Immoral Traffic (P) Act, Indecent Representation of Women (P) Act and Commission of Sati Prevention Act only 513 cases are registered in the last 12 years. No case of sati was reported.
One major reason for the rise in crime against women is much awareness than before, long pending cases and poor conviction rate. In 2006 to 2012, out of the total cases registered against women, in 73 percent cases chargesheets were filed and the rate of conviction was 38 percent. Due to continuous agitations by the people, 274 percent persons involved in crimes got arrested (as in a single crime multiple accused are involved). Among them, only 196 percent persons were chargesheeted. Out of total 274 percent persons, only 96 percent persons indulged in criminal offenses were convicted. On the contrary, around 177 percent persons arrested were acquitted of all the charges. State machineries need to respond to the increasing crimes. In addition, there are thousands of cases pending in the court each year, which deters the survivor’s enthusiasm to access justice. In the debates over violence against women law and ability of state to deal with the crimes comes up time and again. The statements of the political representatives concentrate on issue of security. However, the call for social change for gender equality and issue for patriarchal control over women rarely comes up. Further, various forms of violence against women doesn’t even becomes part of public discussion as if they don’t exist. It is argued that violence against women, until dealt in its complexity, will continue to exist.
(The Author David Lal is a Doctoral Fellow at Centre for the Study of Discrimination and Exclusion, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University. He is working on 'Consciousness and Atrocities in Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu’. He can be contacted at email@example.com)
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