India has been buckling under the fatal spread of COVID-19 ever since the first rape case was detected in Kerala. The meter stands around 7 million in cases, with deaths touching almost 60,000, making India the third-worst affected country in the world behind the USA and Brazil. But in the shadow of this newer pandemic looms an older, more persistent one that has been around for years. Rape.
One would think that in a time when the entire country is under lockdown and streets are emptier, this particular crime against women would not occur but no, Every new morning brings reports of fresh rapes, murders, and mutilations of women. Every woman in this country is terrified. This situation begs me to ask: If women aren’t safe from rape even in a pandemic, will they ever be?
It was reported recently that a 17-year old girl was brutally raped and killed in Uttar Pradesh, the second of two such similar crimes from the district in a matter of a mere 10 days. The first one occurred on August 15, the day we celebrate the country’s Independence, when a 13-year old, allegedly a Dalit, was raped and thrown in the fields with her eyes gouged out and tongue slit. News of another rape came from UP’s Sitapur area where three teenage boys were charged with raping a teen girl on August 17. And these are only the reported cases. Heaven knows how many more lie unreported.
Meanwhile, in Haryana, which according to NCRB data had the third-highest rape count in 2018 and they think ‘rape is consensual’, violence against women is proving to be a virus far deadlier than any other. The Tribune reports that the state “has recorded 66 rapes, 62 cases of abduction, and 142 incidents of molestation in April this year.” Out of 66, as many as 17 have been gang rapes.
As the count of coronavirus cases keeps mounting, so do cases of crime against women. That we women don’t have the luxury to call ourselves safe even as the world is battling a health emergency is indicative of a larger collective legal and administrative failure. Whom should we hold accountable? Even if we do, is there a guarantee that safety measures will be put in place? Is anyone even listening to us?
Every female in this country feels unsafe. Is our county really doomed?
If we ever want some change, if we ever want women to feel safe, we need strict laws. We need laws that ensure women’s safety. We need to teach men how to start behaving instead of locking girls at home. It’s high time now. The change is a must. Speak out. Take a stand. It’s now or never. Stop making excuse for anyone’s behavior. Spread awareness. Stop blaming females and blame the one who is really at fault. Stop judging, start respecting.