I don’t want people telling me I should think twice before visiting Delhi because it is not safe for me. I don’t want to be ‘cautious’ and ‘know how to protect myself’ when I’m travelling alone at night. Just because I am a girl.
And I don’t really want to get into the Delhi vs rest of India debate. Let us all agree that whether it is Delhi or Ahmedabad, no one should be raped.
And the rapists/sexual offenders deserve harshest of punishment. I don’t know how much faith I have in the judiciary, but the government of India has set up a committee for finding out ways to provide speedier justice and enhanced punishments. They are taking in public comments by January 5.
Twitter is full of angry comments asking for the severest punishments, ranging from public beheading to castration to stranger things like tattoo on forehead. People rejoiced when they read that the criminals were fed poop in the jail by inmates. An eye for an eye? I don’t know.
I am not sympathizing with the criminals, but I cannot desensitize myself completely. While my prayers are with the victim (or the survivor or whatever alias you want to give her), I cannot stop myself from wondering what could be done about the whole incident, not just getting her justice, but for each one of us, who is at a risk of being sexually abused. [I am not talking only about women here, women, men, children – what about marital rape? Are we ever going to recognise that as a crime at all?]
A friend suggested an online database of sexual offenders. A quick search led me to this. It is the public website for registered sexual offenders in US. And no, we do not have that mechanism in place in India. Why not? I don’t know. The people who run the country are busy creating uproar in parliament.
Few questions came up while discussing the same with a few people I know.
Here are some views on the same.
How will an online registry help?
Well, it public access to the data, which includes the criminals’ photograph and every other detail, it may act as a deterrent. That such a publication of details may affect their current and future personal and professional relationships, may act as a deterrent. People will be more alert and aware.
How to keep a track?
Unlike US, we do not have SSN that can be used to keep a track, but then, isn’t here where the UID project comes useful? But if you go through the US website for offenders, you’ll see you could also search on basis of first name and last name. I guess the tracking with UID could be more useful for law enforcement agencies, but as civil citizens, something would be better than nothing. Keeping track is important to check whether the criminal is a repeat offender. Because no matter how much we want all the rapists to be given the severest punishment of death, it is not going to happen. They will be released, and to ensure there is no relapse, there should be a regular tracking of such people.
What about the ones who are reformed and want to be rehabilitated?
Yes, so the above list could be revised and such names could be removed. Remember, this is a public listing, and not for law enforcement agencies. Law enforcement agencies need to keep their record permanently, but, such names can be removed from public database to ensure social stigma doesn’t affect them till the end of time. [social boycott and other punishments, though seem proper, are not practicable. Severest punishment doesn’t mean we stop treating other people as humans, even though their crime may be unpardonable.]
What about steps to prevent the crime?
A lot has been said about this. Pepper spray, self defense techniques, keeping people informed about your whereabouts, and being extra vigilant when travelling alone. But what about catching the perpetrators before such crimes happen? I’m sure some sort of psychology goes through their minds when they choose to commit such crimes. Why not profile the criminals and try and identify people who are more likely to commit crimes (not just rapists, but also murderers, paedophiles) and get them to seek help? How about we actually give mental illness the seriousness it deserves? I don’t know, I’m just throwing in ideas.
What about the criminals’ family members? Why should they suffer?
No one should be punished for someone else’s crime. Hence, such list should exclude personal details about the person who is registered. It will be unfair if the family has to suffer because of him/her. It must be ensured that the details of other family members are not disclosed.
What about rehabilitation of the survivors?
Yes, so life changes for them and their family. Coping mechanism should also include regular counselling. Whether the incident attracts media glare or not, their life has been altered. But nothing unconditional love and support cannot help them overcome. But along with that, some kind of counselling to help them fight their fears instead of repressing the memories. To ensure that they feel like survivor and not a victim. To enable them to walk on the streets with their head held high and not feel ashamed or violated. I’m sure there are some things in place, but why not publicise the measures so that those who have suffered, muster up enough courage to speak up? Unless a crime is reported, it cannot be curbed, and it wont be reported if the people who have suffered do not have faith in the system.
How to go about getting things done? Or at least try our bit?
That is a good question. I’m pretty much clueless. I don’t know what will work, but I’m pretty sure outraging over Twitter wont. I’m not saying you should not outrage, but the hollow outrage is now making me kind of sick. So, here’s the thing, as I said above, the government has started committee, and has asked for public comments and suggestions. Details here. They’ve said we could send in our suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org. So, I’m sending across the post I’ve written above, along with the suggestions I get in comments or you could mail me too.
I don’t know how to take it further. I’m also skeptical of online petitions. If you were to write emails, who should you write to? How do you follow up? I also intend to send a copy of the mail to Narendra Modi, Chief Minister of Gujarat. Again, I’m not sure how much further it would go. Or should you just send the mails and wait for the government to take steps? I’m open to all ideas, and would be glad to give support if anyone has any better ideas. Let us try and take things in our hands, for a change.
And one more thing, irrespective of the outcome of whatever I wrote above, there is one thing I am determined to do. Next time I see anyone being abused, I am raising a voice. I’ll call in the cops and I’ll create a ruckus. I’m not being a silent bystander anymore. Before I ask others to act on something, I am going to promise myself I will do something that I strongly believe in.
Thank you for reading.