More than just Ayes: Why India needs to look beyond harsher anti-rape laws

16 year old raped, filmed and blackmailed for a year, India Times, August 2016.

The article hyperlinked above starts with the sentence “despite the enactment of the stringent anti-rape law”.
There seems to be a notion that harsher punishments will be an effective deterrent to crime despite innumerable instances where that notion fails. Harsh punishments are absolutely necessary steps to, well, punish the convicts. But what do we really want? Harsher jails or safer streets? (The former doesn’t necessarily lead to the latter). The problem with candle light vigils and week-long street protests is this: they’re consoled by paper legislation.

Tell me, after Nirbhaya did anyone see increased night time patrolling? Did you see more street lights in your gully? Did you stop seeing auto drivers driving autos in which the license on display is not theirs but someone else’s? Did you hear of psychological evaluation and treatment for rowdy sheeters and eve teasers? In short, did you hear of ANY solutions to the problem?

If we don’t stop discussing how to make more legislation and start discussing ideas about how to stop this insanity, cases like this one will continue to shock our collective conscious repeatedly until that one day when it won’t. That one day when these cases will just become numbers without faces.

A media house recently called the UP women’s emergency hotline, 1090, and found that it wasn’t operational due to some technical issues. 1090 has proved to be largely successful in terms of the number of calls it has received and resolved but the problem it faces is a depressingly familiar Indian story- lack of infrastructure and severe understaffing. We, as a nation, forget too often. Otherwise how did the 1000 crore “Nirbhaya fund” go unutilized for as long as it did? It’s a childish argument to say that the government shouldn’t spend money on the “Statue of Unity” when there are other priorities. But it isn’t too much to ask for the same pace and vigour of implementation with the Nirbhaya Fund. The Modi government has both increased the size of the fund and utilized more but with over 60% of the funds still untouched, even the Supreme Court had to step in.

Spending so much time and effort on debating if juveniles should get stricter punishment will not make the streets safer for women. Women’s safety can’t just be passed into law. It requires more effort than just a bunch of “Ayes” in parliament. We need to step our game up and look beyond punishment. Our goal shouldn’t be to punish crime. It should be to curb it.

Source: India Times through India Today

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