It’s a matter of collective shame that society gets back to business-as-usual approach even when the soul-piercing instances of rape and murder of girls as young as five years occur with unfailing regularity. Have the brutalities of sexual predators numbed our senses to such an extent that these cases are reduced to mere cold statistics meant for the crime columns in the media? A string of cases of child rape and murder in Telangana districts over the last few days is deeply shocking. Four such horrific cases were reported in the past one week. Just a day before she was to celebrate her birthday, a seven-year-old girl was raped and murdered and her body was dumped in a field in Bhupalpally district. In Wanaparthy district, a six-year-old girl was sexually assaulted and killed and her body was found stuffed in a gunny bag. A five-year-old girl was raped and murdered near Narsingi on the outskirts of Hyderabad by a migrant labourer from Madhya Pradesh while a six-year-old daughter of a migrant worker from Bihar was raped and murdered by a neighbour in Medak district. These cases are a grim reminder of the pathetic state of security and safety for girls in the country and it is going to be a long road ahead to win the battle against sexual predators. While sociologists and human rights experts differ on whether capital punishment for child rapists could serve as an effective deterrent, the focus should be more on preventive measures, building awareness about safety aspects and correcting the deep-rooted gender biases that have unfortunately become part of our cultural narrative.
The spontaneous mass agitation in 2012 following the Nirbhaya rape and murder case constituted a watershed moment for the country. The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, based on the recommendations of the Justice Verma Commission, has simplified procedures for reporting offences against women. They should be implemented in true spirit. India has one of lowest conviction rates in the world in rape cases. According to the national crime data, only one in four rape cases ended in conviction in 2016. Stringent implementation of laws and strict policing will help, but the real change will come when abusers and rapists are consistently convicted for their crimes. A study by the National Law School, Bengaluru, revealed that in 70% of the child rape cases, the accused is known to the victim. This often leads to under-reporting of cases. The root cause of such sexual perversion lies in the patriarchal upbringing where gender bias is ingrained in the culture. Compulsory inclusion of gender equality in school curriculum will go a long way in removing these deep-rooted biases.