Have you heard of a ‘rape sentence’? Well then welcome to India. In a remote area of Bhagrath, Uttar Pradesh, two young girls who are sisters have been ‘sentenced to rape’ by village elders for an offence they did not commit. In fact their brother did. He eloped with a woman with whom he was in love for three years.
A self elected rather selected male council issued the ultimate judgement and the sentence. They are also known as Khap Panchayat. The offence is that the young man (the brother) who belongs to a lower caste mustered the courage to marry his girlfriend who belongs to a higher caste. Thus it was decided the sisters ought to be raped. The family had already fled to rescue to Delhi. An NGO Amnesty International decided to help the girls and shed some light over the matter. They raised a campaign for an online petition that forced the concerned authorities to look into the case and provide them protection. Women activists flocked the streets with protests that garnered enough media attention and galvanised the public. Such incidents crops mostly from poverty and lack of education are quite evident in rural areas.
In villages it is quite customary to see a women as an inferior you can confine to the four walls of the kitchen or bedroom. Even young girls who have attained puberty are not spared. Every governing body whether it is a union of social organisation or a government ought to have women representatives who speak the unheard voices of many other women. But some self-claimed male-dominated village panchayats rule out the appointment of such women in the council making it an all-male council. It would hilarious to say so that these ‘respectable and knowledgeable’ men in the council are considered the best in making the best decisions regarding women. Apparently a rape sentence is just one of those ridiculous decisions.
Another reason that backs the victimisation of women is the patriarchal mindset of the society. In an Indian household the honour of a family lies not on the strong shoulders of man but on the lap of its women, precisely in between her thighs. So the quick and most effective way to bring a family or a man to shame is by tampering the ‘honour’, raping the women in the family. The episode usually involves a selected group of men drag the victim by her hair to the outskirts of the village. As natural trait of being scared and helpless the woman does pathetically yell for help from the villagers who choose to be silent spectators of the show. The woman is pinned down and the chosen men do their thing one after the other. All of this is usually conducted in the wee hours of the night.
But it doesn’t end there. The shamed family is further tortured and harassed in the days further. The women get raped again. Their houses are brought down to ruins. Worst cases scenarios have been reported where the raped women are later burnt alive. According to Supreme Court’s ruling, such councils are considered illegitimate and such acts are criminal offences by law. The weak enforcement of law and order is also what fails to protect the innocent and bar the offenders from torturing them without reason. In places like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar the local police are the loyal dogs of powerful politicians and bureaucrats who are willing cater the bizarre interest of such councils. These poverty stricken rural areas are reliable vote banks who are given false promises during elections.
After all winning election and being in power is more important to them than anything for which they are willing to turn a blind eye to any offence. Let women get raped, let them pay the price. What’s the big deal in that?