Centuries have come and centuries have gone but the plight of women has remained unchanged. Helplessly, women suffer discrimination, oppression, exploitation, degradation, aggression and humiliation. Many forms of violence against women occur, both at home and outside, in the form of rape, domestic violence, dowry violence, honour killings, sexual abuse, etc. Sometimes the violence takes place even before the girl is born, with the killing of the foetus.
According to a study conducted by WHO, at least 1 in 3 women have faced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. If we look at the National Crime Reports Bureau statistics published in 2019, across India on average, 88 cases of rapes are registered daily. Of the total reported rape cases in India, in 94% of cases the offender is known to the victims. Of the total 32,033 cases of rape registered in India in 2019, in 2,916 incidents the offender was a family member.
The age group points to another cruel aspect: in 144 cases the victim was less than 6 years old, in 428 cases the victim was between 6-12 years old, and in 63 cases the victim was 60+ years of age. The statistics record, in the year 2019, 7,115 cases of dowry deaths, 150 acid attacks, 1,25,298 cases of cruelty by husband or relatives, 88,367 cases of assault on women with intent to outrage her modesty.
Rape is rarely done for sexual pleasure; it has always been a power equation in which rape becomes a tool to dominate, to prove masculinity, to take revenge, to teach a lesson, to show superiority of social and economic status. Sorry to say, the statistics from J&K depict that the situation is not different from the rest of the country. In 2014, 352 rape cases were registered here; in 2015 , 2016 and 2017, there were 312, 263, and 314 rape cases registered, respectively, and in 2018 , 359 rape cases are registered.
In October last year, a soul-shaking and heart-wrenching incident took place in district Kulgam’s Akhal village, where a 21-year-old woman was abducted by two men from a marriage ceremony. She was taken to the nearby dense orchards where she was raped and then murdered. She was beaten, tortured and chocked using the thread of the amulet that she used to wear on her neck. Her tongue was slit. Cuts made by razor blades could be seen on her face, chest and eyes. No one can imagine the pain she was subjected to. A few days after the death of this woman, another similar crime was reported from the same district, in which a 17-year-old girl was raped and the video recorded, then shared by the accused on social media platforms.
I wonder what on earth drives people to do so. When rape, sexual assault, eve-teasing or sexual harassment happens, why do we always tell the victim to let it go and forget the atrocities? We seem to be afflicted with the bystanders’ syndrome. In Kashmir we have fathers that kill their daughters in the womb. The people here are busy in issuing religious edicts against girls. Is music forbidden in Islam only when it is played on the guitar by girls? Don’t our boys play the same music in bands and we invite them to our wedding functions? After marriage how many girls are able to carry on their jobs? Why do they to leave their job and get busy with household chores? Why not men? Many may raise eyebrows at this statement as it may sound to them as un-Islamic, but is there anything relay Islamic within our homes? The girl has a long list to follow to appease her in-laws. Haven’t we made marriage expenses so great that fornication is cheap and marriage expensive?
The important question is, why do such attitudes prevail? Why do so many of our citizens believe women not behaving in a certain way are asking for trouble, or are not good girls. What is the fundamental issue here? More importantly, how do we convince people to think otherwise? “Men are the protectors and maintainers of women” [AL QURAN 4:34]. One of the most important things we find in the rights guaranteed by Islam is that a women’s chastity has to be respected and protected under all circumstances, whether we find her in the backwoods or in a conquered city, whether she belongs to our religion or another. In Islam, paradise is said to lie beneath the mother’s feet, and the birth of a daughter opens the gates of paradise for her parents, and a wife completes the religion of her husband. Our respect for women should elevate if she becomes a victim, because it is not her fault in any way. When she is married she is taunted for dowry and she is condemned for giving birth to a daughter. What is her fault in giving birth to a daughter? Scientifically, it is the man who is responsible. And what about those whose heads hang low when a daughter is born? They must remember that they, too, were born to someone’s daughter. Didn’t our beloved Prophet say: “He is guaranteed paradise who has three daughters and brings them up well”.
Going back to the recent Kulgam rape and murder case, the victim and the offenders are from the same district. They may have been known to each other. It is also likely that the offender may have participated in or voiced the same public opinion when people were demanding justice for Asifa in the gruesome rape and murder that took place in Jammu’s Kathua. The offender would have known that the rapists of Nirbhaya were hanged, yet he committed such a heinous crime. There is something beyond the fear of death in the minds of rapists. Stringent laws have been brought into place but will the law alone help or shall we switch to some religion-based education? If we are serious about the rapes happening in this country, we need to address the social imbalances as well as the imbalances of gender and caste, too.
The writer is an undergraduate student at GDC Kilam. [email protected]