The reportedly increasing sexual assaults against women in India are a matter of shame for all Indian citizens. A careful analysis of the various authentic studies conducted by the National Crime Records Bureau, the Human Rights Watch and other agencies reveals most rapes go unreported in India as elsewhere in the world due to the victims’ fear of retaliation or humiliation. The majority of victims has been in the 18-30 year age group. Of them, 12.5 percent of victims are minors in India, compared with 17.4% in the United States. More than 7,200 minors are raped each year in India. In sex trafficking and crime against minors India ranks the seventh worst while China ranks first, Russia eleventh and Indonesia fourteenth.
The analysis reveals that in 2012, over 24,923 rape cases were reported across India. Its five- year average ( 2007-2011 ) was 22,000 rapes a year. The total reported number of rapes was highest in Madhya Pradesh, followed by Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. New Delhi had the highest number of rape reports among the Indian cities, followed by Mumbai. Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh had the highest per capita incidence of rapes. The rape rate per 100,000 people was highest in Mizoram (10.4), followed by Tripura, Meghalaya, Sikkim and Assam. India accounted for a rape rate of 2 per 100,000 people, compared to 8.1 in Western Europe, 14.7 in Latin America and 40.2 in Southern African region. The annual rape rate in India increased from 1.9 to 2.0 per 100,000 people over the 2008-2012 period. It was 1.2 in Japan, 3.6 in Morocco, 4.6 in Bahrain, 12.3 in Mexico, 24.1 in the United Kingdom, 28.6 in the United States, and 114.9 in South Africa.
The growing crimes against women in India prove how hollow our claims to some of the finest historical traditions and constitutional human values really are. India’s Constitution demands its state governments to protect women’s fundamental rights, but almost all governments have failed on the matter. As has been found in some of the recent rape cases in the country, such crimes have allegedly been committed not only by local goons but also by influential politicians and police officials. Recent statements made by some ruling party leaders in some states clearly show the government trivializes rape thereby encouraging the callousness of its officials in dealing with the cases of violence against women.
The scenario depicted above demands that all conscientious Indians, irrespective of their gender, caste, creed, region or religion, must stand united and prevail over the new government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to intervene and take effective measures to protect women’s rights in the country. The central government is under moral and legal obligations to invent ways and means to make the state governments function in a way that female citizens’ rights are not violated.
Significantly, the Government of India has recently reformed its penal code for crimes of rape and sexual assault. Also, India’s Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi has assured that the Center will set up cells to provide ambulance services and medical and legal help for rape victims. But all this is unlikely to be of much help. The crimes against women have to be stopped before they are committed. As is the pattern, the anti-social elements indulge in such crimes under various pretexts. During the partition of India they were estimated to have kidnapped and raped over 100,000 women on both sides of the border spreading hatred against the followers of each other’s religions. In the post-Independence landscape these anti-social elements committed such crimes under other hate-fueled pretexts, including caste-based ones.
The conscientious citizens of India must be vigilant to make the governments at the Center and in the states function in the manner they are supposed to under India’s Constitution. Pertinently, the entire enlightened international community today has to be vigilant to defend women’s rights the world over. It should prevail over the United Nations and other liberal democratic governments -- the US Administration in particular -- to have a broader canvas and address the violations of women’s rights everywhere.
The statistics mentioned earlier in this piece clearly suggests the women’s rights scenario is not bright even in some of the Western nations. This has to be set right everywhere. The United Nations system was created with a mandate to foster development of all sections of humanity; this section must not be overlooked. As for the United States, it claims to be a messenger of a ‘manifest destiny’ with the mission to spread the great human values enshrined in its own constitution. The US International Violence Against Women Act—House Resolution 3571 and Senate Resolution 2307—calls to address the problems of violence against women in countries where it is engaged in foreign assistance.
One might suggest that they focus on the evil of Wahhabism. This doctrine has been spreading a highly fanatical version of the peace and justice- loving religion of Islam. It has caused some of the worst forms of violence against women in a large part of the world, including the Middle East and South Asia. The doctrine justifies crimes against women such as female genital mutilation and forced child marriage. Under its influence many regimes in the Muslim world have been practicing several policies detrimental to their female populations. According to a report in Time magazine, Saudi Arabia practices the notorious guardian system, under which a woman must have a male relative's permission to marry, procure a passport or travel . She cannot drive. Even today only 16% of women work in the Kingdom.
According to a study, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been spending billions of dollars in patronizing mosques, madrassas, journals and cleric training programs, with the aim of exporting Wahabism. Together with Abu Dhabi, Riyadh today pumps into certain Ahle Hadith and Deobandi madrasas an estimated $ 100 million annually to spread Wahhabism the world over.
Middle East observer Jonathan Schanzer says that in recent years there have been "systematic, massive and explicit efforts" at Talibanization led by Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The Islamist organization has “imposed strict rules on women, discouraged activities commonly associated with Western or Christian culture, oppressed non-Muslim minorities, imposed Sharia law, and deployed religious police to enforce these laws."
According to reports appearing in leading international newspapers, including The Guardian and The Washington Times, Hamas operates against its Palestinian enemies as the Taliban does against its Afghani enemies. In 2009 Hamas banned girls from riding behind men on motor scooters and forbade them from dancing. In 2010, it banned the smoking of hookah by women in public. In March 2010 Hamas tried to impose a ban on women receiving salon treatment from male hairdressers. Even women journalists are not being spared. In 2007, Islamic group Swords of Truth threatened female TV broadcasters: "We will cut throats, and from vein to vein, if needed to protect the spirit and moral of this nation." In 2009 some Hamas policemen attempted to arrest Palestinian journalist Asma al Ghul under the pretext that she went to a Gaza beach without a hijab. They accused the journalist of laughing loudly while swimming with her friend.
Pakistan-based Council of Islamic Ideology has recently dubbed laws related to minimum marriage age as un-Islamic. It has even ruled that women are un-Islamic, saying their mere existence contradicts Sharia and the will of Allah. CII Chairman Maulana Muhammad Khan Shirani has said that to protect Islam and the Sharia, women should be forced to stop existing . He has been quoted as saying , “We can divide all women in the world into two distinct categories: those who are haraam and those who are makrooh…..The former is categorically forbidden while the latter is disliked… Any woman that exercises her will is haraam.. and is conspiring against Islam and the Ummah; whereas those women who are totally subservient can reach the status of being makrooh. .. Whether a woman is allowed to breathe or not be left up to her husband or male guardian, and no woman under any circumstance whatsoever should be allowed to decide whether she can breathe or not. ”
Ironically , most of the liberal governments have by and large chosen to look the other way as the Wahhabist regimes have proceeded with their ever-backward socio-economic agenda. Washington has even been militarily aiding some of the regimes practicing Wahhabism to perpetuate their rule . It has of late also been supporting, often covertly, groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and the Taliban, whose anti-women view is antithetical to all cherished values of humanity.
The author is a senior Indian journalist based in Delhi.