“Women continue to suffer.” This statement sounds a note of abandonment of hope, especially since it comes from a judge of the Supreme Court, G.S. Singhvi, who was hearing a case about the lathi-charge by the police on a group protesting the police’s alleged refusal to file an FIR after a child was gang-raped in Delhi. The facts of the case under consideration — extreme brutality committed on the helpless, outraged protests by the people while the police sit idle, the resultant absence of arrest and conviction, which could have acted as deterrents for future criminals — serve to elucidate the data on violence against women that were presented before the Supreme Court. Figures prove that there has been an overwhelming increase in crimes against women in Delhi in the last five years. What is scarier is the revelation that the cases of rape and molestation have risen even more after the gang rape last December sparked off a countrywide protest. So have the frenzied protests against rapes — not only on the streets but also on the media and the net — paradoxically led to more rapes by lending a glamour, as it were, to the crime? Has the endless chatter on the issue in the print and visual media, often supplemented with images of cowering, sobbing girls, tickled men’s perverse desire to create more victims of this sort, in a display of macho prowess?
Optimists can see a positive side to the issue. The protests may have helped remove some of the shame associated with sexual crimes in the victims’ mind by unambiguously fixing responsibility on the perpetrator alone and making it clear that a woman, no matter how she is behaved or dressed, cannot possibly invite rape upon herself. Seen this way, public protests are healthy. But the very fact that the people take to the streets each time a woman is violated also points to the reality that those who are actually meant to act — the police — are not responding. The sleeping law-enforcers must be a source of assurance for potential rapists, who can also safely look forward to acquittal even if the case limps its way to the court, since the police would surely not be able to gather enough evidence against them. In this situation, women can only continue to suffer, as the judge said. But, at least, they are no longer suffering silently.