Even in the face of great social change and better opportunities for women than ever before in the new millennium. The truth remains that we aren’t much more than a highly oppressed and disregarded group.
While great public outrage over the government's inability to protect and ensure women’s safety in our own capital resulted in significant amendment into rape laws; to say the least, they are highly inadequate.
Even Mumbai isn’t a class apart when it comes to this unprejudiced prejudice. Only yesterday, a photojournalist was gang-raped in the heart of the city. Be it the attitudes of a patriarchal society towards women, insensitivity of law enforcement officials towards victims and the stagnant attitude of the government in general to take any action - all are equally liable.
The law makers needs to seriously and with great care address issues such as stalking and marital rape while the administrative needs to devise an effective set of guidelines for law enforcement official to investigate and prosecute offenders while providing maximum protection to victims. In the United States and many other countries, victims of sexual assault are protected under rape shield laws and are granted protection orders by the court against their abusers.
A rape shield law limits the offender's ability to cross examine victims about their past sexual behaviour and prohibits publication of the identity of the victims. The offenders are also prohibited from contacting the victim or any witnesses of the crime with serious consequences for defiance.
Also, following an allegation of sexual assault, the victims are examined by specially trained medical personal to collect and preserve evidence such as signs of abuse and DNA of the defendant following a universal method which can be used later in investigation and subsequent prosecution of offenders.
For the implementation of these policies, not only the law enforcement needs to be trained to empathise with victims but also the state needs to recruit more educated and trained women officers working in exclusive units of the police force dealing with sex crimes.
In The Netherlands, where sex workers are taxpaying citizens, rape extends to involuntary french kissing and forcible fellatio and in 2002, a man was convicted to eight months imprisonment as he without consent french kissed the victim. Effective prosecution of these offenders by the state does not only delivers justice and retribution to victims but also deters future instances through a stringent and intolerant penal system in place.
Imprisonment and fines for rapist should not have maximum prescribed limits as it renders judges unable to impose suitable punishment for the those crimes which are more heinous in nature.
The focus strays from protection of victims to persecution of victims. One of the main reason why many instances go unreported is the subsequent social stigma. Efforts of collective community led programmes where women are most vulnerable will help women come forward. Society also makes it as if somehow it was the victims fault.
As feminist author Jessica Valenti exclaims that should we treat women as independent agents, responsible for themselves? Of course. But being responsible has nothing to do with being raped. Women don’t get raped because they were drinking or took drugs. Women do not get raped because they weren’t careful enough.
Women get raped because someone raped them. It is not to say that many of the above mentioned reforms are already in existence, the implementation of the said is significantly nonexistent. There is this innate and urgent need of drastic change in attitudes of those entrusted with safety of women in this nation and unless that change surfaces, we are heading into this unending abyss where law and order only exists on paper.