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Rohtak gangrape: Aren’t we trivializing the barbaric act of rape by offering compensations?

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The savage and abhorrent Rohtak gangrape and murder, which happened few days after the supreme court upheld the death penalty in Nirbhaya verdict, again has made us shudder in revulsion and squirm in horror. We are aghast at the atrocity of the crime and the bestial barbarity with which skull of a 20-year-old woman was smashed, her private parts mutilated and a car run down over her.

This horrific incident yet again reminds us how unsafe women in India are. How vulnerable they are to such horrible crimes, and above all the prevailing misogynist mindset which does not think twice before indulging in victim blaming and casting aspersions on a woman’s dignity and character. Calling her an inciter, a wicked temptress and someone who invited the harrowing act on herself.

Again candle marches will be held and everyone from activists to civil society groups to politicians will call for women empowerment, stringent punitive actions for crime against women and ensure women’s safety and security.

But we have to ponder upon something serious and get at the root cause of it, instead of casually making ritualized statements after every such horrific crime and giving speeches full of vacuous clichés.

While it is good that the government has announced compensation worth INR 8.5 Lakh to the family of the victim, but in this context and with the propensity of Indian politicians making a beeline to announce financial compensations.

Have financial compensations become a way for the government and the opposition politicians to wash off their hands and hence totally absolve themselves of any future accountability.?

Has it become a viable alternative to enacting stronger laws, enforcing them and taking women’s safety as non-negotiable with immediate effects. ?

The answer to the second question is emphatic No. Less said the better about the first.

Why then a crime – be it a ghastly rape or a horrific atrocity against the marginalized – reduced to the factor of compensation amount, few incensed op-eds in leading magazines, and within months, business as usual.

This is nothing but an easy escapist route and to project one’s magnanimity, political responsibility, and virtue signal how much one’s heart bleeds at such heinous crimes.

This attitude is age-old in the great Indian democracy and will continue indefinitely till the time awareness is raised and we start asking tough questions.

Tokenism and symbolism do not amount to anything. The outrage – even if well intentioned – dies within few months. What is needed is nothing short of stringent laws, swift enforcement, implementation and a grass-roots level change that can be made through a change in syllabus and lessons on gender sensitisation and equality.

Jawahar Lal Nehru, our first Prime Minister, and a statesman said: “You can the condition of a nation by looking at the status of its women”.

Are we really progressing? Or regressing to the stone age, with the advent of technology and modernity still unable to get rid of such anti-women thinking.

We all need to pause, step back and think upon on this question.

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