Even as an ever-rising number of women are entering public life and spaces once the exclusive preserves of men, in the hinterlands of our under-policed and under-governed republic, their physical safety and socio-economic advancement is under increasing threat. Surprisingly, there is almost total public apathy and shame deficit that a Thomson Reuters Foundation June 2018 survey based on interviews with 548 women’s issues global experts concluded that India is the world’s most dangerous country for women because of high risk of sexual violence and forced slave labour. More dangerous than Afghanistan and Syria ranked second and third, followed by Somalia.
This burning issue, about which there is not enough indignation even among women, has been highlighted again by the horrific Unnao rape case in which a minor girl was gang-raped by a BJP member of the Uttar Pradesh legislative assembly and his henchmen. It’s a telling commentary on the country’s corrupt and incompetent law and order administration that to cover up this crime, the girl’s father was tortured to death in police custody, and recently the girl and her lawyer were involved in a near-fatal road accident.
On August 14, it was widely reported that a pregnant 18-year-old girl and her boyfriend were waylaid and she was brutally gang-raped by five youths to the extent that she lost her foetus, and her despairing boyfriend hanged himself. Unsurprisingly, the survivor didn’t report this incident to the police, knowing full well that doing so would worsen her plight.
Curiously there is little or no will to address and root out the prime cause of this tidal wave of sex crimes sweeping the country — ubiquitous availability of violent pornography being streamed onto the cell phones of hundreds of millions of under-employed and ill-educated citizens, and impressionable youth countrywide.
The spate of sex crimes against women rising with the explosion of the Internet-enabled mobile telephony revolution, is no coincidence. Almost half a century ago in Larry Flynt vs. People (1968), justices of the US Supreme Court erred grievously in ruling that the right to publish pornography falls within the ambit of the absolute right to freedom of speech. The result is that America’s multi-billion dollar porn industry, with the invention of new digital technologies, has flooded the world with violent and degrading pornography. This has mentally unhinged people worldwide. The learned justices of the US Supreme Court should urgently review and revise this pernicious judgement which is causing global havoc.
Meanwhile the government of India should forthwith issue notice to all domestic Internet service providers to block pornographic content on pain of revocation of their licences. If this is not done expeditiously, there’s a clear and present danger that the world’s most unsafe country for women will become more unsafe.