The daylight kidnap and brutal gang-rape of a 19-year-old girl on her way to a coaching class in Rewari, Haryana has outraged the nation. That she had topped the CBSE class XII school-leaving exam earlier this year and had been felicitated by the President of India, didn’t galvanise the lethargic and leaden-footed Haryana state police into quick action. Only one of the 12 accused identified by the survivor had been arrested a week after commission of this heinous crime in broad daylight near a public bus terminal.
Despite the deliberate lethargy of the police in our patriarchal society which scarcely conceals its hostility towards working women, there was a chorus of manufactured outrage in June when the Toronto-based Thomson Reuters Foundation ranked India as the world’s most dangerous country for women.
Curiously, none of the country’s high-profile academics or indignant television news anchors seem receptive to the argument (repeatedly made on this page) that the Central government’s failure to block continuous streaming of pornography — including child porn — over the Internet is substantially responsible for the sharp upsurge in sex crimes against women and children. Unmindful of ground conditions in this under-educated republic, the establishment naively underestimates the gravity and impact of hardcore porn being streamed on to the cell phones of 300 million illiterates and 400 million neo-literates countrywide.
Last June the Central government ordered Internet service providers to block streaming of 857 porn websites into India. However, given that there are an estimated 4.2 million such websites on the Internet, and perverted pornography is easily downloadable into the country’s estimated 650 million cell phones, this order is inconsequential.
Simultaneously, there is conspicuous lack of political will and urgency to quickly apprehend and prosecute perpetrators of gender crimes. India’s police-population ratio (130/million) and judges (19/million) are the lowest worldwide. The detailed police reforms suggested by Justice Malimath (2003) and Justice Verma (2013) committees as well as a landmark Supreme Court order, are hanging fire because the neta-babu brotherhood has a vested interest in the status quo. A corrupt and inefficient police enables them to use, misuse and abuse the police-justice system.
Moreover there is insufficient political and societal will to address the root problem of the rising tide of crimes against vulnerable women and children — the country’s dysfunctional and rapidly eroding public education system which pays scant attention to issues such as gender egalitarianism, equality and equity. Despite every high-powered commission from Kothari (1966) to T.S.R. Subramanian (2016) recommending that the annual outlay (Centre plus states) for public education should be urgently raised to 6 percent of GDP (gross domestic product), it has remained stuck in the 3-3.5 percent rut for six decades.
The conclusion of the Thomson Reuters survey is correct. Contemporary tub-thumping India is the world’s most dangerous country for women, and is becoming more so.