The arrest of the Chairman of Bengaluru’s Vibgyor High School in the shocking rape of a six-year-old girl is a huge step forward in bringing down the high number of rapes that take place today.
The anti-rape agitation rightly focused on the perpetrators of the ghastly 2012 Delhi gang rape. Again in a step forward, rape laws were made more stringent after the Justice Verma Committee recommendations.
Also, the media is rightly focusing non-stop on all the rapes and sexual assaults taking place in the country and focusing the camera on the criminals. That is one way that all these deeds can come to light and action be taken.
But a key issue is that whenever a rape happens in India, the system goes all-out in an attempt to cover it up. Sometimes witnesses refuse to get involved, give their statements to the police and depose in court.
Sometimes the police refuse to even lodge an FIR and end up harassing the rape victims themselves. Politicians are even worse and end up justifying rapes and brushing it under the carpet.
In the latest in a long line of misogynist statements, Uttar Pradesh Governor Aziz Qureshi said, “…crime like rapes cannot be stopped. Even if the God descends on the earth in the guise of an officer, even then it will be impossible to control the crime completely.”
There has to be some form of action or at least official censure when our leaders make such nonsensical statements. The police reports to our political leaders and if they treat the issue of rape flippantly, then that is bound to get rubbed on our men in uniform.
The biggest example was the Tarun Tejpal rape case. While the rape came to light and Tejpal was rightly targeted by the media, in the end no action was taken against the then editor Shoma Chaudhury.
If a rape takes place, then it cannot be an internal matter of any company. If a manager tries to brush rape under the carpet, then he or she is also committing a crime of covering up a rape. This routinely happens in many companies.
Has any serious official action been taken against Shoma who thought it fit to send a rapist on leave for six months as punishment?
A similar thing happened in Vibgyor High School. How the ghastly incident could have been avoided is another debate. But when it did happen, the school was bound to approach the police and inform the parents. Nothing of the sort happened.
What made it much worse were reports of the school denying that such an incident took place while there were even some attempts to malign the character of the victim.
It’s time the police went after those who cover-up a rape along with the rapist.
Not informing the police about a rape. Forcing the rape victim to keep quiet and dissuading her from filing an FIR. Maligning her character. Intimidating her. Refusing to file an FIR. Destroying evidence…
Till we start cracking down on all of these, it will be tough for rape survivors to speak out and fight. All of the above things lead to a low conviction rate.
And a low conviction rate dissuades rape survivors from fighting while further emboldening rapists.
A lot of people think most of this happens in lawless places like UP with a high crime rate. However cover-up of rape cuts across the society. A classic example is the Tejpal case where a lot of educated and powerful people tried to come to his defence.
Vibgyor High School is hardly a poor school in a backward area. It is an upmarket school in the IT capital of India.
In fact Vibgyor Chairman Rustom Kerawalla is an engineer from the Manipal Institute of Technology which has been in the news for its alumni becoming top CEOs: Satya Nadella (Microsoft) and Rajeev Suri (Nokia).
So the urge to cover up rape is among the highly educated too and cuts across class lines.
Stronger rape laws.
Higher conviction rates for rapists. Taking action against all those who cover up rape. It is only by a combination of all of this that crimes against women will go down in this country.
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The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger. He blogs here.