(co-authored with Dr. Ryan Baidya)
India is a booming economy. An ancient civilization rich in traditions, India is often in the news for crime against women. Rape is one cultural issue which is plaguing this fast-growing nation and strict and quick actions need to be taken in order to stop this problem from growing into a further menace. This piece outlines policy prescriptions for enabling unbiased justice and deterring instances of rape.
She Screams every 15 minutes in India
Not a single day passes by without a report of rape at somewhere in India. Thanks to digital media tools and apps, we now get to see our face clearly every moment wherever, whenever. In India, someone somewhere is violating a women’s dignity every 15 minutes (Ministry of Home Affair’s report 2018). Every year thousands of women report rape cases to the police and an equal or more cases never been reported. According to National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB), women reported 34,000 rapes in 2018, which is nearly the same number of rape cases reported in 2017. In addition, 237,660 cognizable cases were registered in 2018.
Savagery and brutality of many of those rape cases are unthinkable. Very recent cases of Disha Salian (Bollywood), a Veterinarian (Hyderabad), Nirbhaya (New Delhi), Singur (West Bengal), Baran (Rajasthan) and Hathras (Uttar Pradesh), are some of instances which have been recently covered by the media while thousands go unreported and uncovered.
Rape not only violates a women’s dignity but also it reduces her to a level of a usable article of trade. And, if the perpetrator has means, power, access to power, or means to buy power, the perpetrator feels every object and every human being is a commodity. This must stop if we wish to call our surrounding a society, instead of a jungle. In a jungle everything and every-being is a commodity if you have physical power.
Power, Politics and Money Violated her under the Largest Democratic Umbrella
A key reason why rape cases are so poorly investigated and prosecuted in India is due to the political power structures conforming to deeply bureaucratic, submissive and yielding to political and monetary power law-and-order system. Several recent cases reinforce this, for example, the Kuldeep Singh Sengar case – Sengar is a former member of the legislative assembly and has been convicted of rape, murder and criminal conspiracy. Crimes against women are often taken less seriously, and investigated by police lacking in sensitivity. This has been the issue with Disha Salian’s case (Mumbai).
As a result of the 2012 Delhi gang rape case (aka Nirbhaya), the Indian government implemented a fast-track court system to rapidly prosecute rape cases. The fast-track court system has been welcomed by some, but their fairness questioned by legal experts. There are very few forensic labs in the country, and fast-track courts have very few judges to tackle 34,000 cases and piling more by the minutes. For example, Indian courts disposed of only about 18,300 cases related to rape that year, leaving more than 127,800 cases pending at the end of 2017.
This is a War against your daughter, sister and mother. What will you do, India? What you have been doing is not working, and data proves it. There needs to be a simple, effective, powerful, transparent and accountable system of deterrent of future rape crime at any part of India. This article proposes one such system. The Home Minister and his executive office may develop similar or more robust and stronger deterrent system and programs for Rape crimes against women in India.
A Strategic Plan for Deterrence
Disasters often lead to creation of agencies. Example – the National Investigation Agency in India was formed in 2009 to create terror-related crimes across states without permission or interference from states. The Department of Homeland Security was created in the U.S. after the 9/11 attacks as a federal executive department responsible for public security. Lean, bureaucratic institutions can be created to deal with rape crimes. This brief discusses setting up an institution with authority and power to deal with rape crimes in India. The institution’s actions, response time, delivery of justice, protection of victims, etc., will be in such manner that every act and justice delivered will serve as a deterrent.
Rape is a crime, a war against daughters, sisters and mothers. One thing which enables perpetrators from getting away with a heinous crime such as rape is the lethargic and antiquated judicial system which is not devoid of the influences of the political masters of the time and/or underworld threats. This piece provides policy prescriptions to the current epidemic or seeming pandemic which is affecting women in Indian society.
Governments often take wartime measures when faced with epidemics and pandemics and the Central government needs to take charge of this issue. The local and state responses are often mired in regionally sensitive and/or corruption and therefore the Central government needs to take charge of the issue from the moment a rape is reported. Reporting can be done at the local level but a network ought to be set up where a team of people at the Central level are notified of the problem in real time – An accessible central database system that can be logged into by the respective authority from anywhere. When a report is filed, the appropriate teams get alerted right away. The report and inquiry can only be printed from the central database only. This process will give wider transparency to the process.
A Socio-Medico Pandemic
It is time to call a spade, a spade. Meaning, rape needs to be declared a pandemic level disaster. Rape is a socio-medical disaster and needs to be responded just like a government would respond to other disasters. State and local governments have their roles of course but the primary team of people in charge should be those from the Central government. Rape is a complicated issue and often the police and personnel at the local level are either ill-equipped or lack adequate training and resources to respond with urgency.
Make RAPE A Federal Crime with Exemplary Punishment
Rape is a serious issue. Rape needs to be declared a Federal crime so that it can be solved via the Federal or Central Government’s apparatus. Declaring rape as a Federal crime also shows that all citizens will be treated in the same manner regardless of economic or social status. The problems seen via the local level lens becomes murky with caste, religion, status, and other, political issues. However, treating this pandemic like a flood or hurricane or even Ebola like status will usher in speedy as well as a thorough response. One can look at emergency management or disaster response manuals and protocols to draft a plan for how the Central government – Home Ministry – ought to respond to a rape anywhere in the nation with the speed and urgency the problem deserves.
Engaging Rape Prevention and Mitigation Army (RPMA)
For example, once a rape is reported, the Central Government should intervene within 24 hours or sooner. A team – Rape Prevention Mitigation Army (RPMA) team should take charge and direct the local jurisdiction law enforcement to apprehend the perpetrator(s) and take every measure to protect the victim(s) and families. This crime should be investigated as a Capital crime and juveniles in rape cases should be defined as those who have not had their 12th birthday. We often see that juvenile records either get fudged or lost in a corrupt system without oversight and strict measures ought to be taken to identify those responsible for the rape crime.
War Time Trials
A trial-court should be set up within 25 kilometers of the victim’s residence location so as to provide ease and facile accessibility to those involved as witness, etc. The trial should begin no later than 7 days after the crime has been committed and/or a perpetrator has been apprehended. If additional time is needed for research and analysis the perpetrator(s) should be kept in a detention center without any provision of bail or other interventions. The location of the detention center should be kept private and confidential for both, the benefit of the perpetrator as well as the victim. The media should not have firsthand access to potential witnesses or any individuals who have been identified as being crucial to the case in order to prevent confusion and mistrial.
One of the most important components of this mitigation strategy is to allocate wartime funds just as funds are allocated for natural disasters. The team, aka the army responsible for taking charge should be given an appropriate name such as the Rape Prevention and Mitigation Army (RPMA). This is crucial as oftentimes victims go to law enforcement to report rape and sometimes become victims of yet another rape given the lack of transparency in the system.
Establishing Rape Prevention and Mitigation Army (RPMA)
The composition of each RPMA should include professional judges as well as civilians, vetted social activists, academics, etc. These members should not be from the same state as the victim. A team of 207 initial members needs to be formed in order to cover 23 states and union territories.
The wartime funds should include budgeting for two military/disaster style aircrafts which are equipped with all necessary medical and forensic equipment and resources as well as high-tech communication devices. Additional 3-5 helicopters can also be dedicated to transport the victims and those involved to secret locations for treatment or detention.
The trial team should not have any connection or relationship to the victim and should not be from the same state from where the crime was committed. The team members should not be related to friends, family, alumni, business and other economic interests connected to the perpetrators or the victim. This degree of impersonality will ensure efficiency and integrity in the trial process.
It is imperative that the RPMA team should not disclose their identity casually, and they should certainly not mingle or interact personally with the victim’s or the perpetrator’s families, friends or agents. The RPMA team should not give or take anything of value including services from the victim’s or perpetrator’s families, friends and agents.
Protection is essential for those involved in the crime. A team should guard the judges, investigators and the victim’s family. About 500 personnel from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Army and Commandos can be allocated for protection duties. This protection is to ensure the importance associated with solving the problem of rape crime and it ought to act as a deterrent measure, not just protection. The RPMA trial team can consist of 9 main members and for each victim reported and the RPMA bureau could handle 23 incidences at any given time. The RPMA team can also take over pending issues and unresolved cases from the recent past when they are not responding to live incidences.
A Spy-Style Oversight RPMA (OSRPMA) Team
Oversight of the teams is necessary, and the regulation should be completely covert in nature. Meaning, no one should have unfettered power and the Oversight team (OSRPMA) should observe each trial to ensure integrity of the process. The OSRPMA shall remain anonymous externally and internally, amongst the team. The OSRPMA team can consist of individuals from civil society, government, army, and retired officials who have undergone rigorous background checks and have proven clean personal and professional records.
OSRPMA will not have any authority over RPMA and will not influence direction to RPMA. OSRPMA will only report to Home minister’s office its finding of anomalies or wrong doings on RPMA’s part. OSRPMA report shall be available through “Right to Information” act six months after OSRPMA submits its report. The Home Minister may make that report public anytime after it is received.
In conclusion, it is absolutely necessary to take immediate action as rape crimes against women are increasing in number and perpetrated with unimaginable barbaric violence. India has been a land where women have been revered and worshipped as goddesses. It is imperative to cut through the current, ineffective judicial bureaucracy and backlog and build up the above-mentioned institutional framework to deliver efficiency, integrity and transparency to the process. The RPMA, with oversight from the OSRPMA under the Home Minister can be easily implemented once a budget is allocated. The Government of India has the means, talent and the know-how of setting up effective institutions. Rape crimes are not endemic to India or the developing world; India can lead the rest of the world by example if they are successful in implementing the RPMA.
A society that views women as a commodity is bound to breed Terrorism, Violence, Hatred, Tragedies, Fear and Death. The first and foremost criterion for success of a society is that women are accorded the high respect that they rightly deserve. Without that even the otherwise noble deeds would be fruitless.
Acknowledgement: Artworks by Pranab Phauzdar (www.phauzdar.com)
DISCLAIMER: The author is solely responsible for the views expressed in this article. The author carries the responsibility for citing and/or licensing of images utilized within the text.