The City As Rape Capital

‘Calling Delhi The Rape Capital Is Condoning The Rapists’

Madhuri Bhowmick, 30, an artiste based in New Delhi, says it will unfair to label the city as Rape Capital because it takes away the seriousness of a heinous crime

I am a trained classical dancer and owing to my profession I have to navigate many a late night in the city. I was born and brought up in Delhi and love the city. Every time a new rape case grabs the headlines, I, like most women, feel overwhelmed and angry. But I don’t give in to the fear. I mostly take an Uber (app-based taxi) during late nights and don’t compromise on my safety.

Yet, there is a 70:30 ratio conflict. Every time I go out, 70% of my thoughts tell me I will be safe and secure, owing to my own presence of mind and the security systems in place by the government. But 30% at the back of my mind, scary thoughts do run.

Having said that, I believe calling Delhi as the ‘rape capital’ of the world isn’t justified. Putting a label, any kind of label, on heinous crimes takes away the responsibility from the perpetrators of the crime. Delhi isn’t responsible for the rapes; it is the psychology of the individual who devalues another human being is the cause of concern. Each rape case is different; it is an individual who has been devalued and we should be careful about generalising it.

Delhi, in fact the whole of India, is seriously overpopulated. Crimes can flourish and go undetected amongst a sea of people. And it’s not as if other places in the world don’t have the problem of women being treated miserably; let’s talk about the issue that happened, rather than the place it happened in.

Bhowmick often returns late from work in Delhi

Post-Nirbhaya we thought the world would be a better place because of the outcry it generated. But even two years after the convicts were hanged, there has been no improvement. There is no fear of law, and the wheels of justice are overburdened and slow. And then there’s the issue of marital rape being discussed in the courts.

ALSO READ: ‘Marriage Is Not A Licence To Rape Spouse’

I believe that apart from legal changes, we need social changes or social sensitisation of the people. The huge nationwide drive for vaccination shows that it is possible to reach out to even the remotest corner of the country if we have the will. Perhaps rape or safety of women should be taken just as seriously as a pandemic.

Sex education should be made mandatory everywhere if we are to remove the problem right from its roots. Be it Delhi or anywhere, our parenting styles also need a change. In many households male-female friendships are frowned upon. We need to normalise male-female interactions. We as a society focus on IQ but we need to focus on Emotional intelligence too.

And lastly, I believe that like in every part of the world, lovely people reside in Delhi as well. So many news channels that can be used to spread social messages (including that of safety of women) indulge only in sensationalism; they are just trying to find material for their 24×7 news cycle. So, no, let’s not call Delhi the rape capital of the world, let’s not take away from the seriousness of the crime.

As Told To Yog Maya Singh

Economist and Women’s Rights Activist

‘Marriage Cannot Be Treated As A Licence To Rape Spouse’

Dr Shruti Kapoor, an economist and women’s rights activist, considers marriage a union of equals, and says consent is the key in any relationship

Marital rape by definition is an act of non-consensual sex or unwanted sexual acts with one’s spouse. If you consult our law books, the Section 375 of Indian Penal Code defines rape as “non-consensual sexual intercourse with a woman”. However, the law then exempts the husband from any penal consequences if he forces intercourse on his wife without her consent, given that his wife is above the age of 15 years.

Clearly, there is a discrepancy in our law which avoids marital rape from ambit of conviction. Marital rape is still not considered as a crime in India for a host of reasons including cultural stigma and shame around marital rape. We feel okay for a husband to demand sex, not take consent into consideration. In our society the institution of marriage translates to ownership of a woman’s body.

Take a look at the global scenario in this context. There are 150 countries around the world which have criminalised marital rape. Still, in many countries, forced sex in a marriage remains outside the criminal law. India is one of the 36 countries which are yet to consider it a crime in law books. Indeed, we are in a minority here.

A marriage is a union of equals, and consent is the key in any relationship. Marriages should not be a license to rape and why would any woman want to remain married to a man who rapes her or abuses he?

WATCH: Women Ask Death For Rapists

It is deplorable that our judicial system is hesitating to challenge the status quo. In August this year, the Chhattisgarh High Court observed that sexual intercourse, or for that matter any sexual act, by a husband with his spouse would not constitute rape even if it was forcible or against the consent of a legally wedded wife. The Kerala High Court reflected a similar sentiment in more guarded words. “In a married life, sex is reflection of the intimacy of the spouse,” said the High Court.

However, we beg to differ. In my view, forced sex even within marriage is gross violation of a woman’s human rights. Rape is a rape, whether in a marriage or outside. Just because one is married, it does not gives one the right to force oneself on a non-consenting partner.

Critics often argue that bringing a law against marital rape will spark a litany of fake allegations of and many women will misuse its provisions. My argument here is that fake allegations and misuse of law can occur in any criminal act. Fear of misuse of a law cannot be used as an excuse against millions of woman who are raped under the institution of marriage. In any case, the percentage of fake allegations would only be a negligible fraction to the number of woman who are raped daily in their marriages.

Dr Shruti Kapoor is also founder of Sayfty, an initiative to educate and empower women against all forms of violence