It Offends

New theories propounding the plausible reasons for Aarushi Talwar’s murder are finding their way into the papers everyday. Little respite has been shown to the now departed, with indications of inappropriate and questionable character of the deceased being brought to the forefront.

Her supposed relationship with the domestic help, who is three times her age and the boy whom she communicated with days before her murder has been mentioned several times. For heavens sake, show the child some respect. Is this in the same flow as the usual blame game placed on women for the crimes committed against them? Be it rapes, murders or domestic violence, the victims are not getting any respite despite their apparent innocence.

Aarushi Talwar’s murderer is still at large and the case is far from being solved. Closer home in Mumbai, we have Aruna Shanbaug, who has been in coma since 1973, after being sodomised and strangled by a dog chain in the basement of the hospital. The offender was released after being tried for minor offences (robbing money and a watch. He was acquitted of charges of rape since sodomy does not involve penetration. And this is after rape by Anal sex is a punishable offense under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code with a maximum term of life imprisonment.

Then, three years ago in 2005, in Pakistan, Mukhtar Mai was gangraped on the orders of a tribal council as punishment for a sexual crime attributed to her brother. Her case still remains pending in court. Inspired by Mai, numerous cases of sexual offences have been noticed since then, most of them being committed by policemen, to punish the women in the accused’s home, or men who had crossed them on some account. Statements were made by then President Pervez Musharraf, on how the women fabricated stories of rape to ease their way into countries such as Canada and therefore, were spoiling the name of Pakistan.

Cases of sexual offence by the “upholders of law” is not new to India either. When a 17-year-old girl was raped in a police shack in Marine Drive in 2005 eyebrows were raised, questioning her relationship with the boy who had accompanied her. The boy was later sent off to get money by the policeman to pay him for letting them off for indulging in indecent behaviour, and who subsequently raped the girl. Besides, the accused’s father argued that his son meant no harm since he had used a condom during the act. While the court proceedings continue to be a painful ordeal for victims, many of the offences are under reported to save the name of the family.

In majority of the cases, the sexual offender is known to the victim. Such cases are not restricted to the Indian subcontinent as can be exemplified by the case of the Austrian father, Joseph Fritzl, who imprisoned and raped his daughter for 24 years. More such cases in other parts of the world came to the forefront after the Austrian case hit the headlines.

Celebrities, like Oprah Winfrey and Teri Hatcher, have also publicly talked about being sexual abused as children by their uncles. Cases of sexual offense, especially by known people, do not decline with women’s emancipation in the country, nor is it restricted to a particular stratum of society. In fact, a survey revealed that women in the middle and higher income group are a lot more insecure about their safety as compared to women from the lower strata.

Though a sexual twist to the tale of Aarushi has not been confirmed, the case of a slur against her character by the Noida police has been taken up by Renuka Chaudhary.. It seems a small step in the right direction, but before we start celebrating small victories as huge steps towards emancipation, I don’t think that the crimes and defamation will not abate as long as a woman remains a woman.


Charulata Somal

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