Now that the numbers are out – the National Crime Records have shown that in West Bengal there have been a staggering 29,133 reported incidents in 2011 accounting for 12.7 per cent of the total crime against women in India – media, political parties and governments are sitting up and taking notice of a malaise that every woman has to live with in West Bengal.
While our government, ironically headed by a woman, continues to live in blissful denial of the atrocious condition of women in our state, the kind of response my post on March 2011 headlined You are lucky if you have not been sexually harassed in Kolkata, https://amritaspeaks.wordpress.com/2012/03/07/you-are-lucky-if-you-have-not-been-sexually-harassed-in-kolkata/
had got, go on to reinforce the fact that harassment of women is an issue that touches each and everyone’s life.
I would say this escalation of violence and sexual abuse is not a sudden phenomenon, it has been a process taking place over a period of time.
I believe West Bengal is leading India in crimes against women because…
We are living in denial
While West Bengal’s State Industries Minister Partha Chatterjee has summed up the general attitude in his classic comment, “There is a national propaganda to show our government in bad light and hence all these figures are now being brought into the media,” he should check out this article published in the Times Of India in December 2006, when National Crime Records showed that West Bengal held second place in domestic violence, next only to Andhra Pradesh. (By the way we were governed by the Left then.)
The statistics show in 2001, there were 265 reported cases of dowry deaths and 3,859 cases of domestic violence. In 2005, there were 446 dowry deaths recording an increase of 68 per cent and 6,936 cases of domestic violence, recording an increase of 80 per cent.
A problem can be addressed if a person is ready to accept there is a problem. If there is denial in the first place the question of a solution does not arise. I think the minister has already forgotten (in true politician style) the Park Street rape case, the Katwa train rape case and the molestation of a girl on Free School Street, which happened recently in the span of a few months.
Sexual abuse is a great way of showing power
After being humiliated by a boss at work many men like to get back their dignity by beating up their wives at home. I think groping a woman on a public transport is less about sexual gratification and more about getting satisfaction out of the embarrassment caused to a woman. This zeroes down to power play once again – that a man has the power to embarrass a woman. Gross, but it’s the truth.
As frustration among men rise because of the narrowing avenues of employment, escalating prices and reference group syndrome meaning that only a certain category of men having all the purchasing power, abusing women is a great way of keeping their slipping egos in place. That’s why in West Bengal women are abused by all kinds of men they interact with. Starting from the husband at home which leads to domestic violence, from the boss and colleagues which leads to harassment in the workplace, harassment in public transports and public places and last but not the least – political harassment, when a woman becomes the target of political parties trying to prove a point. A case in point would be the Nandigram rape case which became a complete political drama.
Chivalry is dying
Only a decade back if a woman had been harassed by a man all she needed to do was raise her voice and there would be a pack of men coming to her rescue. The dialogue would inevitably start with, “Didi apni jan. Amra dekhe nicchi. Ki byapar dada, ki hocchey?” (Didi you go we will handle this. So dada what are you up to?).
I wonder where those men have gone now. Instead we have a pack of wolves waiting for a chance to pounce. They readily side with the perpetrator and keep questioning the woman’s dignity. In this regard I will mention two incidents. One was shared by my ex-colleague Moumita De Das on my blog.
Moumita wrote: “but i wud never forget the day before dhanonjoy (hetal parekh rape n murder case) was about to be hanged to death on 15TH August, 2004…the time was 10pm santoshpur mini bus…i boarded the bus from exide crossing as i was returning from my office (hindustan times). A drunk guy was too uncomfortably close…just then when i reacted… the entire menfolk were suddenly united and abusing me verbally… all were supporting dhanonjoy’s actions criticising our legal system for his verdict and so on and so forth…i felt as if i had been verbally gangraped….that day i sensed that dhanonjoy’s humiliation was affected personally all kolkata’s bhadralok and i realised MEN ARE NOT BHADRALOK…”
The other incident happened with my late brother Anirban Mukherjee. He was returning from work in a mini bus when a woman slapped a man because he was harassing her. All the men in the bus egged the man to slap her back. My brother was the only one to stand up for her and brought the situation under control.
I know there are a lot of men like my brother who have come to our rescue so many times. Wonder why they have become a vanishing lot these days.
Law keeps its eyes widely shut
It is the fear of law that keeps all kinds of criminals in check. But when it comes to crimes against women most often the criminals go scot-free or the trial becomes such a long-drawn affair that the crime itself is forgotten. If a criminal gets to know that he can get away with his crime, and quite easily too, why won’t he do it again?
And now I won’t be surprised if after all this brouhaha about the National Crime Records statistics there is an even bigger leap in the crimes against women. The perpetrators can have a free run because they are now sure they can get away with it. All the more thanks to ministers like Partha Chatterjee.
(What is your opinion about crimes against women in West Bengal? Please click the dialogue box on the right side of the headline and leave your comment. I would like to include your opinion in my next post.)