Are you feeling a strange sense of deja vu when you read the news these days, especially in the aftermath of the outrage around the Kathua rape? It’s starting to feel like when there’s a major rape case that shakes the country and produces rare nation-wide public outrage, there’s a set of steps to follow before we all get fed up and move on.
STEP 1: PUBLIC OUTRAGE
Back in December 2012 after the Delhi gangrape, we saw massive public protests, to which the government famously responded by resorting to lathi charge and water cannons in Delhi. It’s hard to forget the spectacle of Delhi police attacking and beating women protesting the lack of safety for women in public spaces. In the aftermath of the Kathua rape, police once again used water cannons and smoke pellets against protesters in Srinagar and Anantnag districts in Kashmir, while in Mysore, police resorted to lathi-charge to disperse protestors who had gathered to demand justice for Asifa.
STEP 2: TOO FAST, TOO FURIOUS, TOO USELESS GOVT RESPONSE
Then come the responses to the public outrage. After informing the public that rape shouldn’t be politicised, whichever government is in power at the time will try to put a quick band-aid on the moment by calling for more blood.
In the aftermath of the 2012 gangrape, that government hastily implemented an Act audaciously called the Juvenile Justice Act, which mandated that children above the age of 16 would be tried as adults in particularly heinous crimes. This was a particularly specific response to what is clearly a large and system problem, but since one of the accused in this particular rape was a juvenile, the convenient answer was to more harshly punish juveniles in the future.
In much the same way, the current government’s response to the public calls for action after the Kathua case has not been to implement anything that would stop rape from happening or address the structures that allow for it, but merely to more harshly punish the very few rapists who are reported and convicted. Now, the Cabinet has approved an executive order that allows the death penalty for those convicted of raping girls below the age of 12, and mandatory minimum sentences for those convicted of raping girls below age 16. Meaning that the government’s immediate answer to the pervasive problem of rape and rape culture, and to the outrage around the ruling party’s members harbouring rapists, is to quickly satisfy an emotional public bloodlust and move on.
But not so fast, we forgot the inevitable
STEP 3: CONSENSUAL SEX SO DIRTY, RAPE SO INEVITABLE, LET’S BAN PORN
Soon after December 2012, our man Kamlesh Vaswani from the Indore High Court successfully petitioned the government to block access to pornography in the country, drawing a connection between watching porn and committing rape. The government actually did block access to 857 websites, spawning a rich and enthusiastic public debate that finally led to the government hastily backtracking and supplying that they would now merely only block access to sites that showed child pornography.
Whispers of #pornban are beginning to surface once again in the aftermath of Kathua. Now, the Home Minister of Madhya Pradesh, ruled by the same party whose sitting members attending rallies in support of the Kathua rapists, is calling for porn to be banned, and has even revealed that Madhya Pradesh has taken it upon itself to ban 25 porn sites.
And so it goes. Public outrage, police crackdowns, satisfy bloodlust, ban porn, forget about it all and move on.
STEP 4: ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND
Oppose feminists who keep fighting for women’s issues until the next Big One.