The Bandipora Rape case is one more heart-wrenching abuse and form of extreme violence against a female child barely three years old. The incident has tarnished our existence again as has such previous cases. The horror took place in a beautiful part of Malik Pora of Trehgam Village of Bandipora. After one more sleepless night that such violence gives me, I went on to meet the family. I wanted to share the little amount of their grief and show my solidarity to them for reporting this crime in a society where crimes against women and children are preferred to be pushed under the carpet to save so-called honour of family or community. Though I was not courageous enough to meet the baby and her mother but, I enquired about their wellbeing from other members of the family. I was told that the baby is not even three years old but is liveliest and she even in pain and unaware of the meaning of the crime, insisted on complaining to her father about the horror that Moba Baya unleashed on her after giving her chewing-gums and taking her to the bathroom. The family members also told me that the abuser was just like their family member and the two families live not even two yards away from each other and were like one extended family. However, the women in that room confirmed that the man is a paedophile and is known to have molested various other children too.
The past couple of or more years have rocked the Indo-Pak region with surfacing of such terror cases mostly against women of any age, religious belief, income group, or ethnic background. However, the studies suggest that Rape cases might be accelerating with time but are not a new phenomenon. The violence against women is deeply existent in society, and sexual assault is its extreme manifestation. The violence, to my mind, is sustaining majorly through the tabooing of its reporting. However, the public anger in most of the cases in the recent past indicates that our society is becoming sensitised against the crime and coming in open support of the victim, demanding justice and exemplary punishments for the abuser shows that.
I want to go a little deeper into the problem and highlight a couple or three concerns here. Firstly, there is enough evidence available that suggests that our society is today clutched by a culture that they loosely describe as rape culture. This means the normalisation of violence against women and children through the process of justifying abuse, unchecked abuse of power, elevated sense of entitlement and on the pretext of honour. Apart from this, the mode of total denial in every case is going to head us towards the disaster. Even, case after case we still have no proper mechanism to curb the crime leave alone victim shaming. Logically, the crime should confine the predator but what happens is that confinements are brought with multiple unknown burdens to the victim of the violence.
Therefore, if something of utmost importance is required here is introspection, multi-layered introspection of the nation. What is it that families, individuals, communities are inflicted with this kind of pain? It is simply that as a Nation, regardless of our religious belief, sectarian affiliation or ideological inclination and gender orientation, we are still unable to fully acknowledge the crime and its roots in and effects on our society. We are yet to decide that if we want to be intolerant of violence against marginal groups and make safety and dignity of all groups, question of our national honour. No one can deny that in this conflicted region the cases of abuse, rape and molestation have hierarchy and are not condemned with equal disgust. The violence that starts from the feticide, abandonment of girl child by fathers, disowning of a daughter in laws and even dissolution of marriages for bearing girl child, denying right to education and training and right to property, instances of domestic violence and precisely, dehumanising and demeaning the life of a woman. The violence inflicted from the state and other political and non-political actors is even beyond the extent of this piece.
The other issue that grabbed attention in the case of Trehgam Rape of a minor is that of the sectarian angle. I believe behaving sectarian is undesirable and against the concept of justice but studying it is giving the consideration to the facts. Instead of denying its existence, its nuances have to be understood, as it continually shapes our society and social relation.
The anxiety is substantiated by the denial of space, identity-based discrimination, almost non-existent dialogue and constant othering and stereotyping of the community. The sense of belongingness and security is diminishing day by day that is aided by the events unleashing on the international level.
Don’t limit this mode of protest only to the demanding punishment for the culprit of the Trehgam Rape case but make it a broader movement for the protection of women, children and marginal of any background. The violence against women and children is rising alarmingly; therefore, let’s not be selective but address this issue in its broader perspective. The similar distastefulness, anger and intolerance should be shown to every predator even within the community. The protests are not enough, the eradication of the mentality that might make the life of the baby miserable afterwards has to be taken up.
(The author is a columnist and scholar of International Studies and Islamic Studies and Woman and Child Rights Activist)