By Anuj Sabharwal
Edited by Madhavi Roy, Senior Editor, The Indian Economist
The unfortunate date of 16th December when our brave girl ‘Nirbhaya’ fought her tormentors is still fresh in all our memories. Even though she is not around, she can be called as a survivor. She survived the assault to tell the details of the torrid time to all of us. Her last wish was that the six demons be burned alive. But our law makers disappointed her and most of us to some extent. Not that they did not give capital punishment to the five of them; but that they did not reveal the full identity of the juvenile. True! You were bound by the laws which only punishes him for three years (which is the usual sentencing for extreme juvenile offenses). But our government and Judges could have taken a leaf out of the various judgments given by courts in Britain in the past which I will discuss later in the column. A Rape is considered as a heinous crime all over the world and what happened in a private bus in Delhi on the 16th of December was extremely brutal. The so-called juvenile, who was the most brutal, always had his face covered during the hearings and his identity was protected by the various government bodies. He was given anonymity in spite of the gruesome assault inflicted by him. What scares many Indian women is that he will be released next year in December, 2015. The question which pops out is that, his hiding behind a piece of cloth may have not brought any shame to him, which is an essential deterrent for preventing an offender from becoming a serial offender. Juvenile Home caretakers say that he behaves normally and most of time is busy watching TV. The World has not seen his cruel face and he may manage to live life normally as nobody will recognize him. I strongly feel that our government should reveal his identity and should not allow other rapists to hide behind pieces of cloth. This may deter them and build a sense of fear in them. Naming them will encourage other rape survivors to come forward and speak out.Our Judges can learn a thing or two from the British Judge Paul Glenn who took the unusual step to lift a restriction preventing the publication of Bilaal Khan’s name as a “deterrent” to others. Bilaal Khan, who assaulted a 20 year old woman, when aged just 13, was jailed for three years.
He terrified his victim in a park, punched and kicked her in the face before raping her. He subjected her to a severe beating. Not only this, he answered a call from the victim’s boyfriend and bragged to him about the assault. At the age of 13, Khan is thought to be one of the youngest convicted rapists of Britain. The Judge Glenn said Khan’s offences were grave and he would have sent him for eight years to prison, had he not been a juvenile. He said, “In this case I believe there is a legitimate public interest in naming this offender. It may prove to be a deterrent to others.” Feminist activist Jessica Valenti from USA believes that speaking up and naming rapists can be “straight up heroic.” She wrote in ‘The Nation’, “Making the world more uncomfortable for rapists – letting them know that there will be consequences that include public shaming, is something I’m entirely at ease with.”
Remaining silent “muzzles” rape victims by putting their life in the hands of their perpetrator.
Writer Germaine Greer made loud and clear her wish for an “online rapists register” and suggested that sexual bullies be ordered to wear a T-shirt with the word ‘rapist’ on it as a community service. These are certainly strong words which have few takers in a country like ours. However, sexual assault is a global problem and we all should come forward to fight the menace. As United Nation’s Global Ambassador Angelina Jolie says, “We must send a message around the world that there is no disgrace in being a survivor of sexual assault; that the shame is on the aggressor.” I hope our government takes an example out of the verdict of the British Judge and discourages hiding of sexual offenders behind a mask of anonymity. It may save thousands of future victims.