How should a country respond when its police force is found wanting? That is the question Indian’s face after a sting-operation carried out by a leading magazine last week exposed widespread rape-denial among a senior stratum of India’s police force. If the media reaction is an index, all that this revelation could muster was a nationwide raised eyebrow. In the embattled history for social justice in India the police dismissal of rape victims and the failure to respond marks one of the lowest points.
Ram Mashru writes in his column titled India’s continued demonization of rape victims in The Independent :
And yet, the most disheartening aspect of the exposé is the knowledge that these comments are the products of a much wider and much bleaker cultural attitude. In India, the suggestion that there is such a thing as marital rape is laughed at, and the high incidence of the rape of minors and the failure to report custodial rape all point to an institutional rape-denial complex. The immediate question is to ask, if this is the attitude of policemen in Delhi, a relatively progressive enclave, what is the experience of rape victims in India’s hinterland?
Kiran Bedi, India’s Judge Judy and a celebrity policewoman, has come out insisting that a lack of training is the problem. She proposes “brainwashing” the police into taking rape seriously.Other senior figures have offered less risible solutions: have female police officers lead rape investigations or introduce quotas to encourage women to join the force. There are also those that argue that the police must not only be just, but be seen to be just and so dismissals are what are required to rebuild trust.
But each of these proposals falls far short. Just how much training is needed to purge these men of their age-old personal and professional prejudice? Critics are right to complain that training offers nothing by way of a guarantee that these policemen will have changed. Equally, India has an almost catastrophically low police to population ratio. Expunging a senior layer of police officials would only perpetuate the legal void in which rapists already act. And to argue that diversification is needed is to kick the issue into the long grass. Not only does rape-denial need to be addressed immediately, but, there is no reason to hope that the presence of policewomen will change anything: the one female police officer interviewed during the investigation parroted the same misogynistic views.
- “Asking for it”: Delhi police blame rape on the victims (thefword.org.uk)