I've been disappointed with much of the commentary in Indian and foreign media regarding the ongoing violence against women in India. A lot of people (including friends and colleagues) think this is a social issue.
I disagree. Vehemently.
I can confirm without any doubt in my mind that this is PRIMARILY a governance issue. In my speech at Jantar Mantar I made a similar point. Yes, there are a lot of social issues involved, particularly in north India, but this remains mainly the mark of a TOTALLY FAILED STATE.
I'm pleased that at least one thinker shares this view, and would like to cite him briefly:
New laws won't solve India's rape epidemic, by: Ramesh Thakur, The Australian, January 10, 2013
THE pack-rape and murder of a 23-year old woman in Delhi is not rooted in local culture. The blame for India's rape epidemic lies in the corruption of public life and the decay of institutions. Successive governments are culpable but have yet to be held criminally accountable.
A new feudal system is being created as the political process is captured by an increasingly narrow and self-perpetuating ruling class that collaborates with the bureaucracy and police as agents of the predator state. Rape based on structural violence occurs when the powerful misuse their position to rape the powerless. This happens both in cities and in villages; it is not a phenomenon restricted just to urban centres.
The problem of rape, especially against the poor, outcaste and tribal women, is not recent. There have been enough high-profile cases that a government with a social conscience would have acted decisively by now.
Public policy failings have produced the world's biggest pool of poor, sick, starving and illiterate. Institutional failures of governance mean their suffering is aggravated.
The glib call to name a tough new law after the victim will import American custom that is alien and offensive to the British-based Indian legal tradition. India suffers from too many laws which sow confusion, provide perverse incentives for police and judicial corruption, and foster and embed a disrespect for the principle of the rule of law.
Creating special courts for speedy trials of rape cases with toughened conditions for defendants will mean some victims will get swifter justice. But it will impose even further delays on other cases. It will also mean more people will threaten or file false cases as a convenient tool of extortion against political opponents, social rivals, wealthy neighbours, rejected suitors and so on.
Police and judges will find yet another tool to extract bribes from all sides.
Professor Ramesh Thakur is director of the Centre for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament, Australian National University.
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