It has been over one year since Keenan Santos and Reuben Fernandez were killed in Mumbai by eve-teasers for trying to protect their girl-friends. Their loved ones are still waiting for justice though finally charges have been framed. However, never before in the history of independent India have the young faced so many challenges as they grapple with a society that has somehow refused to evolve with them to accept gender equality and freedom of choice. How different are we from the countries where till date young girls like Malala Yousufzai are shot for wanting to study? Recently in Jind, Haryana, A 16-year-old Dalit girl set herself on fire and died after an episode of rape. How are we different than countries where the young are deprived of basic freedoms especially when a former Chief-Minister, Om Prakash Chautala suggests that the growing incidence of gender violence in Haryana can be controlled only by child marriage (an offence under Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006)? Or when, the West-Bengal Chief-Minister (Mamta Banerjee) claims that rape is on the rise because “men and women interact with each other more freely now?
Leaders like Dharambir Goyat from Haryana are not in a minority when they claim that most of the times, rape is “consensual!” Haryana’s Social Welfare, Education, and Women and Child Welfare Minister Geeta Bhukkal blamed gender crime reports on ‘a conspiracy against the state!” She added, “Such incidents are taking place not only in Haryana but also in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and other states.’ That should reassure us. According to a recent newspaper report, an application filed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act by a Ahmadabad based group revealed that,” in 95 per cent of the total cases of crime against women between 2001 and 2009, the investigation is either pending with the courts or is abandoned due to lack of any further leads.” This is just one city. In different parts of the country, gender crimes and even the need to choose love over tradition are all blamed on stimuli as diverse as chowmein to jeans to mobile phones to television and cinema and films.