The gruesome rape and murder of Aasifa ,an eight-year-old Bakherwal-Gujjar girl living in a village near Kathua, 72 km from Jammu, has shattered the conscience of every individual.
Yet, even as we express outrage about the turn of events around this rape and murder, we need to consider the larger context. First, that child sexual abuse, rape and domestic violence are rampant in this country. Statistics do not tell half the story. Women and girls are attacked, tortured, and sexually assaulted in their homes, in their neighbourhoods, on the street, in the fields, in the forests—anywhere. Stronger laws have made little difference. In 2012, the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act was enacted. In 2013, the rape laws were tightened and the death sentence introduced. Despite this, the incidence of rapes and child abuse has not decreased. Laws can be effective only if the systems that implement them work.
As of now , there have been countless rapes of women and girls that almost never trigger outrage in the state of J&K . Apart from the usual problems in the delivery of justice, women there also have to contend with the provisions of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act that gives immunity to men in uniform from such crimes.
When politics injects the poison of hate between communities, it is women who are targeted to teach the other side a lesson. But, the new twist today is the confidence with which the purveyors of hate operate knowing that their supporters have the power to protect them. How else can you explain the brazen nature of the support for the accused in the murder of this child?
It is essential that there is a demand for the systemic changes that are needed to ensure that other girls do not undergo the same fate. The first port of call for victims is the police station. Here, they find no sympathy. Even if the case is noted, and investigated, there is still little hope that there will be justice.