One of India’s hardest hitting shows on TV – Styamev Jayate is back for its second season. Helmed by Aamir Khan the show has the reputation of bringing home to us some of the worst aspects of our society and the most shameful of social realities. It is a show that holds up an unwelcome mirror to all of us, informing us, forcing us to acknowledge facts, making us think and hopefully making us act.
The first episode of Season 2, Satyamev Jayate aired last Sunday, 2 March 2014 on the Star Plus channel. The episode dealt with the horrific realities of being a rape victim in India. The episode dealt with many pertinent aspects of sexual assault: the fact that perpetrators are very rarely brought to justice, the fact that the police and the medical community have a callous disregard for victims. The show highlighted the nightmarish difficulties that victims face when they report a crime and try to seek justice.
The show reports several real cases where rape survivors or people close to them speak out about experiences that make the blood run cold and touches upon and clarifies legal aspects that hopefully will bring about a change in callous attitudes where the victim is made to feel like the guilty party. Some of the important aspects of rape, rape reporting, investigation and forensics are examined in this show:
One may well wonder whether it is necessary to highlight such horrific stories, to ask people to go into such graphic detail about their experiences. However this is necessary in a sense. It is needed to horrify people and provoke thought and ultimately bring about attitudinal change. So while some of stores are absolutely heartrending, they need to be told – you and I need to hear them and to move out of our respective comfort zones and know that this can happen and that something somewhere needs to change.
Problems with the police
The show highlighted an important point about FIRs (First Information Reports). It is mandatory for the police to record an FIR when an aggrieved person approaches them with a complaint. Investigation and the collection of proof is a matter to be examined later – an FIR has to be registered, particularly in a rape case. If the police refuse to do this, they could face imprisonment for up to 2 years.
The problem of confidentiality is also touched upon – where the identity of victims is required to be kept confidential, but how doctors as well as the police bother little about this. The show examined how a victim who plucks up the courage to actually report the crime they have endured has to undergo the ordeal of facing insensitive and downright hostile questions from law enforcement authorities.
Problems with medical personnel
The show highlighted another important aspect of rape – the medical examination following the rape. Many people working with rape victims reiterated how doctors try to deter victims from telling their story and seeking justice. Doctors and medical personnel tend to view rape victims as an unwelcome intrusion an addition to an already heavy workload.
The archaic two-finger test is still used for determining rape. This is in spite of the fact that the Supreme Court has held this practice to be against the fundamental rights of a citizen. One woman spoke about an instance of a rape victim who was not only subjected to the test; but was also used as a specimen for other junior doctors to practice upon; and how this was like yet another rape for the victim.
The particularly horrifying treatment of child rape victims is also acknowledged; again where victims as well as parents are encouraged not to pursue the matter or seek justice.
Another vital point is spoken on: there is a class bias when taking cognizance of rape. Those from affluent backgrounds manage to get a more sympathetic and appropriate response whereas those without the financial wherewithal or clout tend to get a raw deal.
The fact is that doctors cannot refuse to examine a victim; they cannot say that an examination cannot be done until the arrival of the police. The doctors tend to look at victims as nothing but a piece of evidence and that is why evidence is not even collected properly. Medical professionals are not trained properly – in fact text books teach a doctor view the victim with suspicion. Also there is no strandardised method of examination, no SOP.
The horror of the judicial process
The final ignominy that rape victims or survivors have to face is the court proceedings. It is not unusual for a woman to be asked offensive questions in court while the perpetrators sit there and actually laugh. The accused dodge court dates, go absconding; simply ignore the gravity of the court proceedings where a victim is trying to obtain justice.
Justice Usha Mehra spoke on the show about changes required in the system – she suggested a one stop rape crisis centre that will help women get justice. Another important point touched upon is that this is not an urban phenomenon. These statistics were presented – 4 out of 5 rapes are in rural areas, 48% victims were dressed in sari or burkha, 31 %were dressed in salwar kameez and the remaining 10% were wearing frocks – because they were little children!
The show also spoke about some courageous women who chose to be not victims but survivors.
The whole show encapsulated the fact that seeking justice in a rape case is effectively a woman having to relive her traumatic experience again and again and yet again – at the police station, at the doctor’s office and then in court.
Vote for change
Those who want to get involved can visit the Satyamev Jayate website. You can also call up 1800 103 2301. Citizens can join in the fight against rape by signing a petition to the Prime Minister, to the Chief Justice or to the Home Minister.
By – Reena Daruwalla