The night of 16 December 2012 convinced lakhs of people to come out on Delhi’s street and fight for justice to India’s daughter Nirbhaya. Eight years down the line but justice yet to be delivered. Convicts of the Nirbhaya rape case are still alive. Rape victims believe it is too late to serve justice to Nirbhaya and it is also India’s failure to safeguard its women.  

23-year-old Nirbhaya, a medical student, was gang-raped and wounded so heinously that she succumbed to death. The rape incident took the nation by storm for many months. It also made the nation and international headlines. The incident had shaken the nation. However, it seems Indian judiciary has failed to imagine the pain Nirbhaya has suffered and the trauma her family has been going through since then.  

Nirbahay’s mother Asha Devi, since then, has been running from pillar to post but to avail no justice. In the last six weeks, the Delhi court has postponed the execution of four convicts thrice. On 5 March 2020, the court has again rescheduled the life sentence of Akshay Thakur, 31, Pawan Gupta, 25, Vinay Sharma, 26, and Mukesh Singh, 32, for 20 March 2020. However, it is said that this schedule may also be delayed. 

“I am no astrologer… but they [convicts] will find something to delay the March 20 execution… I am not in a hurry to execute them, but the system is suffering when the punishment keeps getting postponed. The convicts have been taking the system for a ride… Even now, it has been over two years since their review petitions were dismissed by the Supreme Court,” Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta submitted, reports The Hindu. 

Convicts of Nirbhaya rape case. (PC: Social media)

 

What is justice for rape victims? 

Vaishnavi (name changed), 24-year-old from Lucknow is working for a non-profit organisation that works for rape and sexual assault victims in Lucknow. She did not land there as her plan. Instead, her appetite for fighting against women’s violence when she was raped by a dance teacher of her graduation college.  

Vaishnavi was interested in dancing. She talked to the dance teacher about her plan to enrol in his (dance teacher) class. The teacher fixed a meeting in the morning at his academy. When she went there she was offered a cold drink. Initially, she was scared but then trusted the teacher and drank. “I thought he was my college teacher. He can’t do anything wrong with me,” told Vaishnavi.

Everything got blurred after a few seconds of drinking the cold drink. However, “I tried to control myself. The teacher started to touch me inappropriately and then removed my clothes. He continued doing what he wanted to do no matter how hard I tried to refuse and save myself,” Vaishnavi narrated her painful incident. 

She then managed to cover herself with some clothes and ran away. She went to college directly. “My body had many cuts and bruises, blood was oozing out of cuts. I was hiding what happened to me but bruises on my neck and face were clear to people that something bad happened to me,” told Vaishnavi with moistened eyes. 

“I have done this to many girls. You are not the first one,” said the teacher to Vaishnavi when he was raping. “That is what gave me the strength to fight against him,” said Vaishnavi. 

She complained against the teacher and requested to be anonymous for safety reasons. However, her name was revealed and then the teacher began torturing her physically and mentally. “I would receive unknown and abusive calls in the middle of the nights. Goons were following me everywhere. I was many times attacked by them too,” revealed Vaishnavi. 

Vaishnavi would go upstairs to her house terrace in the middle of the night and cry a lot, scratch herself in frustration and talk to herself. It took her more than six months to come out of the trauma. “We are not raped once but every time we are asked to repeat the painful incident,” said Vaishnavi, her eyes were full of tears battling to control the tears rolling down.  

When asked what is justice to her and all the women who are raped at some point in life, Vaishnavi said that rapists should be naked in the public “so that they also feel the shame and face trauma as we do.” She further added that hanging till death is very small punishment because it takes a few seconds to be killed and that too takes place behind closed doors.  

“Extending a rape case for eight years is not justice to rape victims. It should be done in 3-4 months,” added Vaishnavi. 

Usha Vishwakarma who runs a non-profit organization called Red Brigade in Lucknow resonates with Vaishnavi. She believes the maximum time to serve justice should be six months only. 

“The court has everything. The evidence as well as the rapists but still the court is taking time,” said Usha. She also said that capital punishment is not the solution, but “we as a society and the government should do something to change the mentality of men who consider women as an object.” 

Sequence of delay in execution of Nirbhaya rape case convicts. (Excerpt from Indian Express)

 

Justice delayed is a failure to women safety

Vaishnavi, even though she went through so much, she worked in banks and mobile network companies but failed to see the safety for women. “Once my team leader messaged me late at night asking for out. There were many incidents where I feel like I am, rather all the women are not safe in the society,” told Vaishnavi. She believes that delay in justice is a huge reason for this.  

Usha said that the delay in justice is making women scared to speak up and fight for justice. “Because they (rapist) know the judiciary will take years to give its verdict. They keep harassing women,” added Usha. 

Even, Asha Devi also said the same while talking to a TV news channel. “These criminals come out on bail and burn, kill and threaten rape victims and their families. If you want to keep daughters safe, you will have to hang the rapists,” said she.  

 

Lakhs of rape cases pending

The government on Wednesday said that there are over 2.4 lakh pending cases in courts related to rape and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act across the country till December last year.

According to a written reply in Lok Sabha by the Ministry of Law and Justice, Uttar Pradesh tops the list of states with 66,994 pending rape cases followed by Maharashtra with 21,691 and 20,511 in West Bengal.

“As per information received from High Courts, the status of pending cases related to rape and POCSO Act, as on December 31, 2019, is 2,44,001,” Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad informed the Lower House in response to a query by Janata Dal (United) leader Rajiv Ranjan (Lalan) Singh, reports Asian News International (ANI).