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A Criminological analysis to the crimes against women

We, Humans are social animals. We are all socialized into these abstract notions of a society. A society is defined as ‘alarge group of people who live together in an organized way, making decisions about how to do things and sharing the work that needs to be done. All the people in a country, or in several similar countries, can be referred to as a society' Cambridge Dictionary). We are trained to fit into our relevant roles in the society from the moment they are born. They are all trained to maintain and stabilize the society. And a crime is an offense which disturbs the peace and tranquility of the society. A Crime is an act or an omission which violates or is forbidden by the law. Paul Tappan defines a crime as “an intentional act or omission in violation of criminal law committed without defense or justification and sanctioned by the state for punishment as a felony or a misdemeanor". The study of the law of crimes deals with the forbidding conduct, which is perceived as threatening or causes harm to the society in general. Whereas, Criminology is the scientific study of crime as a social phenomenon, of criminals and of penal treatment. A major aspect of Criminology deals with the aspect of why does one becomes a criminal.

In India, one in every three women faces physical / sexual violence. While 33.5% of the women face domestic violence with 8.5% includes sexual violence. While the rate of reported rape crimes 6.5 for every 100,000 people of the population (Bandyopadhyay). This is not including the floodgate of unreported crimes. In this paper I will be attempting to analyze the reason for the crimes against women the Indian framework. As framework of the Indian society is very diverse and some parts of the framework is contradictory to the other parts. I will be analyzing the framework of the Indian society in my attempt understand and analyze the reasons for the ‘normalization’ of domestic crimes against women in India with the help of Literature and Drama because Art is the reflection of the society.

In India, the crimes against women is extremely ‘normalized’ to dangerous levels. We are used to these crimes to the extent of that, our first reaction is to blame the victim for not being careful enough. Despite the constitutional right to equality since the past 68 years, Women still have to fight tooth and nail to earn what is normally taken granted by the men. Therefore, the question still remains as to why this problem exists. There are many theories in criminology to examine this :-

The Traumatic Bonding Theory, the Marital Power theory, the social learning theory, exchange theory, the Bio-psychological theory etc., but amongst all of them the theory of ‘Culture of Violence’ and the ‘feminist theory’ seem to be the more probable answer.

The feminist theory is relevant in explaining why domestic crimes happen whereas the Culture of violence theory makes it widespread and established. There are many different ideas within feminist theory of domestic violence, however, according to M. Bograd in ‘Feminist Perspectives on Wife Abuse’ there are four common strains. Firstly, the dominant class, men have differential access to material and symbolic resources and women are devalued as secondary and inferior. Secondly, intimate partner abuse is a predictable and common dimension of normal family life. Thirdly, women's experiences are often defined as inferior because male domination influences all aspects of life. And lastly, the feminist perspective is dedicated to advocacy for women.

The concept of `Cultural violence' is defined here as ‘any aspect of a culture that can be used to legitimize violence in its direct or structural form. Symbolic violence built into a culture does not kill or maim like direct violence or the violence built into the structure. `Cultural violence' is that aspect of a culture that is used to legitimize violence within the society through either direct or structural methods. Now, this form of violence is sometimes propagated, through religion, ideology, art, language, and also through empirical and formal science.’ (Galtung, 1990).

The propagation of structural violence through religion and ideology is deeply rooted in the within the Indian society. The ideologies of women as the inferior sex, honor of the family, subservient, etc., which are perpetrated into the society can be clearly noticed through the version of presentation and narration of the ‘ideal women’ in Indian mythologies.

It is interesting to note that, the example of the Supreme Goddess, Adi Parashakti. Although she is the same goddess, she is worshiped in many forms as per the caste, class and status of the her worshippers. The understanding of the religious beliefs is very important as this enables us to trace the empowerment and the mobility of women within the society. We can trace a pattern that the version of the Goddess worshiped in a particular sect of society, determines the mobility of the women in that particular sect. For example, we see the worship of Goddess Durga, the domesticated version of Goddess Adi Parashakti amongst the upper caste and upper class sects while the middle castes and classes worship the more violent version of her; whereas the lower castes worship the lesser known versions of the Goddess depending upon many factors such as geography, economic status, hierarchy of their caste, etc., The most domesticated upper strata of the society has very less rate of female mobility and thereby making them more vulnerable to crimes in the patriarchal framework. Whereas, independence and mobility is favored in the lower strata. This reference throws light on the nature and scope of the unreported cases of violence against women in the upper strata of the society.

Although, the woman in the Indian Mythology play a variety of roles, it is the ‘ideal’ women like Sita and Draupadi that are looked upon as role models for young girls. Now, both these characters are represented as women who stick by their husbands despite various hardships and trauma that they face and are deified for their dedication towards their husbands and their families. We also see various other minor characters who are similarly deified, therefore, enforcing the stereotype of the ‘good woman and bad woman’.The good woman who suffers through everything without complain and the bad woman who is the villain, thereby, perpetrating the ideology of ‘patriarchy’.

This concept can also be reflected amongst the muslim women as well. But, the case of the Muslim home is much more interesting because the installation of these ideologies of subservience is done directly through the religious texts rather than through other agencies. A woman’s agency in itself is reduced making her a part of the inferior race to a male through various religious laws like Zina, Triple Talaq, disproportionate inheritance, etc., In fact, she even has less weightage as a witness in trials proceedings and marriages. Furthermore, there is always a sword of co-wife or divorce hanging in her neck, thereby making her vulnerable to the male.

These ideologies on the role of women within the indian framework is brought into question almost every time while addressing the issue of development, nationalism etc., Although there was massive mobilization and empowerment of women there was still a problem. These women were still working for the realm of the domestic sector (i.e. welfare of the family) thereby denying the woman her free agency. Therefore, this empowerment did not protect them from the prevailing domestic abuse, but instead exposed them to external violence as well, as the self entitled believed that these women were now available as they had stepped out of their ‘ideal’ stereotype.

Furthermore, these ideologies due to their existence throughout generations, gain the normalization status. For example, a large majority of people believe that it is the right of the husband to hit the wife. Because, this is the tradition.

Now, this structure of cultural violence is further being solidified in the present day and age through modern mass media be it television, movies and novels, etc., these mediums with their widespread mass appeal propagate and glorify the abuse of women. This is prevalent in the case of Television soap operas which re-define the role of a woman to include an educated modern woman who uses all her new skills for the betterment of her household, thereby, reintroducing the ‘Badramahila’ of the late nineteenth century. Ironically the plight of the women in the India seems to be much more dramatic especially with the T.V. Serials which has more than have the nation glued to its screens everyday, propagating the upper class ‘Sanskariness’ with traditional, all respecting heroines who are abused on a regular basis and get thrown out their house every other week, etc., Some of these ideologies propagated in these serials are no doubt, affect the society in general. (Partha Chatterjee).

The reactions of the people to these propagated ideologies is reflected through the plaints and written statements in the family courts, which show the drama in the Indian households. Whereas, the rulings in the family law cases, further strengthens the case. We have learned Supreme Court judges upholding the religious sacredness of a marriage and also holding the (mostly) woman liable for not fulfilling her wifely duties. All these forms of commercial media have glorified and normalized sexual violations and the crimes in the domestic sphere in the modern day to day life.

One of the things that we humans love to love is ‘LOVE’. Romance is one of the best selling genres in the market. In fact, all over the world there is always a dash of romance across all genres in most of the novels, comics, movies, Television series, Plays, Operas and what not. Love triangles, Alpha male, Super Successful Heroes, who stalk heroines and make them fall in love with them. This is the appealing mass media the country is exposed to. In fact there are a lot of adolescents who are exposed to these ideas of how a women is treated in the society. This translates into a crime when these youngsters start believing abuse and violence to be romantic, leading to domestic violence into relationships and through further glorification this behavior becomes the normalized into the society thereby causing a never ending circle.

Another relevant In fact in India, the major successful commercial movies, there are two or three or sometimes four heroines who semi-nakedly in the so called dream songs and item songs. In fact, a lot of the catchy item ‘songs’ are highly problematic and also objectify a women’s body. These ‘songs’ reduce the women to an object for the male gaze leaving the message that she exists for the sole purpose of the enjoyment of men. And, these are the films which are being regularly consumed by the general public. And these form of art like movies are a reflection of the society in general, and its reflections which are also the lens of the general society. This culture gets translated to when a lot of people, adolescents, middle aged and even old people, who when caught committing an offense against a women, like stalking, eve teasing, domestic violence and even rape, believe that what did is justified as ‘That is how things work!’. This also seems to be a valid defense in the courts of law. In the case of Mahmud Farooqui v. NCT Delhi, the High court acquitted Mahmud Farooqui, a scholar accused of rape. One of the grounds for his acquittal was ‘he thought her no means yes’. These movie references have been used in many sexual assault cases. We see people eve teasing and stalking women because they see themselves to be heroes and they sincerely believe that girls generally say no in the beginning and it is a challenge for their ego’s to make the girl fall for them. Although this may seem entertaining for the others, it is a very tormenting experience for the victims.

There are a lot of explanations as to why the crimes against women occur. The normalization of the abuse and the vulnerably of the women is some of the causes. Although the traditional cultural structure is one of the main reasons for the prevailing rates of crimes against women, the modern day mass media add on to this by creating new stereotypes of women as sexualized objects thus, adding more fuel to the prevailing fire.

# Rajyashri B, “Crimes committed within a private space, such as domestic violence within the family home are considered and regarded to be less problematic than crimes committed within the public sphere.” Domestic Violence Against Women-Criminology Perspective accessed 16 October 2018.
# Galtung, Johan, “Cultural Violence” (1990) Volume: 27 issue: 3, page(s): 291-305
# National Family and Health Survey, 2005
# Sujan Bandyopadhyay, “A Closer Look at Statistics on Sexual Violence in India” The Wire accessed on 16 October 2016.
# Mahmood Farooqui vs State of (NCT Delhi) C.A. 118/15
# Partha Chatterjee, “The Woman’s Question” (1989)
# Picture Credits : "Letters to the Editor"

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