Shameful though it may be to say it, society will have to keep its fingers crossed in the hope that the plethora of rape cases now plaguing the country will be impacted by a slew of directives the apex court has issued to expedite trials relating to sexual offences against children, or the legislative action to add more teeth ~ including the death penalty ~ to the POSCO Act. For both sets of measures pertain to “after the act”.

And stray attempts at preventive steps are nullified by statements from political leaders ~ among them the new deputy chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, as well as a member of the ministerial council at the Centre, attempting to undermine the gravity of a particularly horrific incident.

Not only do such statements tend to inject a degree of lethargy into the law-and-order authorities, they actually encourage/justify rape as a semi-legitimate weapon. To digress to a trifle, years ago young journalists cutting their professional teeth in this newspaper were instructed that the word “rape” was taboo, and the preferred alternative was “criminal assault”: now that four-letter word is in daily use. Both times and social norms have changed.

The “fast-track” order on Tuesday from a Supreme Court bench comprising CJI Dipak Mishra, DY Chandrachud, and AM Khanwilkar followed their being informed that no fewer than112,628 POSCO cases were pending in courts across the country. So the politicians’ claim of “brouhaha” and “minor” fall flat.

True that the Prime Minister has slammed the atrocities against “India’s daughters”, but the words of the top leadership do not seem to trickle down the political pecking order.

Social scientists would make the point more forcefully, but rape is merely an extreme manifestation of the desire/drive to dominate ~ all too often the victims belong to a lower social class, or when “within the family” the motivation is to teach someone a lesson, or vengeance or retribution. Sexual assault is deemed a powerful weapon.

Hence more than legal/punitive measures are needed ~ not that there can be endorsing some politicians’ theory that the popularity of jeans with young women and their brandishing mobile telephones and other “sins” of western culture are responsible. That line reflects another skewed mindset ~ that she “asked for it”.

Without delving into the depths of inter-party squabbling, it might be of use if the experts assessed the extent to which vicious politics have impacted a macho society. When win at all costs is the message that parties send out to their workers, and dividing society is a common vote-garnering tactic, a sense of hatred does inflict the mindset.

Domination at the ballot box spills over into other spheres too, and when “pulling somebody down” is seen as the “way up” there is no determining where the line will be drawn. Politicking has become a matter of life and death ~ or worse.