The Symptom or the Source?

From India emerged a story of two women who were gang-raped and then hanged in the middle of the night in a rural hamlet. The local police were slow and hesitant to respond. Outrage across India has been vocal and the State finally stepped in. Arrests have been made. However, the estimate of the moment is that a woman is raped every half hour in India, mostly in the rural areas. Prosecuting one case of rape/murder does not appear to affect this criminal behavior.

The first solution, arrest followed by conviction, has failed to change behavior even though we think it should. Fear of punishment should prevent crime from happening. This is not the best model of morality, not doing something out of fear of getting caught, and it does not work in any case. There is little fear.

The source of the problem is that women are isolated and alone in a largely lawless, violent area. India is unable to impose law and order in these rural areas and therefore rapists will be deterred. Since the rapists cannot be stopped, the better solution is to change the women’s circumstance.

The solution is toilets. Yes, toilets. There are no privies in these rural areas and relieving of human wastes is done in the fields, in the open. Modest women will wait until it is dark to go out into the fields to relieve themselves, some in the middle of night for complete privacy. This circumstance makes women utterly vulnerable and indeed, this is when the rapes usually take place. A non-profit group is now installing outdoor toilets in these rural areas, allowing these women to relieve themselves during the day and under the watchful eyes of family.

The community is given the tools, in this case a sanitary toilet, to protect and police themselves. The land is still lawless but the women are safe. With the immediate threat to life averted, perhaps the Indian government will be able to address the issue of corrupt police forces and crimes against lower castes.