IN a state not known for gender sensitivity, it is not surprising that cases of crime against women keep surfacing. Even as the Rewari gang-rape incident is fresh in the minds of the people, the latest incident in which the teacher of a government school in Panipat has been booked for raping a class XI student in the classroom has come as a shocker. Haryana is a paradox of sorts. While the state has produced outstanding sportswomen like Saina Nehwal and the Phogat sisters and is the place from where astronaut Kalpana Chawla hailed, it also has to contend with high incidence of gang-rapes, as per the National Crime Records Bureau figures. Days earlier, a teenaged student had stabbed his teacher in the classroom in Sonepat district. The examples of Varnika Kundu, Ruchika Girhotra and the allegations against the chief of the Dera Sacha Sauda sect indicate that the malaise is deep-rooted.
The cultural milieu of Haryana is seen as one of patriarchy and male chauvinism. On the one hand, economic development, empowerment, financial independence, education and awareness are making women venture out, but on the other, the regressive mindset challenges this self-assertion. CM Manohar Lal Khattar had himself stirred a row for hinting that women too were responsible for such incidents: ‘Our country’s tradition asks girls to dress decently,’ unmindful that tradition is often a byword for patriarchy. That singer Honey Singh has been booked for ‘vulgar’ lyrics shows wariness over popular culture influencing behaviour.
One problem that Haryana faced was that of skewed sex ratio which made it difficult for men to find brides. The state has made progress on this front with figures from the Registrar General of India indicating a jump. Child sex ratio takes into account girl child discrimination after birth. So, the improvement is welcome. The state needs to clamp down strictly on blatant disregard for the law, besides engaging the youth in constructive activities to check their criminalisation.