Who Is Responsible?

D.M. Thapa

Are the media outlets getting really free or are criminal activities on the rise in different parts of the country now? Almost every day we see and hear reports of heinous crimes, of cases of rape and murder which dismays most people. This is no good news with to start the day.
I used to read in the early Seventies of how citizens in “strong America” were reluctant to watch the news on TV or read newspapers because the reports of war, violence and criminal activities depressed them. They became so paranoid that they had to take pills to calm themselves down.
Normally I used to laugh at such reports as we were living in tranquil Nepal where everyone lived in peace with each other. But how wrong I was in not seeing a future with similar circumstances in the place where I have lived for a long time. There are many reasons for such a social devastation and I can at least pinpoint some reasons including political, economic and media inspired initiatives for people to commit crimes which were unimaginable before.

I travelled to many parts of the country including the villages in the high hills and also the Terai region, the people were very friendly and warm in their welcome and I enjoyed the local food which they happily served for a guest from outside. Even the commercial restaurants were good and I enjoyed eating at such places, though some were small and probably not too hygienic. The women who mostly were responsible for such hospitality seemed safe and secure. But those days seem to be gone now. Even Kathmandu, considered a safe city is full of cheaters and thugs and criminal acts are committed all the time, some small time cheating and some more horrifying acts to just hear about.
The most serious issue I am really worried about is the increasing rate of rapes and murders. Women seem to be the most vulnerable targets. If nothing, they are robbed by looters while taking a morning walk or while taking some money out of the bank and they are harassed while going about their routine works.
Just holding seminars and giving big talks on the rights of women are not enough. Or giving women some seats in the parliament or in some posts are not enough. The so-called free media also do not seem to make any follow-up reports of the victims or their families who must have been going through an anguishing period. The rights activists and also those who have reached the higher echelons in government and non-government organisations are also silent on this aspect. They only talk in political jargon at seminars, conferences and public meetings. This is ridiculous and some concrete measures must be made, and these so-called activists should not be satisfied in only pocketing money from some foreign funded organisations or the other.
What are the rights activists doing? What about the high profile feminists groups? Most importantly, what are the so-called media experts who harp on each and every issue being so silent on the role of the media, especially the broadcast media and also movies, which encourage violence and also bad attitude against women?
First of all I would like to tell the media to stop sensationalising violence against women just for publicity’s sake. The print media has its own echelon of readers who are influenced by whatever they see or read in newspapers. Then there are others who are highly influenced by social dramas, especially foreign ones and they think it is normal to do what is shown in such serials or movies. But the majority of the general Nepali people are highly attached to movies, whether they are from outside or made here. The writers and directors of such movies also seem to have no idea about how much the society can be influenced by what they portray in their fictional films.
For example, women are always portrayed as individuals who should be exploited, ogled at or even as mere sex items. It is the same case in violent scenes where people are seen beating one another, threatening one another and even killing one another. This was not a scenario of the tranquil Nepal I talked of in the beginning. But influenced by such scenes, which actors now can perform with conviction, we are witnessing a sharp increase in the crime rate. I had written about such a development a long time back as well, but as usual nobody listened.
These days, besides many criminal activities, I am very disturbed when I hear of crime committed against minor girls. Such acts are despicable and the harshest of harsh punishment should be given to the culprits.
But I have never heard or read in the media outlets about the fate of such criminals. Just giving money as compensation is ridiculous, as the life of a girl child is involved and if she survives her whole life could be ruined. But who talks of such issues? The so-called rights activists are satisfied by only the fact that they pressured one government or the other to provide compensation and the media has no follow-up reports about such cases. They never question whether the culprits have been arrested, what punishment they have received or whether they have been already released on one pretext or the other.
Forget serious crimes, even simple harassment against women at work places go usually unreported and ignored. Forget women workers like waitresses, even educated women government employees, more vulnerable women like nurses, air hostesses and even the regular women in the streets are harassed through different means every day. A campaign should be raised here to stop such harassment and also physical torture by the activists and media sector.

I feel very strongly about this issue and I hope that some really concrete work is done to protect women, curb corruption and other criminal activities. Only giving loud speeches, speaking at seminars and seeking compensation is not enough. The government, police and other authorities seem completely helpless, but the ordinary people have to come out and make complaints, like it is happening all over the world now and force the authorities and media to act more responsibly instead of only sensationalising such inhuman cases.


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