Tuesday, December 18, 2012

[Delhi Gang rape] Lest we forget and move on, yet again

- Prachee Sinha

A 23 year old young woman battles for her life in a hospital in Delhi. She was raped by a group of men, brutalized, beaten mercilessly and thrown out of a moving bus on Sunday night. Her fault: she was a woman in the wrong place at the wrong time; she dared to be in a public space at night; and she was with a young man with whom she had just finished watching a movie. According to some media reports, she was in fact taunted by the rapists about being out with a male friend late at night. This young woman is fighting to stay alive as we speak, and she may not make it, but if she does and decides to fight for justice, there will be an entire society, an entire system standing against her, blaming her for what happened to her, scrutinizing and judging her entire life, her choices, and her very existence.

This crime is particularly brutal, with horrific details emerging about what this woman has endured and the damage her body has suffered. I for one have no complain about the talk and interest that this case is generating. Even though I do think that putting the CCTV footage of the rape in the public domain is frankly disrespectful and offensive. It should be used as evidence in court and not as fodder for public consumption. Anyhow, media is making the case a headline, the police and government are acting fast under pressure of the public opinion, and everybody who is anybody is decrying it as a heinous crime, which it indeed is. And now the political parties have also jumped in with the BJP starting to make demands, the Aam Aadmi party starting to make comments. There is uproar in the parliament. The politicking and slugfest has just commenced. The girl is still critical and the police are still investigating and all the criminals are still not in jail.

The danger, however, is that focusing mainly on the brutality of the crime makes it appear an isolated incident, whereas it is not some freak mishap, or rare wrongdoing of a few mentally sick twisted men just acting out their perversion while possessed with evil. It is a product instead of a culture and a society which still has deeply entrenched feudal-patriarchal social relations, where women are considered lesser people who should be controlled and be punished if they break from tradition, where girls are denied the right to be born, to health, to education, and often to be loved and cherished, where conviction rates in rape cases are abysmally low, where the woman is always blamed for being raped, where boys are so precious that they get away with anything from a very young age, where women are murdered for every day dowry, where wife battering is considered an act emanating from love and is considered a right of the husband, and where if you love and/or marry the “wrong” person, your family can kill you in the name of honor.

Photo: feministzinetime.tumblr.com
I am a young woman in my 30s. I work and travel 2 hours each way to work and back every day in the public transportation. Fortunately the Delhi metro has a women’s only compartment now, to consternation of many men, so at least for that leg of the journey women are spared the leering, the groping, and the pinching and other unwanted advances. I am in public space alone to work, to travel, for leisure, and I am harassed almost every day in small ways for being out and being alone. When I am not being harassed, I have my antennae up, devising and scheming mechanisms to be safe in the public space. I am calculating my actions and moderating my choices, making rational and constraining decisions so that I do not get into trouble. Despite all this rigmarole, I make mistakes some time, and I have been fortunate so far. What do you, for example, if you get into a shared auto, which is by the way much easier on your pocket, around 7 pm in south Delhi and soon you are only woman with three men, one of whom decides to serenade you? Do you stop the auto and get off, or do you just sit in hoping some other women will board it at the next stop? I assessed the situation, decided not make a huge issue out of it, and took call to continue on, and if something untoward had happened to me that night, I know I would have had to answer a million questions: why I was in a shared auto at that time alone? Why was I out at all at that point? What was I wearing? How did I behave? They would have dug up my past, my ex-boyfriends, and my so-called loose character and so would have gone out the window any slim chance I may have had of justice. And I am in no way alone in all this. Millions of young women who get out every day to work, to study, to hang out with friends, to visit places, they all brave harassment on a daily basis. And when the crimes are committed against them, very few cases make it to the courts, and most of those few get thrown out on some technicality or the other.

I hope and wish that the young woman survives for there is nothing more precious and beautiful than life. Her living would be the biggest defeat of an entire system, an entire culture for which she is expendable. If she lives, she will need support to overcome the trauma. She would need a supportive family, a supportive society, and she would need counseling. She would need lot of help to make that all-important journey from a victim to a survivor. And she would need justice.

If she lives, the true color of the deeply entrenched sexism and misogyny of the Indian society and culture, judiciary, police and politics will come to fore. At every step she will be questioned, stopped, barriers will be erected between her and justice. The police and lawyers will character assassinate her, the judiciary will acquit the criminals on some technicality. Even if they do go to jail, they would either get bail after some time, and resume their lives like before, or serve a meager 7 years stipulated by law and then get back to normal life. The neighborhood, the relatives, the society will stigmatize the woman, she will be marked forever. Men will think she is available now that she is not chaste any more. The media will forget about her and move on. The protests will cease and new issues for struggle will become more important.

If she lives then she will be in a long lonely fight, her family may stand by her if she lucky. If she lives, she will become just another story and fade away from the collective memory pretty soon till the time another shocking incidence makes the headline and violence against women will continue unabated, the protectors and enforcers of law and order will continue to be unresponsive and insensitive, and justice will continue to be denied.

As I stand on the shoulders of the women who came before me and whose fight laid the foundation of a better life for me, I refuse to back down. And I refuse to forget and move on. I just hope I am not alone in this.

Because, you see, the onus in on the rest of us to ensure that violence against women becomes an intolerable, inexcusable act in all walks of life. The onus is on the rest of us, not to forget, not to relent till justice is done.


Anonymous said...

wrote a response. here is the link: http://blog.ajantriks.net/2012/12/delhi-gang-rape-a-political-response/
look forward to criticisms.

- riju

galen nikolaidis said...

May she rest in peace right now sitting beside GOD in heaven. The delhi gang rape case is so brutal that it shocked the world and grieving over the girl. Those supects should be hanged for good. But I'm really surprised India has the highest rape case in the world I really don't know what's with the women there they're that even beautiful in my eyes. Maybe because of drug users and some other stuff. I just hope this will stop sooner than later. workmans compensation medford

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