I held back the urge to write about her. I don’t know why. Deep down there was this hope that she would survive. Her survival, in my mind had become something symbolic and akin to hope for a new tomorrow, where there would be greater safety and equality for about half of our country’s population. I don’t know her name. I don’t want to! She represents to me multiple identities of Indian womanhood all rolled into one ! Needless to say, ever since I heard about her death, I feel very down . My mind wants to believe that there is hope and that things will change for us.
But will her death change anything is the question? Will better legislation really result in better implementation? Those brutes in Delhi will definitely get convicted- not because of what they did or the media hype. But because they were who they were –nobodies! They were not sons of politicians or rich business men or some powerful honcho. For every rapist who actually gets convicted there are a few thousands who roam free! There will be some talk about this young girl until, the media finds something new to report on and our attention shifts to something else! And status quo will prevail!
Rape unfortunately is a crime that is very complex- particularly in our context. Our social structure makes the entire crime sound like a “virginity-virtue” thing! In fact if you analyze the word for rape in many languages it actually means that. For e.g in Tamil many people use the word “Karpu Azhipu” or “Removal of chastity” or colloquially the word that is used is “Keduthuthan” which means “spoilt her”! In a society that thinks like this is it strange that many thousands of rapes remain unreported?
I do not watch many Indian movies nowadays but during the 70s to 90s any movie that had a rape would show the woman commit suicide or being made to marry the rapist- both being the worst possible options thrown up by a society that points to her as the reason behind the crime-“ Why was she out in the evening?” “ Why did she go alone?” and so on!!
A social system that still thinks like this is definitely not going to survive rape or rapists!
Preventing rape is not something that can be achieved only by law enforcers. It is something that each one of us can do if we decide to change ourselves. Parents need to bring up their sons to respect girls and women. And such respect needs to be something that children see as they grow up , in behavior that their parents exhibit. If a father is violent to his wife in the presence of his son violence against women will be internalized by the child no matter how much of indoctrination is done through lessons and books about the need to respect women. A boy child who sees discriminatory practices at home when it comes to the way he and his sister are treated internalizes the fact he is “superior” and can get away with anything – including rape!
If women are treated as commodities then people will aim to gain “control” over them! How many movies show sexual harassment of women masquerading as courtship! Is it strange that a population that is brought up on a diet of such movies should find it difficult to believe that when a woman says “No” she means it?
What we are seeing today is not a protest against a particular incident! It is a culmination of frustration that has built up over decades! A frustration against a legal system that drags its feet and when it does convict someone of rape the loopholes are so large that the criminal can easily wriggle out….For the first time people seem to be questioning the system.
A moment in the life of a maturing democracy… some might say! Will it pass or will it stay? The candle held on for nearly two weeks before it was extinguished. Point is, whether the other candles lit with the light of this little flickering one will continue to show us light or will there be complete darkness now that the light is extinguished?
I want to vote for light! I want to vote for hope, safety and equality. I want to see in the new year, a new world where there are no more women fighting for their dignity or their life.