The Delhi gang-rape
Battered, raped and killed and all we say is “rest in peace"? Shame on us.
Rally to show solidarity with rape victim in India Photo: reuters
After 13 days of struggle, the victim of a gang-rape in Delhi succumbed to her
wounds today. “Terrible loss...” said the prime minister, “she is a true hero
and symbolizes the best in Indian youth and women.”
Battered, raped and
killed and all we say is “rest in peace"? Shame on us.
Perhaps this is
the first time in India’s history that the nation has witnessed protests,
widespread and in record numbers, over the gang-rape of a woman, a woman who in
this case has now been dubbed “brave heart.” Calls have been raised for more
stringent rape laws and castration for men convicted of rape. That the attack
took place in a moving bus with tinted glass, at the relatively early hour of
9:30 p.m., has angered people, who are raising questions over the security of
women in the country.
When the protests broke out, as usual the
government chose to remain silent and focus its efforts on
When some of the protesters turned violent in India Gate,
Delhi, the police took to tear gas and batons, wounding innocent protesters
instead of the violators. After a week, the prime minister took the unusual step
of addressing the nation, assuring that “all possible efforts to ensure security
and safety of women” were being made.
With the girl’s death (she cannot
be named for legal reasons), anticipating trouble, the army has flooded Delhi,
the metro train stations have been shut down and the politicians have appealed
for calm. Isn’t there any place for protests in democratic India? When safety
concerns crop up, when violations become the norm, people will protest. Not that
India has been safe so far, only that events have gone from bad to worse. To
hell. For its part, Delhi is known locally as the “rape capital of the
WHEN I received a delicious job in the city, my dad wouldn’t let
me go. “Delhi is unsafe for women,” he kept saying. So, should one sit at
home under a burka and cook soup over the fireplace? “If you go to Delhi, I’ll
never talk to you in my life” he blackmailed. That worked, I am ashamed
Having worked there for nearly two decades, he considered Delhi
the worst city in the world for girls. Well, which Indian city, town or village
isn’t? Last July, in the northeast, a teenager was groped and assaulted on the
street and a local journalist passing by started to record the molestation
instead of informing the police or asking the men to stop.
the Home Ministry, India saw 18,359 rape cases registered in the “first
three-quarters of this year,” next only to the United States and South Africa.
India’s National Crime Records bureau reports that one woman gets raped every 22
minutes in India. Thanks to the harassment faced from the police, health
professionals and the society itself, not many women come forward to report
instances of rape and sexual assault. So long as the victim becomes the accused,
the real culprits will walk free.
Like how one of the police
commissioners asked Indian women not to venture out at night to prevent being
raped, schools to prevent boys talking to girls, and parents to teach their
daughters to be careful and vigilant instead of asking their sons to respect
girls. I’ve been on guard since before I was 10.
Should a day pass
without lewd comments, stray jokes or fondling, that day would have to be
December 32. There’s a widespread misconception in India that it is right to
tease a woman wearing modern clothes. Of course, any type of clothing gets an
equal dose of lewd glances and inappropriate touches.
SO WHAT is it? A
patriarchal society, the preference for male offspring, the baggage of dubious
tradition, the need to establish male authority – or is it just the mindset of
the people that has led to the daily sexual harassment of women? Where else will
you find parents killing their daughter for falling in love with someone outside
the caste? India is a glorious country where women have to pay money (aka
dowries) to buy husbands, and must marry a man of their parents’ choice. Not to
forget the female infanticide and foeticide still practiced in many parts of the
Laws can be strengthened, the police can be to handle rape cases
with greater sensitivity. But what to do about a society with space only for
men? Who will teach the boys to respect women? In spite of all the protests,
after a few weeks, this case too will drop into our collective “forgetfulness.”
The country will continue to have archaic rape laws and will continue to assault
The shame will continue.
Merlin Flower is an independent
artist and writer.