I have written and re-written this piece time and again, on paper, and in my head. Every time I think I am inching closer to writing something coherent, another case happens somewhere across the world or in India, and it jolts me out of everything else. It has been almost 8 years since Nirbhaya, Jyoti Singh, was raped brutally in New Delhi; the savagery ultimately killing her. From candle-vigils, to media trials, to protests, to constant judicial happenings – this case was something that no one could ignore, and no one should have either. It hit too close to home – Nirbhaya was out with her male friend watching a movie – and it was an absolute reality check in terms of women safety – it happened in South Delhi – the poshest area in the country’s capital.
In the wake of her death, her mother Asha Devi, said she wanted her daughter’s name made public because she was “not ashamed to name her” and that victims and families of violent crimes shouldn’t be made to “hang their heads in shame.” Ultimately the Indian judiciary delivered, and decided to hang the convicts until death. Without getting into the nuances of death penalty, it is important to know that Jyoti Singh’s rapists acted with inhumanity, with such impunity that it was shocking even to those who study criminals. But, that’s just it. In the flurry of justice deliverance, crime logistics, and everything else – we forgot to ask ourselves one question as women. Will this death penalty make me feel any more safe than I felt before?
Even as Nirbhaya happened, even as the court proceedings leading up to the execution took place, we saw baby girl Asifa get raped, we saw Priyanka Reddy witness similar brutality, we saw an entire girls’ college become a cesspool of male perversion and misogyny as the grounds of Gargi College in Delhi saw mass molestation of women with an absolute disregard from the administration. Even as we read every morning in the paper about what is happening in the Nirbhaya case, we still dress up accordingly to our surroundings, according to how the men around us may react to our outfits. Even as the whole country lauds the judiciary in meting out justice, did the women really get justice? Are the women really safe? By executing four rapists, am I going to now be able to step out easily at night without worrying about predatory males?
I have had my share of ‘mishaps’, ‘unfortunate occurrences’, and ‘mistakes’. I was born and brought up in a place that is unwarmhartedly called the rape capital of India. And my acquaintance with the place I call home has been quite a roller-coaster ride – of extraordinary experiences, of emotions, of discovery.
The encounters were often unremarkable, however. Could my being accustomed to them be the reason behind? Why wasn’t I finding any joy in what was happening to me or around me? Why couldn’t I find the courage to change the circumstance? Could my knowledge of reality be the reason behind?
I was a little girl once, before I grew in strength. Long before I chose to dress myself in a ‘slutty’ dress, my mother would dress me in a ‘cute little frock’. Little did she know, she dressed me as an invitation for sexual advances. I blamed her until I grew up.
I’d unremembered the memories of my childhood until it all came back, triggered by an ‘uninvited’ spank from a stranger. I had no one to blame then and thereon.
Every few minutes, I am reawakened to the painful emotions I normally stuff down deep. It’s a new headline, a new glare, a new hand, a new person. I should be thanking my stars I made it out alive, every time – that’s my consolation, that’s my prize.
So, this is where we are at now. With a baggage of post-traumatic disorder, an uneasy feeling of the present, and a future that could completely turn our worlds upside down. I know that every step towards justice, with respect to rape victims and survivors, should be looked at as a small victory. Perhaps it does too, but I am unsure how much justice the cries of women can attain until unless an overhaul of societal tendencies happens, because even now at their very dark moments, insecure men feel they can just unleash their power on women by this brand of senseless violence and assault.