By Nupur Walia:
Women suffer from harassment everyday in many forms at the hands of men, who continue to be heathens. Why are their actions defended by shifting the blame on women, that’s the question I ask of myself? I am a pacifist in all ways but one. And that is in the defense of women. Nothing drives me toward violence quite like sexual harassment. The sexual harassment and objectification of women by men has provided a fertile ground for various forms of violence. Those punches, slaps, kicks and bile-filled screams are happening all around us — yes, undoubtedly on our own streets.
But the worst thing we can do is allow our horror, at what happened to the 23-year-old paramedical student in a moving bus here on 16th December last year, to make us complacent.
The barbarous Delhi gang rape left our country numbed and the society underwent an awakening of public consciousness regarding rights, safety and oppression of women. The case disclosed the failure of many public functionaries responsible for traffic regulation, maintenance of law and order and more importantly, their low and skewed priority of dealing with complaints of sexual assault. The outraged citizens from all walks of life pressed the government to bring in stringent anti-rape laws, in the wake of which fast track courts for trying sexual offences were set up two weeks after the incident. But justice was much awaited.
Nine months after the brutal gang rape, a special Delhi court yesterday held the accused guilty of 13 offences including gang rape, unnatural offence, murder, dacoity, conspiracy, kidnapping and destruction of evidence. However, the special court is to announce quantum of sentence today. Will justice truly be served? Perhaps, the whole world knew that accused are guilty, the interests remained in what would be the judgment. Will the accused be set free from their prison cells to go around in Delhi?
The first verdict on Juvenile was a great disappointment in itself which proved beyond all doubts that if a rape accused can prove his juvenile status, he cannot get maximum sentence; his crime falls under an innocent baby boy crime category; thereafter which he can walk off freely with his head high after a three year degree course in advanced study in rapes and molestation techniques at a reformatory home with full government scholarship, free boarding and lodging.
The case highlighted the apathy of civil society and also the inaction of passers-by and bystanders, who failed in their duty of rendering help to the victim and her companion lay injured and disrobed on the roadside for a considerable amount of time in the chilly winter night. We cannot always change mindsets by lighting candles. We have to help people on the road when they need help. To mark the beginning of the change we wish to fight for, we have to start by sharing responsibilities and trying to feel deeply about any injustice committed against any person in any part of the world.
As a citizen of India, the same country Nirbhaya was born in, the same country that helped her dream and the same country that killed her, let us pledge to fight against every living being who looks at a woman with a monster’s eye, fight against every mentality that says woman should be locked up in houses to be safe, fight against governments that fail to punish the criminals, fights against all those rapists who kill a woman in India each time they are out in the open, those who sometimes kill the body and always kill the soul. Let us fight because no one can comprehend the unfathomable panic that comes with clothes being ripped off of you when you most need them on and as you scramble to keep them attached, the subjugation, mocking and indignant statements heavy with insinuations that your body is owed to others?
Do we know of all the Congolese women who are raped and then mutilated? And the Sudanese women? And Mexican women who are kidnapped, raped and murdered? And the women on college campuses in the U.S. who are raped? Date-raped? We hear horror stories daily. Women cannot go out after dark by themselves in this society. They cannot put a drink down at a party in this society for fear it will be dosed with drugs to knock them out. They must regard every man with suspicion in this society. And this all makes me so furious.
It is not up to a handful of men to respect women. It is up to every god-forsaken man to respect her.