Five years ago, this day, a young woman and her friend climbed on to a bus on an unlit stretch of road in Munirka. She never made it home. The harrowing ride of the 23-year-old where six men, one an underage teen, raped and savaged her, became one of the most gruesome and untoward incidents which the Indian history witnessed over the past couple of years. Her death a few days later brought a surge of women and activists out on Delhi’s streets for whom it seemed that they could have been on that ride too. There was rampant anger and resentment all over the nation.
As a result, the government came out with affirmation and a slew of measures targeting women’s safety all over the country.
From installation of close circuit TV cameras, increment in police patrolling and brightening the shanty and dimly lit areas. Not only this, it also brought a welcome examination of the sexist underpinnings of many aspects of our lives, from the concept of honour and shame to the prejudice seeded into the language we use, from a repeal of AFSPA to criminalisation of marital rape and doing away with the two-finger test as well, although the progressive charter here still remains ignored. This is also the year that India’s rank on the World Economic Forum’s gender equity index has plunged to an alarming low and a substantial part of the women population still being out of the workforce.
As witnessed, all those assurances are still only on paper and have become moribund over the course of time. Everything seems to be “in progress”, installation of CCTV cameras is in progress, more police patrolling is in progress. Women and girl are still being raped, what changed? The cities are as unsafe as they used to be and criminals still being fearlessly wandering the streets.
The freedom that women had demanded in 2012 was not just from unsafe and ill-lit streets where strangers might prey on them, but also from the antiquated notions of family honour that stifled them in their homes. After that incident, we believed that things would change. Our cry although was heard in Banaras Hindu University this year, and in the struggle of Muslim women against triple talaq but that still seems to be like a drop in the ocean.
Maybe it’s been too long since our cries have remained unheard, Maybe it’s been too long since we have been muted with the false claims of improvements all across, Maybe it’s been too long since we have faced the endemic oppression of our lives.
Till how long will society and politics let us down?