Rapes and gangrapes are continuing to make headlines in India proving that short lived protests, occasional candle light vigils, or temporary measures won’t curtail sexual violence against women in this country. Those who want to see a real change – an India that is safe for women – need to keep the pressure on.
Recent incidents indicate that absolutely no place is safe for girls and women in India. Whether it is a bus stand, a school, a police station, or a hospital – whether it’s Delhi, the capital of India, Chandigarh, the best planned city of India, Goa, a tourist destination, or some remote village or tribal region – women aren’t out of harm’s way anywhere.
In Delhi alone, about 50 new rape cases have been registered since the brutal gangrape and murder of 23 year old Jyoti. The massive protests that followed that incident seem to have at least emboldened women to come forward and register cases of sexual violence in India more openly.
In a society where rape is considered to be a social stigma most women don’t even report the incidents fearing that they would be looked down upon. Often families also advise girls to keep their mouth shut for they know that their daughters will be raped all over again in police stations and in courts through vulgar questions. Also it’s not uncommon in India that a victim is seen as “available for all” by many in the police stations and communities and therefore subjected to more sexual assaults and harassment.
Recently, two teenage girls self immolated themselves after being raped. It was the feeling of “shame” that drove them to ending their lives. Actually, their country should be shamed for not being able to protect them, the society should be shamed for making them feel that way, and those who committed the crime should be shamed and sentenced.
Just two days ago, a tribal woman was raped in a district hospital in Mayurbhanj, Odisha. Those who preach that women shouldn’t step out of home alone should note that this lady wasn’t alone. Her husband was accompanying her when 6 men started teasing her. When her husband objected, he was beaten and tied to a tree. And men raped her repeatedly stopping only when she started bleeding profusely.
Last week, a young lady was on her way to Mohali for a job interview. She was looking forward to start her career. Her excitement turned into horror when two men pulled her into their car. She was standing at the Chandigarh bus stand in broad day light when the duo approached her, at the pretext of seeking direction. She was driven all the way to Bhatinda, 250KM away from Chandigarh, raped repeatedly for 2 days, and then abandoned on a road side. She continues to battle for her life in a hospital in Bhatinda.
In yet another horrific incident, last week, a 7 year girl child was inhumanely raped in her school toilet in Goa. School authorities instead of promptly reporting the incident to police, cleaned up the toilet, washed child’s blood soaked clothes, and only then approached police – after all the evidence was erased. Police is yet to trace the suspect. What has compounded the agony for the family is irresponsible and insensitivity displayed by the school authorities. An official from the school allegedly told girl’s father, “Your child doesn’t seem to be suffering that much”. Basically, school authorities are trying to safeguard their own reputation rather than doing everything to first help the affected child and then take steps to ensure this doesn’t happen to any other child in the school.
While the change in systems or in mindsets is far from taking root, cries for justice and open debates on sexual violence and women rights have given women some hope. A hope that if we continue to demand a change incessantly, it shall come. If we continue to push, solutions will emerge. Doesn’t matter how rotten the system is, how sick the mindsets are, how vulnerable women are today, if voices for women’s rights are cohesive and strong a change will come.