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Jyoti Singh Pandey’s mother raises the question of why her daughter’s name needs to be disguised as ‘Nirbhaya’ when it is the rapists who need to hide in shame.
There is something about December and Delhi, the cold winds blow across your face. You need to be covered well, to save yourself from being frozen. This December is no different. We all are fully covered.
Delhi, the national capital of India. The state, where power and crime are bedfellows. The state where the Prime Minister and his cabinet resides. The state which is also called the rape capital of the world. Delhi is an irony, in itself.
A day before yesterday, was 16th Dec. The same day Jyoti Singh Pandey a 23 year old medical student was brutally raped and assaulted. The day, Delhi came out on the streets to protest, in the biting cold, to be pushed back with water cannons and tear gas. Never have people been so outraged about sexual violence. The people at power promised the moon. It’s 3 years now, the rapists are yet to be sent to gallows.
The so called Juvenile whose assault led to Nirbhaya’s death is coming out of his reformatory home, to the society. The rape cases and crime against women has gone up three fold. Gang rapes are on the rise across the country and the rapist are getting younger by age and so are the victims. India is in the midst of a rape epidemic. Statistics don’t lie. This is the society we are breeding and living in. We have gone wrong terribly wrong.
Braving the cold, I went to attend a photo exhibition that aims to educate policymakers and the general public about sexual violence. It was organized by Centre of Social Research in partnership with PROOF: Media Social Justice and National Foundation for India. It was held in India Habitat Centre, Lodhi Road.
I entered the Gulmohar Hall, where the panel discussion was held. Everything looked normal, just another meeting, until this documentary was shown. This documentary features sexual violence survivors. Once when the documentary got over, the women in the documentary were introduced. Strong, brave women, who chose to break the culture of silence and come out with their stories, and most importantly showing their faces, for the shame is on the abuser not the abused.
Why are we, where we are? One of the panelist who is a photographer, recounted her experience in a school in UP, where boys and girls did not interact. She asked them why and a 7 year old boy replied, “Girls are inferior to boys, so we do not talk or play with them.” She again asked, “Who taught you that?” He replied, “Mom and Grandmom.” This one small incident as if answered our question.
Patriarchy teaches that men are superior and across all economic strata it is ingrained. And let us also acknowledge that women too are a part of it. For anything to thrive it needs mass support. And patriarchy has not only thrived, it has also managed to become larger and larger, that now, it spits on our faces.
It begins in our houses, in the ways we treat our sons and daughters. It begins with each day sexism, when we tell how” boys will be boys,” as if no matter what they do, they have an excuse of being a boy. It thrives when we question our daughters about everything but forget to question our sons. That’s when Patriarchy thrives.
And once a boy ingrains he is better and a girl is someone who needs to be controlled, physical and sexual violence are the next step. We teach boys how domination is the mark of masculinity. So, when a girl says them a no, he resorts to acid attacks. Let me add that India has the highest number of acid attacks each year across the globe. And then, we have ingrained a culture of silence amidst women. We as a culture do not speak about sexual or physical violence. There is an intense shame attached to it. That is what gives men an impuity, that even if they violate a woman, they can always get away with it. That culture of getting away with sexual violence brings more and more of it. If an abuser is sure that it’s the victim who is going to be named and shamed, crime becomes so easy.
Our society is managed in such a way that it completely empowers the offender. Lalitha Kumarmangalam, chairperson of National Commission for wWmen, who was also a part of the panel, says how when she has to help many NRI brides against the abuse they go through, the first question comes from the police that, why is she trying to break homes. In our society, violence is okay, but the so called social structure of marriage, which is considered pure should not ever be questioned. Ranjana Kumari, director for CSR added that when a woman is abused, her sense of well being and self confidence is totally shattered and the abuser thrives on it. In one case a woman was made to eat cow dung. Humiliation has always been the most powerful tool of an abuser. Therefore it is seen, that rape is one powerful tool, to keep a woman in her place. So, each time there is a rape case a woman is questioned, where she was and why she was there. In the case of Suzette Jordan, the police even refused to file a case, because she was coming out of a night club with a man. This is how, in each step, an abuser is empowered. This is why rape happens. It has hardly to do anything with sex, it has to do everything with power.
Patriarchy teaches that women are there to serve men. They don’t venture out. They don’t fight back, they stay at home and men will be men, they can get away with anything. This is why Nirbhaya’s rapist, said that it was her fault, because she was out there at night. Patriarchy does not teach mutual consent or equality. That is why rape happens.
Nirbhaya’s father spoke. The whole hall sat in silence. He began saying, “I am that unlucky father who sat his own daughter on the pyre.May there be no father like me, ever.”
Nirbhaya’s father spoke. The whole hall sat in silence. He began saying, “I am that unlucky father who sat his own daughter on the pyre.May there be no father like me, ever.” He said how the legal system is failing them. The rapists are yet to be sent to the gallows. The so called Juvenile offender is coming out of his reformatory, with aid from the State Govt. to start a tailoring shop. Here lies the biggest flaw in our judiciary system. The question is, “Is he fit to live in a society?” We have no reports on what reformation he went through or what psychological he is in now? Will the Govt. take his responsibility? Will there be a vigil on him. In many western countries, when sex offenders are released from prison, the neighborhood is informed, so that they can be careful. In India, we have no such laws. We do not know, what he looks like or what his name is? He can very well be a security guard in a school.
It was Nirvaya’s mother who stood up and spoke that, “My daughter’s name is Jyoti Singh. I am not ashamed to name her.” In this statement, it seemed Patriarchy had a crack, because now, the shame is on the abusers. It’s not on the abused.
Rape cannot be stopped, with laws alone. It can be stopped at home, when we tell our boys that their behavior will be checked, that manhood lies in mutual respect and not domination. And most importantly bringing up daughters who speak up, who knows that any form of violence is never to be tolerated with. That is the day rape will be stopped.
As, the meeting ended, I walked out once again in the cold streets of Delhi. Dusk was falling. And my mind again went to Jyoti Singh, who was alive at that time 3 years ago, making a movie plan with a friend. As I looked around, the cars and buses were all moving. And I realized, in the streets of Delhi we are all Jyoti Singh Pandey.
Jyoti, May you rest in peace. And from now, we will call you Jyoti, because the shame is on the rapists, not on you. You, my sister never need to hide. Not today. Not ever.
To that journey, we must all walk.
Cover image via Facebook
Proud Indian. Senior Writer at Women's Web. Columnist. Book Reviewer. Street Theatre - Aatish. Dreamer.
You are absolutely correct in saying that it is the abusers who should be shamed. I also wonder why they are given the right to hide their faces and names. Statistics have proven that there are serial offenders. They know the loopholes of the law, they also know that out of shame most of the time the girl will not even report the incident. It is in this sad state of affairs that we live in everyday… looking over our shoulders.
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