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Nikita Tomar’s murder brings to the forefront this question – why does society put the stigma around reporting rape and harassment before the seriousness of a crime?
On 26th October, Nikita Tomar, a 21-year old woman was shot outside her college after she resisted being pushed into a car. Although rushed to the nearest hospital, Nikita succumbed to her injuries. The perpetrator was identified to be her classmate turned stalker who had once kidnapped Nikita between his attempts of forcing her to marry him.
Nikita’s parents had filed a formal complaint against her attacker in 2018, but they had eventually withdrawn it.
There are different reasons that have been reported, some saying that the families knew each other and Nikita’s parents were assured that there would not be another incident. Other sources point to political pressures due to the perpetrator’s family connections. Regardless, a complaint against harassment and the violation of a woman’s privacy was withdrawn.
Nikita’s parents deserve the biggest sympathies for having lost their child to a horrendous crime. However, the series of events is reflective of society’s list of priorities, which puts women’s honour above their own interests, and in this case, their safety.
Has reporting a crime become more about these aspects that the victim’s suffering?
From deciding what women should wear to how they should sit, society prescribes everything based on the ‘modesty’ attached to the female gender. While we may know of outright sexist comments like wanting a “modest daughter-in-law”, it blows my mind even more to think that Indian laws about crimes against women are based around the same concept of modesty.
Perhaps, the same logic of ‘modesty’ or ‘izzat’ is what causes cases of rape and harassment to be withdrawn, labelled ‘fake’ or to go completely unreported. The stigma around reporting rape and harassment takes over the seriousness of the crime.
While it is a complete disregard of women’s experience, it is also encouragement for perpetrators to continue a pattern of behaviour, just like Nikita’s attacker.
Adding on, it also serves as an indicator of the casualness with which these cases are treated. It only makes other perpetrators think that such a crime can be gotten away with. Perhaps it’s time for ‘log kya kahenge’ to take a back seat, because unreported cases are only encouragement for dangerous behaviour, leading to more victims.
Women, their voices and complaints need to be taken seriously. Their interests and safety should be the priority.
Society’s lens is tainted with concerns of ‘izzat’ and ‘modesty’. So much so, that it forgets to hold the actual perpetrator accountable.
Between the concerns of honour, stigma, and modesty, and the moral police, where do female interests fit? Why is family honour or tradition more important than a victim’s suffering? Why does law define a crime in terms of the woman’s ‘modesty’ and not their interests and safety?
These questions are only scathing reminders that we women still come second.
Image source: YouTube
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A student of International Relations at Shiv Nadar University. Enjoys old bands and acrylics.
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