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10 Yrs Ago, Jyoti Singh Pandey Was A Young Woman With A Dream…As Were Others!

Jyoti Singh Pandey was just a young woman who was looking forward to a future. She did not want to be labelled 'Nirbhaya' - can men keep their monstrous selves away from us?

16th Dec 2012. I was travelling on that fateful day with my family to the capital, looking forward to a week of vacation. On the same evening, a young woman was out with a friend at a movie. Something all of us have done or do.

Except she never reached home safely.

I don’t need to go into the gory details of what happened. Everyone knows about it. The outrage after her gangrape and death could have meant the possibility of real change – in the laws of this country, in mindsets, in every one of us stepping up to ensure this shouldn’t happen again.

But again, and again, and again, men, and specifically men of some privilege, in a position of some power have proven that they are worse than the lowest of the low in this world.

As I see it, the outrage and visibility that this horrific incident got has more to do with the gruesome details, the moral policing that followed in the aftermath about her being an unmarried young woman out with a male friend late at night, the sheer ‘marketability’ of the incident as seen from screen representations of the incident, and most importantly, her social position as an educated upper caste, young woman.

Things went downhill almost immediately

Moral policing and derogatory comments by her lawyers in the documentary ‘India’s Daughter’ were proof. As was the mindset revealed by the convicted in the case – Mukesh Singh said without any shame in the documentary that she “deserved it” because she was with a man not related to her late at night and also because she fought back.

The ‘Nirbhaya Fund’ of Rs 3,000 crore per year set up in her name to “ensure dignity of girl children and women” seems to be useless if the everyday reports of gender based violence are to be believed.

Our governments seem more interested in keeping track of interfaith and intercaste marriages than ensuring that infrastructures and sensitisation for safety of girls and women are set up.

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The National Commission for Women and Children takes the moral policing and victim blaming route when there is crime against women or buries its head in the sand like an ostrich, even denying any incidence or increase in violence against women.

Pop culture continues to avoid its responsibility in the crime against women. More and more movies display blatant misogyny, glorification of toxic masculinity and crime, even sometimes giving criminals their modus operandi. Pop culture also does not necessarily have to be about violence to promote it. Even the pairing up of much older actors with younger and younger women every day underlines the belief that women are expendable.

Crimes against Dalit and other marginalised women higher

In all these cases, savarna feminists (mea culpa too) have been conspicuous by their absence in the voices raised against these horrific incidents. Where’s the sisterhood?

Hathras. Unnao. And again Unnao. Gujarat. Kathua. And so many more.

Every day since, the newspapers report at least one case of gender based violence, often on women marginalised in some way – by caste, faith, class, sexuality, and more. Data shows at least 10 Dalit women are raped every day in India, and these are just the registered cases.

Crime against women has almost normalised. We are agitated only when it is truly gruesome or happens to someone we know or in our vicinity. The baying for the blood of rapist-killers that happened in the Hyderabad case was certainly driven by the feeling that she could have been one of us.

Women just want to be able to go about their lives with safety, either in their own homes or outside it. We aren’t safe anywhere. When will that happen?

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sandhya renukamba

In her role as the Senior Editor & Community Manager at Women's Web, Sandhya Renukamba is fortunate to associate every day with a whole lot of smart and fabulous writers and readers. A doctor read more...

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