That’s it. Enough is enough. I have stayed silent for too long. I have tried to rationalize it in my head for too long. I must speak out now. I must express the grief and anger I feel before I completely lose my mind.
This morning was like any other. Or so I thought it would be. I woke up, picked up my phone and opened up my NDTV news app as I have every day for the past three years. I had gotten used to reading the cringe-worthy headlines -neigh, numb. Another corrupt politician scamming money, another rape, another infant girl’s body found in a landfill. But today’s headlines made my entire body freeze up. It was like a jolt of electricity had passed through me. The words I read continued to play over and over in my head. This feeling was familiar. I had felt it before.
Two years ago another headline shook me to my core. The morning of December 17th 2012, I woke up to numerous breaking news alerts. The alerts were about the brutal gang rape of a 23-year-old female medical student on a moving bus in the Indian Capital of New Delhi. She was on her way home with a male companion after watching Life of Pi. I won’t go into the gruesome details, as most of you know the story.
News of this incident spread like wildfire. The entire world was outraged. Thousands of men, women, and children stood up in protest for days. The images are still fresh in my head. Pictures of children holding posters that contained powerful messages. India woke up. They were angry. They wanted change. They wanted justice.
But as I always say, outrage is short-lived.
Nirbhaya, (which means without fear) a name given affectionately by the people, succumbed to her injuries and passed away on December 29th.
So what headline today, over two years after this incident, made me feel so sick? “Delhi rapist says victim shouldn’t have fought back.”
In a matter of minutes I experienced a plethora of emotions. But soon it was pure anger that came over me. I had so many questions in my mind. How could he say this? Doesn’t he feel any remorse?
Leslee Udwin, a filmmaker, has been working tirelessly for the last two years to put together a documentary about this case, titled “India’s Daughter.” She was inspired the by the protests held around India in response to the rape. The film has faced much criticism in India. She is accused of sensationalizing the case and giving the rapists a platform to justify their actions. She interviewed Mukesh Singh, one of the six accused rapists, to find the answer to a fundamental question. Why do rapes happen?
“A decent girl won’t roam around at nine o’clock at night. A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy,” he said. “Housework and housekeeping is for girls, not roaming in discos and bars at night doing wrong things, wearing wrong clothes. About 20% of girls are good.” People “had a right to teach them a lesson” he suggested – and he said the woman should have put up with it.When being raped, she shouldn’t fight back. She should just be silent and allow the rape. Then they’d have dropped her off after ‘doing her’, and only hit the boy,” he said. Chillingly, he went on: “The death penalty will make things even more dangerous for girls. Now when they rape, they won’t leave the girl like we did. They will kill her. Before, they would rape and say, ‘Leave her, she won’t tell anyone.’ Now when they rape, especially the criminal types, they will just kill the girl. Death.”
The above is an excerpt of the interview from an article by the BBC. http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-31698154?OCID=fbasia
The Indian government has banned this documentary from being televised in India. What are we really afraid of? Some believe the film is disrespectful to the victim’s memory and family (the film has been made with the cooperation of Asha and Badri Singh, the victim’s parents). Some politicians believe that it is an international conspiracy to ruin India’s image in the world. Ruin your image? Rape is the fourth most common crime in India and you’re worried about image? The only thing you are “protecting” is the rationality and mentality of this man. What about the victim or her family? Who’s protecting and advocating for them while you continue to uphold your image?
I want to understand how someone can justify such a heinous crime. What factors are precipitating this rationality? Does it begin when we teach young boys that they are strong and masculine, while girls are fragile and damsels in distress? Or is the influence of media a stronger predictor? Maybe it’s a cultural thing? It is hard to put my finger on what exactly is contributing to the rape culture today, because all of these factors play a significant role. We teach our boys that they are the “head of house” and are the family’s bread winners. They do the hunting while women do the gathering. We teach our girls that they should be domesticated and focus on raising a family providing emotional stability, not financial security. Looking at the media today, the same is portrayed. Granted these traditional roles are less overt, but they still exist. Women are sexualized and men are their knights in shining armor. It’s a great message to teach future generations, right?
Looking at it from a cultural perspective, the National Crime Records Bureau reported that 93 women in India are raped everyday (2013). Every day. That is 33,945 incidents of rape per year. In a population of over 1.2 billion people, 93 may seem like an insignificant number, but consider this: this is just an average number based on cases that were reported. How many cases of rape and abuse fly under the radar everyday? If the reported average is 93 per day, imagine the number of unreported incidents. And for this perpetrator to sit there and say that he does not deserve the punishment he was deemed, because women are responsible and it would make it worse on them? I’m disgusted. Enraged. Appalled.
How can our society continue to choose to ignore the big flashing neon signs that are screaming for change? How many more our daughters, sisters, and friends have to endure such an injustice before people stop adopting this nauseating mentality and start learning to respect one another and advocate for each other? I urge you to share his story and spark discussions around the world. The broadcasting of this documentary is not what will shame us. Banning this film and not educating ourselves is what will. No more sweeping this under the rug. No more “protecting” an image. No more letting men like him off with a slap on the wrist. It is time we start the journey towards real change.