-By Nikita Prabhu
That’s what the media called the victim of the gang rape in Delhi back in 2012. Eight years later we have the Nirbhaya of Hathras.
It intrigues me. Every time a woman is raped, why is it that we call her brave? She didn’t and shouldn’t have to volunteer to be brave. She shouldn’t have to be in a world which requires her to be cautious every minute of her existence.
Every time a woman is raped in this country, my mind is filled with just one question. Why are women constantly targeted for simply being themselves? In the aftermath of a rape or sexual assault incident, people spend hours dissecting the victim’s character than the rapist’s intention. They’d rather believe she had it coming in some way, shape or form.
Every rapist in this country has shown us that it doesn’t matter what a woman says or wears, the time or place, whether she knows the perpetrator or not- if she dares challenge his idea of what a ‘good woman’ is supposed to be, she will be ‘shown her place’. The fact that rape is about power is not breaking news. The fact that people still chose to not believe it, is.
In our country power dynamics are influenced by a lot of factors: gender, financial status, religion, caste etc. The Hathras victim was a Dalit woman, and she was raped by four upper-caste men. The incident was initially rubbished as ‘fake news’. Some even came out in support of the accused. Because you see, our current reality is this: if you are an upper caste cis-gendered man, you are untouchable. I know. An ironic play on words, if you will.
Never mind the fact that the Hathras victim and her family wasn’t allowed to live in peace, she wasn’t allowed to rest in peace either. Her body was cremated without the consent or presence of her family.
Why does our collective conscience as a nation rise only when a woman succumbs to her heinous ordeal? Is it because we are forced to face the stomach-churning results of our regressive attitude towards women? Maybe. What about the countless others who live to tell their frightening tales? Why do we push for self-defence classes instead of pushing for more open conversations around sex and consent? Are encounters or death sentences going to help put an end to rapes? Or is it just a way to push these issues under the carpet instead of taking out the garbage?
I don’t know if the Hathras victim will get justice. But justice isn’t a short-term goal. It’s a long road filled with thorns. We need a thorough cleansing of mentality. We need to take a deeper look at the systematic oppression of certain sections of society. We need to open the Pandora’s box of uncomfortable truths. It’s a lot easier to teach Karate, I know. But the road worth taking is always going to be tougher.