On 16th December 2012, a 23-year-old girl was gang raped on a moving bus in New Delhi, the proud capital city of India. Not long after this happened, the streets of Delhi erupted with protests and the perpetrators of this heinous crime were arrested. This case though was not the first of its kind, and unfortunately, it wasn’t the last. Yet, when the news of this horrible crime broke out, women and men alike came onto the streets, and perhaps for the first time, there was a feeling amongst the masses that this girl, this young girl who could have been so many things in a life that was taken away from her, could have been their own daughter, sister, friend. There seemed to be a consensus for the first time in a long time, that this sickening crime was not the woman’s fault. That she didn’t “ask” for it.
Or so some of us thought.
This atmosphere of grief, protest, anger and staunch disapproval that was created by something so vile soon seemed to be dampened as the focus shifted from fighting the crime to fighting people who seemed to think it wasn’t a crime at all. Politicians, men who claim to be men of God, religious leaders with their followers in millions, lawyers, some of whom practised in the supreme court, men you’d think were educated and progressive and here to drive change – all came together to once again remind us that this place that we live in and think of as home, it isn’t a place for women at all.
What impels me to bring this up today, 5 years after many of us thought that change was just around the corner? 5 years after parents of daughters had finally begun to hope that the system was on their side, that their trepidation could perhaps, at last, be put to rest. It’s the disconsolate fact that nothing has changed; at least not for the better.
5 years, 60 months, 1825 days and hundreds of protests and marches later, we’re still where we were. A case in example is that of a girl called Varnika Kundu, a resident of Chandigarh, which I must stress at this point is known to be one of the safer cities in northern India. Only a few days ago, chased by goons in a car while Varnika herself was driving home shortly past midnight; she’s been at the end of slander and criticism because she was out by herself past midnight! What an atrocious crime for a woman to commit, right? To think that she could be safe all by herself after the sun has gone down? To think she has the right to freely move around in a country she was born and raised in without having to think what time it is? To think she could have the same rights and freedom as the men in this country.
The reality of this world in front of her, Varnika has still fought hard and refuses to give up and let these perpetrators get away. While she’s extremely courageous, strong and has made some amazingly valid points at a time that one can only imagine being distressing – and while some nincompoops insist on trying to shame her for simply living her own life on her own terms – Varnika is also extremely lucky. Yes, she’s lucky because she had the sensibility and awareness to get away and save herself, but she’s also lucky that she can voice her opinion and stand strongly behind it with the support of her family. Most women in our country cannot and do not.
While it’s sad that being able to say what you think, be who you are and do what you want as a woman is considered lucky and not just a basic right even today, it is the harsh reality. A reality that just does not seem to dim away.
There are thousands of barbaric criminals in our country that commit unthinkable crimes against women – and yet, they get to walk freely and live their lives by virtue of being a politicians son, a rich businessman’s brother or just because so many women are suppressed enough to forget that they have a voice too. If you ask me truthfully, I’ve almost given up on the idea of these hooligans rotting in jail for the rest of their lives. I ask only, that I am let out of it.