Her name- unknown. Her face- unseen. Yet her death has sparked off a movement that knows no boundaries. From where it happened to the farthest corners of the globe the ‘Delhi Rape’ in little more than a few months has become synonymous with all that is wrong with the attitude of men towards women the world over.
Violence against women is not a new phenomenon. It has existed from time immemorial. But what is new is that women are no longer prepared to take it lying down. Literally. It took the horrendous rape of a young 23-year-old and that heartrending plea to her father, to shake and stir the conscience of a nation weighed down by notions of centuries-old patriarchal mores that today should really have no place in society. Ideally yes. But that is something easier said than done.
On a chilly winter evening a young physiotherapist student with a friend boarded a bus. After enjoying the film ‘Life of Pi’ at a prominent Delhi multiplex they were eager to get home. Unfortunately the bus they hopped on to was carrying six– including the driver – depraved men on a drunken spree. With tinted windows and drawn fancy curtains the bus drove around on busy roads for 45 minutes and more undetected, while they took it in turns to have their sadistic way with her. They had first tried to hit and push her friend out of the bus but when he resisted and she had rushed to his help, they, angered beyond reason dragged her to the back of the bus, slapped her around and then proceeded to brutally assault, rape and even shove an iron rod into her.
Then stripped naked (to avoid identification) and robbed they were thrown out bleeding and semi-conscious somewhere near the Delhi International Airport. Gaining conscious a while later, the boy managed to hail down a passing patrol car. Covered up in sheets from a nearby hotel they were rushed to hospital. And while her nation held its horrified collective breath and prayed for her recovery, all attempts to save her – her intestines damaged beyond repair had to be completely removed – failed and a few weeks later she was dead. But not before her bestial attackers were apprehended and charged with attempted murder. And not before setting in motion a spontaneous reaction that is reaching global proportions.
As she lay fighting for her young life, people began gathering at India Gate – the heart of Delhi – in their thousands. They created their own Tahrir Square stubbornly refusing to budge till the government of the day came up with answers. The government initially retaliated with tear gas and water cannons and by clamping down various crowd preventive measures. But when they still refused to disperse, now stung into action, set up a commission under a Supreme Court Judge to look into the country’s rape laws, strengthen them and add more deterrents to prevent such happenings.
Why do men rape?
History tells us that ‘rape’ has been a part of our human culture for a very long time. It is not confined to any one country or any particular race or civilisation, nor is it restricted to any specific group or strata of society. From the United States to Rwanda there are ‘rapes’ happening more in numbers than you or I would want to believe. It is truly an unhappy global phenomenon that has persisted since beyond time.
Psychiatrists believe that more than sexual it is an exhibition of power. Since violence and aggressive behaviour is a part of our nature –especially in males, it is the power to be able to dominate and control somebody into submitting to your will, against their will. Somebody who cannot retaliate physically but has nevertheless the temerity to take you on. A perceived insult to his ‘macho’ psyche that is more often than not triggered off by ‘anger’ but has been fuelled by age – old societal norms like patriarchy.
And Patriarchy defined as- a ‘rule by fathers’- a social system in which the male is the primary authority figure central to social organisation…it implies the institutions of male rule and privilege and entails female subordination.’(Wiki) has been around since Adam and Eve. With property and title going from father to son the dominance is absolute.
Is there any doubt that the world of today still largely runs – apart from a few pockets – on wheels steeped in ancient patriarchal attitudes?
So it is believed that when that bastion is threatened as is being done the world over by women exerting their will and stepping out; by shirking off their allegiance to time-honoured traditions and conservative beliefs and becoming independent, the only way the unchanged male still set in his old chauvinistic mind-set can handle it, is by resorting to such acts that show off his power of dominance. Nowhere does it come across as strongly as the placard carried by a Delhi protestor – ‘Don’t tell us what to wear but mothers teach your sons how to behave’. And that seems to be the crux of the matter.
As the protests against Delhi Rape went viral, its reverberations are being felt across the globe. From Asia to Europe to the rest of the world, women – young and old – are out on the streets discussing, debating and angrily demanding new legislations and new societal norms. On the internet and off it. On television and through the media with new impetus they are openly organising and coordinating platforms to not only fight sexual violence but also to demand the right to abort and more importantly the right to decide. Determined to sweep sexual abuse out from under the carpet they are no longer prepared to feel fearful or victimised. They want to instead instil fear in men who falter. Sick and tired of being made to feel ashamed and guilty for no fault of theirs, they are with a new urgency, demanding a radical change in mindset.
Articulating a collective no-confidence in their governments or their police to protect them, these women are in a hurry to see fast track courts and police reforms in place, sooner than later. Expressing a solidarity never witnessed before from Delhi to Cairo to Dublin, and as seen in Dhaka on Valentine’s Day where people joined hands to form human chains to chorus ‘Silence about violence …no more, no more … fear and aggression… no more, no more’, women are in their thousands marching, gathering and organising campaigns like playwright Eve Ensler’s stupendous One Billion Rising Campaign. Calling for a halt to misogyny and violence against women and spread across 190 countries it has the world on its feet chanting its anthem in one voice ‘we are mothers… we are teachers… we are beautiful creatures….this is my body, my body is holy…’
Now as the world waits and watches how the case plays out in a Delhi court – “Those six men need to feel the pain… realise what they’ve done to her and us,” says her anguished father. “My daughter awakened not only India but the whole world.”