It’s been nearly a year since India’s idea about women changed.
In every feminist revolution there has been a precipitating event, a single instance that changed the way we thought about things. That made us all sit up and change.
And that event in India was the Nirbhaya rape and subsequent death.
Women and Men fought for changes, they tried to change a system of judiciary that was incredibly biased against rape victims. They tried to change the way the police thought about rape and sexual harassment and these are still ongoing struggles with some knee jerk tragedies such as the expansion of the death penalty in India.
However the fact that change is coming. You can smell it on the wind. The dialogue has changed from “It’s your fault” to “It’s not” and from “Don’t Go Out” to “Take precautions”.
But the rapes haven’t really stopped. In fact due to the better reporting of rapes in India the problem has become more clear and ugly. From the rapes of tourists to the continued tragic rapes and murders of women and victims of rape.
And in that time the naysayers were out in force. From the MRA we saw people making the claim that women in India are embellishing the nature of misogyny. From people like Thunderfoot we saw the denial of arguments made by the people at All India Backchod. And between this all the rapes still continued.
What’s changed is that we are not lying to ourselves. India has learnt the price of those lies. It is better to fill your heart with real grief than live the fantasy that India is safe for women.
It’s been a year and there is another case. Another Nirbhaya. Another tragedy.
A woman in Lakshmipur in Upper Assam boarded a shared taxi. These are a rather interesting idea. They ply a route and you can hop on and hop off when you feel like for a few Rupees. These used to be deeply overloaded autos but have now been changed to these vans locally known as “tempos”. They are a small diesel powered van that can sit 7 passengers safely and 2 more in a rather more unsafe fashion plus the driver. But they are small and so they effectively are incredibly cost effective to make and run and the profit margins are quite spectacular with many drivers making close to Rs. 180 for a whole trip that can be done in 20 to 30 minutes. There are always people clamouring for these and I have never seen one start empty.
At some point three more men got on the taxi.
They raped her. Raped and tortured her before throwing her from the moving van. She was beaten and had her eyes gouged out before being flung from the vehicle causing injuries to her head and neck. She died of her wounds shortly thereafter.
The audacity of the crime is shocking, she was thrown out at a police station before the tempo sped away.
There is a manhunt on for the four people involved but the crime itself is horrifying. Unlike Nirbhaya who got front page billing due to her middle class status, Delhi Press and her status as a college student and the mobilisation of the Nation’s youth and middle class.
How can people like Thunderfoot and the MRA sit up and claim that this was not due to a society which discriminates on the basis of gender and where Indian men behave like this? What level of bravery did this woman need to possess to cause four rapists to back down?
I bet they will just twist this death to suit their purposes again.
It’s been a year but the progress has not been a reduction of rape but the acceptance that it happens.