It’s been five years since Delhi witnessed the horrifying aftermath of the Nirbhaya rape case. Five years since a girl died from being brutally raped in a city bus, and nothing seems to have changed for women in Delhi. A girl died, Delhi marched in silent vigil, Delhi moved on, and Nirbhaya became little more than a cautionary tale.
It is ironic that the media nicknamed the victim “Nirbhaya” which means “she who wasn’t afraid”. Ironic because fear is the one emotion common to every woman in Delhi. Never mind class, caste, creed. Being a woman in Delhi is synonymous with fear — for one’s dignity, and safety, and even one’s life.
Last week, a young mother was gang raped in Gurugram. Her crying infant died from being thrown aside by the rapists. This wasn’t the first such case since Nirbhaya, and sadly, it won’t be the last. But it’s got to make you wonder how far we’ve fallen.
While most of us may have never seen a time when girls were completely safe in India, there was a time when being born a woman didn’t automatically put a target on your back. There was a time when things weren’t as bad as this.
There was a time when being out with a boy afforded a girl some semblance of safety. The Nirbhaya case dismantled that theory. Then there was a time you would’ve thought a woman with an infant in her arms would be treated with an iota of humanity, if not for her own sake, then for the sake of the child in her arms. The Gurugram gang rape (and the resultant death of the infant) proves that humanity no longer comes into play when it comes to men and how they see women.
Maybe Indians have it right. Maybe what society’s been telling us all this time is true. Maybe, being a woman is a curse. Being a woman in India most definitely is. If you’re not being killed before, or immediately after, birth, you’re being raised like cattle — to be sold to the highest bidder when the time is right. Or just given away as a permanent house slave who works through the day and doesn’t have a dime to show for it.
You will have heard of thankless jobs. There is no job as thankless as that of being a woman. As mother, or sister, or wife, or daughter, women are rarely more than some man’s property — and therefore his to use as he pleases. If a girl is lucky, she has to play dutiful slave to, first, her family, and later, her husband’s family. Then there are those who are forced to become sex slaves to the very people whose job it should be to protect them — fathers, brothers, husbands, fathers-in-law, and so on.
A woman in India is never anything more than a woman. Her gender doesn’t just describe her, it is her. It limits her, cages her, and becomes the thing that undoes her. It decides what she can and cannot do, what she can and cannot wear. A woman’s gender is her biggest handicap. Because every man considers it his birthright to tell her how to live, and rape her if she dare disobey.
No. Scratch that. A girl doesn’t need to have done anything to be raped. The very fact that she is a girl makes rape a distinct possibility.
Three month-old babies are raped by man servants, ten year-old girls are raped and impregnated by stepfathers, 8 year-olds are held captive and repeatedly raped by their own fathers, 20-something girls are gang raped while the boyfriend is being beaten up and made to watch, 20-something year-olds are gang raped while their infant lies crying by the side of the road. This is just how it is. This is the dark, horrifying, underbelly of the “Indian culture”.
It doesn’t matter how old, or young, a girl is. The fact that she is a girl makes her a victim waiting to happen. Because boys are raised to believe that the world is theirs to conquer, and girls are nothing more than objects of sexual gratification.
When those three men saw a woman stranded by the road with a baby in her arms, they didn’t see a person in distress. They saw a sexual object and they did with her as one would any object — use her and toss her aside. That she was carrying an infant meant nothing to them.
They didn’t see a mother with her baby. They didn’t see a human being at all. They only saw a woman. And therein lies the tragedy.