New Delhi: 7 years back, on the cold winter night of December 16, India witnessed the most horrific crime that jolted us out of our collective complacency.
A 23-year-old paramedical student was gang-raped in a moving bus in Delhi and thrown out of the vehicle after being severely assaulted. We called her ‘Nirbhaya‘, the fearless, and used that concept to project her as an ideal martyr, choosing to paint her story with heroism to brush aside the repulsive reality of rape. That’s where we failed.
Cut to November, 2019 and India’s conscience was shaken again after a charred body of a 27-year-old woman veterinarian was found on the outskirts of Hyderabad. Both the incidents sparked nationwide protests, candle light marches and the tech-savvy youth made sure to turn her name into a Twitter trend.
Well, in all honesty, we outraged only because of the savagery and horrific nature of the crime, else the majority would have pinned the blame on the victim instead of the perpetrator. If it weren’t for the brutality, there wouldn’t be so much of debate and discussion, because instances of rape have become the new ‘normal’ and such cases are reduced to just another statistic.
We shout for justice one day, and go on about our lives, the next day. We mourn one day and laugh at misogynistic jokes the next day. We remember her every year on December 16, and forget that Nirbhayas are created every single day.
Meanwhile, has anything really changed for women since 2012? Not, really!
If it had, there wouldn’t be Hyderabad, Unnao, Kathua, and thousands of other cases that we probably don’t even know about. Women are just as vulnerable as before and their daily lives are still ruled by fear. According to statistics, a woman is raped every 20 minutes in India, and this happens even after every woman is well aware of the dos and dont’s on ‘how not to get raped’.
We are still scared out of our wits whenever we have to step outside at night, shivers go down our spine whenever there is a shadow lurking on the streets and even taking a walk alone at night seems to be a far-fetched dream. The sexist jokes and jibes haven’t stopped and the ‘rape culture’ in India is well thriving, thanks to patriarchy, the epidemic which has been eating away at our society for thousands of years.
Let’s take a look at some more facts. Despite fast-track courts, there are still 133,000 pending rape cases. The conviction rate in rape cases in the country is still as low as 32.2 per cent despite laws dealing with sexual assault being made stringent in the aftermath of the incident.
What’s more worrying is that the charge-sheeting rate in rape cases have dropped to 86.6 per cent in 2017 from 95.4 per cent in 2013, according to the the NCRB statistics. Majority of the Nirbhaya fund, which was created in the aftermath of 2012 Delhi gang-rape case, is lying unused. Despite fast-track courts, Despite this fact that the national statistics remain alarming; as not only is there any sign of a decrease in such cases, but in 40% of the rape cases the victims are minors or below the age of 18.
The only heartening thing that has come out of such debilitating tragedies, is the greater awareness of the need to educate young boys and an increased awareness about gender-based violence.
However, every time, a woman is raped and molested, we are taken back to the painful memories of that fateful night and wonder if there is a morning?
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