I don’t like sad news.
So, it was difficult for me to deal with the subject of this post, on the one hand because I was too heartbroken to read all these terrible reports in the media to be able to write anything, on the second hand, many Indian bloggers have done it far better than I could. However, now the mediatic storm has settled a little, I need to write something. I will also quote some Indian bloggers I like so that I will have the feeling I share with them this painful but decisive episode for the Indian future.
The terrible gang-rape of a young woman on a bus in Delhi (read Insight’s post for further details) overwhelmed the whole world. During the Christmas period, in every French News Flash, there was a report about it. They didn’t give much information ; the reports lasted for about one minute; as often, when French TV deals with countries like India, all seemed very far, as if all this was not real or was happening on another planet.
What stroke me was the fact they didn’t give the name of the young victim. She was just “l’étudiante indienne victime d’un viol collectif dans un bus de Delhi”. Since then, I’ve realized that naming a woman who had been raped was forbidden. Blogger Vicky Nanjappaexplains this law: The law clearly states that any person disclosing the name of a rape victim shall under punishment for a term of two years.There is a law which clearly prohibits anyone from revealing the name of the victim and this is enshrined under Section 228 A of the Indian Penal Code.
That’s why some journalists had the idea of giving her a symbolic name: Nirbhaya (was given by The Times Of India, Amanat ( means “treasure” in Ourdou), Damini, (the heroine of a Hindi film)… The debate has intensified when Minister and writer Shashi Tharoor stated on Tweeter: “Unless her parents object, she should be honoured & the revised anti-rape law named after her. She was a human being w/a name, not just a symbol“
But today, She is more than a name, more than the victim of six demons. She has become India’s daughter. Like tunisian Mohamed Bouazizi whose death had launched the Arabic Spring, she is the martyr whose life has been sacrificed for a new beginning.
She is the one who has made India stand up.
India in the Streets
In her moving letter to her “sister from Delhi”, the author of The Revolution Breathes Fire writes: We did nothing to protect you. And we couldn’t do anything to save you. Forgive me, Sister.
Rahul from Insight introduces his post that way:Most of you would feel ashamed after reading this real incident happened in my country 2 weeks back! Yes, I belong to a country where brutal acts and sexual abuses against women and children are increasing day by day. But why?
Indian people feel ashamed but they shouldn’t, because Indian people have stood up, they have shown their anger and have raised their voices. Unfortunately, this feeling of shame has increased when the demonstrations in Delhi have turned into a battle between furious protestors and the police.
Where is the Ahmisa of our Gandhi-led society?Asks the Conjecture Girl.
My friend Françoise from Indomaniaque published this cartoon. I find it so meaningful.
However, this anger is positive. Revolutions often start with anger. It is the first step before taking decisions.
Time to act:
There are long term and short term goals to get rid of the problem. Short term – Making stringent laws. Long term – changing the mindset. (Amit from Mashed Musings on the Conjecture Girl’s post « Scared for Tomorrow »)
After the shocking bus-rape event, immediate measures were taken to stop rapes in buses in Delhi:
In a report by Channel France 2, Delhi’s women talk about the problems they daily face on these buses which seem to be the perfect places for sex harassment and “eve-teasing”. In crowded buses, men stick to girls to touch them. “Forget skirts! You must be covered from head to toe. When a man touches you, shouting is useless, some other men on the bus even smile, as if they were excited.”
Unfortunately, most of women must take the bus which is the only way for them to leave their household and be independent: “It is my only means of transport. I don’t go out at night and I always check if there are other women on the bus with me,” a young woman explains.
So, Delhi women should be relieved by the following measures concerning only Delhi and its buses, which seems a little absurd by comparison with the mammoth task that India will have to face across the country.
- No more curtains and tinted glasses in buses. During the young student’s ordeal, the bus was said to have passed across several police checkpoints and they didn’t suspect anything because of the curtains. But shall we also ban the doors and the windows in houses to prevent some men from raping their daughters or in-laws?
- Private buses, when not in use, will have to be parked with their owners and the drivers will have to be checked. I was very surprised to hear that bus drivers used their bus as a taxi after their usual working hours!
- The 24-hour helpline for women which will be in connection with the police-stations in Delhi: number 181. I don’t really understand why they have to launch a special line only for women in distress! The police are supposed to help anybody in distress, aren’t they?
- At last, I read on I Love My India Facebook, After 7 PM, if any Autowala refuses any girl for going at any place, she can take Auto’s number, Dial 100 and complain to Police. Traffic Police will charge that Autowala with a huge fine, on the spot. to prevent women from getting on illegal chartered buses if they have no other means of transport.
Measures to come:
During the demonstrations, people demanded different things. Will they manage to maintain pressure on the authorities to get changes even after public passions have calmed down?
- People, not only women, have to be protected: There will be more policewomen in policestations: Studies show that women are more likely to report sex crimes if female police officers are available. India has historically had a much lower percentage of female police officers than other Asian countries. (The Washington Post )
There will be more police patrols at night. On his blog, Ramanan commented on this article from The Washington Post which is really interesting: “Delhi, for example, is home to one of the largest metropolitan police forces in the world with some 84,000 officers. But only one-third are involved in any kind of actual “policing” at any given time, while the rest provide protection services to various politicians, senior bureaucrats, diplomats and other elites. According to the Times of India there is one officer for every 200 citizens and about 20 officers for every VIP.”
This reminds me of Pavan K. Varm‘s book Being Indian in which he explains that for Indian elites, the signs of power are the most important. So, being overprotected by plenty of bodyguards or policemen doesn’t always mean that you need it but that you are very powerful.
- Rapists have to be punished severely, -some protesters ask for death penalty and chemical castration- and courts have to be more effective. Procedures and trials are too slow and complainers often withdraw their complaints to preserve their family’s honor. Thus, according to France 2, only one case out of 635 in Delhi has ended to a condemnation. On the other side, can death penalty and fast procedures work together? Can the judge make a decision rapidly when the sentence can be irreversible?
- The way people consider women has to change. I won’t write a post about “women’s conditions in India”, but persistent sexism and modern freedom are conflicting in a duel in which some people, even among public people, are a bit lost. Some of them don’t even seem to realise what they say and left many bloggers in shock: “Dr. Anita Shukla like many other women have questioned like imbeciles, why the victim was out of her house after 10 pm? Unless, one chooses to shun the mindset that these pathetic women have, India cannot change. Unless the same women teach their sons to respect women and not ask their daughters to stay cocooned in their homes once the sun sinks, India cannot change.” (Sharmila Ravinder )
We won’t rest in peace if you just hang a person or two,
You can’t change the world, until you bring a change within you!
( I won’t rest in peace, Pseudomonaz )
Thanks to all the bloggers I’ve quoted. If you want to be removed from this post, let me know!
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