The 16th of December 2012 has left an indelible mark in the Indian Psyche for one reason – The rape and murder of Jyothi Singh, a medical student who was six months away from graduating as a Doctor.Her parents had sold their ancestral land to send their only daughter to medical college. It was still not enough to cover her expenses, so she used to work part time at a call centre, from 8 PM to 4 AM. According to her friends, she barely got 4 hours of sleep a day, but still managed to do well in medical school.
She left her house on that fateful day, telling her parents that she’d be back in two to three hours. She was going out for a movie with a friend. She wouldn’t have much time on her hands, once the internship for her final semester started, and she wanted to blow off some steam.
Having finished with the movie, she left with her friend. As they waited for a ride home, a bus pulled up by their side, and a young man in his teens let them in.
There were six men in the bus. They beat up the man, Jyothi’s friend. And then proceeded to take turns raping her, while the bus drove in circles around the highway. By the time they were all done, most of her innards were left hanging out. Autopsy reports and crime scene investigation proved that an iron rod was involved. They threw her and her friend out of the bus, eventually. Her intestines had spilled all over the bus. They wrapped it up in some cloth, and threw it out the window.
A documentary about the ‘Delhi gang rape’ as the incident is now called, was to be aired by BBC worldwide, titled ‘India’s daughter’, on the occasion of International Women’s day. It was banned in India. Apparently it shows India in poor light.
Apparently, a woman gets raped every 20 minutes in India. So why was this case different? I watched the documentary (banning something never works in India. It’s one of the many advantages of living in an incompetent democracy), and came across a few gems.
This is a screen grab from the documentary. The fella, S.P. Singh, one of the lawyers who defended the accused, said that if it was his daughter or sister, who was seen with an unrelated male at that time of the night, if she dared bring that kind of shame on his family, he would have had the courage to gather around his relatives in his farmhouse, and burn her alive, in front of them. He added:
“If it was very necessary, very important, she should go… outside. But, she should go ‘Bith’ their family members, like uncle, father, brother, grandfather, grandmother, etc etc. (I think he ran out relatives at this point). She should not go in night hours ‘bith’ her boyfriend. No.”
I feel sorry for his daughter and/or his sister.
But there’s more.
M.L Sharma, another Defense lawyer for the rapists, shared his valuable insight on females: (I’m repeating the conversation verbatim)
“A female is just like a flower. It gives a very good … looking, very softness performance, pleasant. But on the other hand, a man is just like a thorn. Strong, tough enough. That flower always need a protection. If that flower you put in a gutter, it spoilt. If you put that flower in a temple, it will be worshipped. That girl was with some unknown boy, who took her on a date. In our society, we never allow our girls to come out from the house after 6.30 or 7.30 or 8.30 in the evening, (Make up your mind dude) with any unknown person. They left our Indian culture. They were in the imagination of the filmi culture, in which they can do, they could do, anything. She should not be put in the street, like food. The lady on the other hand, you can say the girl, or the woman, (What now?) are more precious than a gem or a diamond. It is up to you, how you want to keep that diamond in your hand. If you put your diamond on the street, certainly a dog will take it out. You can’t stop it.”
What do these two lawyers, defenders of the constitution, have in common, aside from a remarkably bad grasp of the English language? A total lack of common sense, and a perspective on women that is so skewed that they wouldn’t know where to draw the line between a woman and a pet dog.
This charming young man, Mukesh, one of the rapists in death row, is 28, almost my age. He says hanging him and his fellow rapist friends would be a bad move, because that would encourage people who rape women in the future, to kill them after the act, because the risk would be too much. His twisted logic is of course based on the assumption that woman will be raped, like clockwork, every twenty minutes.
One politician even went on to say after the incident, that the death of Jyoti Singh was a blessing. If she’d survived, she would have had lived out the rest of her life with a dead soul and the shame of being raped.
It’s been three years since the rape of Jyothi Singh. The constitution has been amended, ever so slightly. Legal terminologies like ‘modesty’ have been removed, to some extent. Earlier, a man could be arrested for ‘outraging the modesty of a woman’, an extremely arbitrary statement, that called for the woman to be modest first. And considering what some lawyers and law makers think about modest women, it is a blessed move, removing such jargon from the constitution.
The Delhi police filed a charge sheet 17 days after incident (Mainly due to immense pressure from the media and public). All six men were arrested. One of them allegedly committed suicide, while in custody. Four have been sentenced to death by hanging, and their appeal is still pending in the Supreme Court. One was a juvenile, and he will be released December this year.
Immediately after the incident, details regarding the victim, including her identity were kept out of the press. The media dubbed the rape victim “nirbhaya” (Which roughly translates to ‘One without fear).However, there is nothing courageous about being raped, or about getting murdered. I’ve always thought that the name was just a way for the media and those watching, to feel better about themselves.
The last words of Jyothi Singh, as she lay on her deathbed, to her mother was – “I’m sorry I caused you so much trouble”. The unkindest cut of all, was that she felt it was all her fault
Once, there was a discussion in our office (All men). They all condemned rape. Yet every single one of them unequivocally stated that women should chose to wear less revealing clothes. They talked about how their well behaved wives tutored their daughters on etiquette, on culture. I disagreed. Quite vocally, in fact. They said I’d change my mind, once I was in a relationship. I’m kinda kinky, and I like kinky, but I kept my mouth shut.
You can’t argue with a point of view. None of them are bad people, my colleagues I mean. None of them would, in a million years, ‘burn their sister/daughter in front of their family’ for shaming them. But behind their civilized veneer, I sensed a deeper malaise. The germ of an idea, a strain of perverse misogyny – that is so deeply rooted in male psyche,that it belies any argument, any point of view to the contrary – females have to be pure. A perceived sense of how the honour of the family rests on the woman. She is a gem, or perhaps a flower.
And every once in a while, say 20 minutes or so, a flower gets defiled because it is not pure enough.