It’s no surprise that our nation’s capital is a horror story - or a series of horror stories that play out, often far from the limelight. Often we turn away. Women duck their heads and scurry off. I see it, I do it. I mean, I use public transport, and despite heaving a huge sigh of relief at the efficacy of the metro, I’m well aware that metro stations are the weakest link. I’ve been stared at, scoped out, and am always on my guard. If I’m not, I know that I’ll be blamed. “She was asking for it” has morphed beyond syndrome into cliche.
But this week brought news of a horrific gangrape of a 23-year-old medical student on a moving Delhi bus, knocking India’s entrenched blame-the-victim mentality off its footing. How to demonize a girl who dared watch a film with a male friend before boarding a private bus in a relatively affluent neighborhood around 9 pm, before most Indians even sit down for dinner? What did she do to invite the next 90 minutes of torture, as six drunk men on board (including the driver, who passed the wheel to a friend so as not to miss his shot) raped her in turn before beating her so badly with an iron rod that medical staff described the site of her naked body, which had been dumped with her friend’s alongside the highway, as horrifying? Could this possibly mean that India’s pervasive rape culture can’t be blamed on women after all?
There’s been a clamor of voices in newspapers, electronic media, blogs, Facebook and Twitter over her unconscionable gang rape and brutal beating. The girl is now battling for her life in Safdarjung Hospital. Her intestines had to be removed because gangrene had set in. If she recovers, she will never be able to eat a proper meal.
As I walked home, I passed many a young girl, bag in hand, busily walking towards their destination. Any of them could have been a victim that night. Sometimes it feels like it is a crime…to be born a girl in this city.
It’s hard to be a woman. It always has – In Dehli, in India, everywhere. It always will. But as I watched this young woman protester punch a police officer, shoving her hand indignantly in his face, trying to balance her lone poster, falling on the ground and shaking off the dust from her trousers as she gets up on her feet again, I know we will win. In the end.