Posts Tagged ‘Delhi rape’

Behind this lovely smile is hidden a struggle that Suzette Jordan has to live every day. Pix: Diganta Gogoi

Behind this lovely smile is hidden a struggle that Suzette Jordan has to live every day. Pix: Diganta Gogoi

When I started writing this post I had meant to write something else, but so much happened in the last few days that I ended up writing something else altogether, changing my mind constantly as I got hooked to the news, analysis and – a letter.

I feel rape has probably become just another morbid story like so many other stories told in India every day. It is something like this: Rape happens, then media goes into a frenzy, helplines, SMS lines, come up, we cry hoarse then we go back to live our own lives, until another rapist strikes.

Women in India live with their instincts. Period! They live on luck too. When luck runs out God help us. (No one else probably will).

I have dozed off in my office car often while returning home after midnight. I just trusted my instincts and the smile of the driver who greeted me every evening.

Are my instincts good? Maybe. My luck? Must be. I have landed in situations too. Many times. But wriggled out using my brain, brawn, threats, other people’s help, mobile calls – and luck of course.

Check: You are lucky if you have not been sexually harassed in Kolkata

So the Uber cab controversy (whether they continue to do business or not in Delhi, about background checks of its employees, about repeated sex offenders being let off on bail) does not seem to bother me because I know one Uber gone will make way for another Unter (German antonym for uber and rightly means “under” and this is a figment of my imagination) and Indian women will be left fending for themselves, as usual. There will be luxury, yes. Safety? Doubtful.

Uber Cab. Picture taken from the net.

Uber Cab. Picture taken from the net.

The media would ride on the controversy wave to do stories but they won’t even know when palms would be greased, permits would be made and the Unter would make inroads into Delhi roads.

In the midst of it all this who is left out in the lurch? The victim, of course. The unlucky one, who was just at the wrong place, at the wrong time, with the wrong person and whose instincts just failed her for a moment and finished her forever.

I have been interacting with Suzette Jordan, the Park Street rape survivor. Although she has shown immense courage but it has been a lone fight for her from day one. No one has offered her a job despite her work experience. No one cares how she is surviving with her two teenage daughters or how she is dealing with the trauma of facing her perpetrators in court every day – for more than two years.

Media does not continue to report on the nitty gritty of Suzette’s life because I am sure it is already too mundane to be reported. They took notice when she was not allowed to enter Ginger, a restaurant on Hazra Road in Kolkata. Everyone went into a tizzy, supporting her on social media and some well-known names in journalism, all the way from Delhi, even went on to say that the license of the restaurant should be cancelled,

Does anyone know what happened after that? It’s business as usual at Ginger I suppose.

I read Shenaz Treasurywala’s letter.

I could identify with her letter and I am sure every Indian woman (and sensitive man) could.

If Shenaz writes now about the fear of rape that Indian women feel I had written about it in 2006 in an article in Times of India when rape hadn’t made it to the hot seat of headlines in India yet.

I can see we think similarly and I appreciate she has taken a stand.

But there are people who are saying it’s a PR stunt before the release of her film.

Could be? But would you go and watch some insipid film titled Main or Mr Riight spending Rs 300 from your pocket just because Shenaz here wrote this letter? I wouldn’t. I am sure you wouldn’t either.

And somehow I can’t find the connection how this could help sell her movie unless it’s based on sexual harassment of women.

It is not. And while Shenaz’s letter is still notching up hits on the net the film has already been written off by critics after the first show.

She addressed it to powerful men. Why not? These men have the power to bring change. Don’t they? Amitabh Bachchan’s polio campaign did help eradicate the disease in India. And if the PM of a country does not have the power to bring change who has then?

veeranganas

Veeranganas are an all-women commando team keeping the streets safe in Guwahati. (Picture taken from India Today)

Talking about change. Have you heard of the Veeranganas? It’s an all-woman commando platoon guarding the streets of Guwahati and making it safer for women. Veeranganas have been created as a joint effort by Assam Police and Assam Government after a girl was molested on the streets of Guwahati.

Veeranganas have, for the first time, made me feel that a police force and government are serious about women’s safety. Otherwise if you are asking a woman to SMS before she steps into a cab and then you say you will track her on GPRS I am not sure how serious you are. Would GPRS tell you that four men got up in the cab in between and raped her while it was moving? I would like to know. And would you be able to reach on time to save her? Or would GPRS help you track the rapist after the crime has been done?

When a solution is thrown at us in the name of helpline, SMS et al don’t we need to ask how will it make us safe?

How many of you have used a helpline in times of need? Can you tell me? If you have and help has come your way please let me know. I would like to share your experience here.

Till then I will always side with the Veeranganas  more than the SMS, apps and helplines. The latter create fear for women the former create fear for men.

For me this is being proactive about the issue and not being blasé. And that is what matters.

Tomorrow I will publish an interview of Photojournalist Anindya Chattopadhyay, who talks about meeting victims of acid attack and the impact they had on him.

 

 

 

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parents 1

 

I had the most loving, happy-go-lucky, jovial parents till I was 12-13 years, but thereafter things began to change. When I turned 12, I did not want to be accompanied by my mother when I went cycling in the lane behind our house in Kolkata but I was not allowed alone. I wanted to walk the short distance from home to Ballygunge Phari with my friends, but I was not allowed. If I went playing with friends and came home five minutes late, my parents acted like an earthquake had hit the city and I hadn’t reached home yet. Their worry translated into frequent scolding that made me angry. I just kept thinking; what are they so worried about?

At 14, when I wanted to walk the seven-minute distance from my home to South Point School, alone, I was greeted with a negative shake of head from my father. By then I had become so adamant that I put my foot down and said I was not going to school if my mom came along. They came to a compromise. They allowed me only if I went and came back with two of my female friends. They claimed they were concerned for me. I kept thinking I was a responsible girl, what were they so concerned about?

After school I wanted to join Presidency College but my father was keen on me going to the nearby girls’ college, Lady Brabourne. My father was the happiest when I took admission there, but the happiness did not last long when the admission test results were out in Presidency College. I had got through and I had my sights set on that college. My father was livid. Going to Presidency meant taking a public bus ride for almost an hour and going to a part of the city, which he felt was not at all familiar to me and also not too safe for women. My mother, however, stood by my decision and I joined Presidency College. But my mother had no clue that my joining the college would add to her stressful existence of being the mother of a daughter. Thanks to the traffic, political processions, college functions or fests, I was perpetually reaching home late. And she claimed her hair was turning grey while she waited for me on the balcony. I just did not understand what all the fuss was about as I was a grown up girl now.

drink

 

Then, when I graduated from college and started going to parties my dad drummed into my head not to accept any kind of drink from anybody at any party, “Beware, it might be spiked” was his refrain. When I went to the disco, my parents worried about the men all of whom they believed had ill intent. “If anything untoward happens what will we do?” was what they always asked me. I would say, “What nonsense, can’t I take care of myself?”

Now when I look back I think they were justified in their worry. They were prudent to know about all the beasts that lurk in every nook and cranny of our country, our city, our own homes. They knew girls in India – no matter what their age, status, class or caste – are never safe.

I wonder what my mom’s reaction has been to this news today http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/Five-year-old-girls-rape-case-Accused-arrested-in-Bihar/articleshow/19643044.cms

I am sure the paranoia she experienced in my growing-up years came back to haunt her but she’s probably glad that she doesn’t have a daughter growing up in these times.

10 things that have changed for the Indian woman.

 

Bindi

I started blogging on International Women’s Day last year and much has changed for the Indian woman since then. Some changes have been good and some bad. I list 10 of them.

1.    Violence against women has finally been acknowledged

For ages, rape, dowry deaths, domestic abuse were treated as isolated incidents that just happen sporadically in certain communities and to certain people. After the Delhi rape case it has been finally acknowledged by the Indian government that each and every woman out there risks being abused any time and something needs to be done about it. This awakening is a positive one.

2.    Helplines and apps

Special helplines and apps have come up for women which they can use in times of need. At least there is an effort to ensure safety for women. Something that was non-existent before.

3.    Women have found a united voice

For the first time in recent history so many women came together to fight against abuse. Women came out on the roads in Delhi and braved the December cold for days to protest against violence against women. The protests quickly spread to different parts of India giving all those sufferers a united voice. This has been followed up by the 1 Billion Rising movement that is expected to bring change for women the world over.

4.     Men are supporting the movement

Be it through Facebook, through blogs, through physical presence at protest marches men have also lent their voice and support. This has strengthened the women’s movement. I remember just after the Delhi rape case a policewoman on her way to work was being heckled on a Delhi public bus. Some men came to her rescue and took the culprit to the police station. This is indeed positive change.

5.    Police has been forced to register cases

After the furore caused by the Delhi rape case, no police station is likely to ever dare not register a complaint. I was reading that day a seven-year-old girl, living in a slum, was molested by her 17-year-old uncle. Her mother complained to the police and he was arrested. Earlier the mother would have definitely found it difficult to register her complaint considering her social status and nature of the complaint.

6.    Rape has become a hot topic of discussion

I was in Kolkata last month and an elderly uncle said, “These days there is so much talk about this ‘rape shape’.” (Aajkal ei rape shape niye khub lafalafi hocchey.) Rape was an issue that people rarely discussed in drawing room conversations. Now any such conversation is incomplete without it. But in this discussion there are usually people who are truly concerned and there are also people who think unnecessarily too much importance is being given to the issue and there are also people to whom this is another amusing topic apart from Bollywood and Indian politics.  Also I have noticed people of all age groups are comfortably discussing rape, something unimaginable in our Indian culture only a couple of years back.

7.    More rape cases are being reported

Either there is an increase in the number of rapes committed or now more cases are being registered and reported. But in the last three months, sadly, there are more reported cases of rape on minor girls (one as young as three years) than I have ever heard of in recent times. This makes me think that is so much talk about rape and no consequent punishment and safety network egging some people to explore the violent crime even more? Most of the minors have been raped or molested by people they know. This is a dangerous development.

8.    There is more fear among women

I was talking to a friend of mine in Kolkata and she said that after the Delhi case women feel more fear. “Whenever I take a cab I feel scared if there is a helper with him. If he suggests an alternative route or wants to take the less populated EM bypass I start panicking thinking he has some other plans. And then if I am not home at a decent time my mother starts panicking and keeps calling me to check if I am safe.” Many women are asked by their parents, guardians and husbands to get home early to avoid any “uncalled for situation”. A friend in Delhi said, “Women’s safety was always an issue here and I worried and fretted if my wife got late. But what has happened now is that the thought of rape is constantly at the top of our minds. What if… it’s a scary thought.”

9.    Indian women are perceived as the most abused by the international media

Never imagined Wall Street Journal would be interested in a small town in West Bengal called Barasat. But now they are. They have even written about how women wear long nails and pink nail polish not for beautification but to fight their abusers.

Check the article: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324616604578302620513689386.html

What they have written in the article is true but what is most interesting is the recent focus of the international media on violence against women in India. All top foreign media like The Washington Post, New York Times and The Guardian have been writing about women’s issues in India. That’s fine. But most often the tone is like India is the worst place for women. That’s unfair. If you look up statistics in Wikipedia you will see rape is probably more rampant in the US and UK than in India.  Following is an example from Wikipedia.

According to a news report on BBC One presented in November 2007, there were 85,000 women raped in the UK in the previous year, equating to about 230 cases every day. The 2006-07 British Crime Survey reports that 1 in every 200 women suffered from rape in that period. It also showed that only 800 people were convicted of rape crimes that same year, meaning that less than 1 in every 100 rape survivors were able to convict their attacker. According to a study in 2009 by the NSPCC  250,000 teenage girls are suffering from abuse at any one time.

10. Marital rape is officially not a sexual offence in India

Although women’s organizations have criticized the decision to not make marital rape a punishable offence in India I look at it this way that there are laws for dealing with domestic violence in India. Section 498A gives a woman the power to put her husband and in-laws behind the bar first and then proceed with the case. If marital rape is considered a part of domestic violence there is already a punishment in place.

 

The Guwahati incident

The Guwahati incident

Chances are you didn’t know. And even if you did you just browsed through it on the net or read it in the morning paper and moved on to TV to keep yourself abreast about what was happening after the rape of the 23-year-old girl in Delhi.

On December 7, 11 of the accused of the Guwahati molestation case have been given two years of jail term while four, including the journalist who covered the event, have been acquitted. For more details go to: http://blog.tehelka.com/guwahati-molestation-case-verdict-pricks-many-uncomfortable-questions/

But as Tehelka journo RATNADIP CHOUDHURYwrites : While the incident evoked a sharp response, it seems nobody cared about the judgment. No women rights groups were present in the court premises; there was hardly any reaction on the judgment from civil society who were up in arms to fight for proper justice for the victim. The fact that they did not bother to express their ‘happiness’ or ‘anguish’ over the judgment, makes it clear that public outcry is only immediate. The ‘national’ TV news channels only aired the judgment in ‘brief’ since it is no more the “TRP driver.”  Once again an issue from the Northeast faded out of the mainstream media mind space ‘too soon’, the disease long harped upon.

This goes on to prove that we are a flippant nation. As we observe Black Saturday today I raise a few questions:

Why are we so flippant?

India has a short public memory so it is easy to get away with anything and everything here. While it feels good that India has finally woken up to the issues surrounding women and people of all age groups and all classes have taken to the streets to join in protests not only in Delhi but all over India but the question is how long will the protests last and will there be any positive outcome?

First and foremost parents will tell their wards, “Beta don’t get involved in all this. You are safe why do you care for others? Tell what you have to say on Facebook you don’t have to venture out.” And as NDTV will move on to some new TRP-raking programme we will move with them too.

It’s a shame how the outrage we felt at the Guwahati incident fizzled out. Really, how many of us now care if two years is enough for the culprits or have we questioned why such criminals have been allowed to roam the streets on bail? And the girl, does anyone care about how she is and if she is okay? I just hope and pray the Delhi incident doesn’t die such a death.

Why are we so cowardly?

While we spring to social media with our instant reactions do we do the same when we are out on the streets?  How many of us can say that we have stood by a woman when she was being eve teased or molested? We talk, we write but when it comes to the real scenario we say, “Gosh! That’s none of my business why should I get involved?”  If the perpetrators of crimes against women knew that the public would be on the woman’s side if she raised her voice they would have thought twice before making a single move.

Let’s take it that the nation has woken up post-Delhi rape case then if I had been a journalist on the ground in India now the story that I would have done is by asking women taking public transport: Are more men coming to help when you raise a voice of protest inside a public bus or train?

A girl protesting in Delhi

A girl protesting in Delhi

Why are we so gullible?

It’s so easy to fool us. Really, believe me. The Government tried to prove that they were taking the girl out to Singapore on a six-hour flight for better treatment and we all thought they are trying to do their best. But not a single reporter asked a politician/doctor/government employee what exact treatment did they intend to give her there? Given MT Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore is the best in organ transplant but you can do a transplant on someone when that person is in a relatively stable state of health. Can you do it on a woman with her insides completely affected in septicemia? My layman’s brain says it’s not possible wonder what the docs have to say. The idea was to ensure Safdarjung Hospital docs couldn’t be blamed for her death. The poor girl has been yet another pawn in a political game.

By the way, there are 20 ministers in India with rape cases pending against them. Who are we kidding? We are pushing for capital punishment with this government?

There can only be rule of fear

Intellectuals are constantly talking about sensitization and changing of the mindset in India. It is possible but it is a long-drawn affair and can happen after 100 years. Definitely!!  What’s the immediate solution? I would say FEAR. Someone said on social media: If they sent the girl to Singapore for better treatment they should send the criminals to Saudi Arabia for better punishment.

The same Indians who pass lewd comments at women in their home country and don’t think twice before raping or molesting them don’t dare to look them in the eye in countries like Saudi Arabia or even in the UAE. Why? Because they are shit scared of the law and the police. They know one single complaint from a woman could land them in jail and end with deportation.

Capital punishment or no capital punishment there has to be fear of inevitable punishment then only women in India will be safer.