“I would ask everyone to not give birth to daughters to avoid seeing this day that I’m seeing… every woman fears this day for their daughters since these goons are alive”. This is what the mother of the 20-year-old girl who was gang raped and murdered in Rohtak, Haryana, said while demanding capital punishment for the accused. Her heartbreaking statement not only captures her trauma and helplessness at what happened to her daughter, but shows how little she thinks of the elaborate law and order mechanism India has in place to ensure the safety of women. After the December 16, 2012, gang rape and murder of young paramedic Jyoti Singh, the rape laws were strengthened. But they don’t seem to be a deterrent at all: Days after the Rohtak incident, another woman was dragged inside a moving car in Gurugram and gang raped by three men.
While the brutality of the Jyoti Singh rape case forced people to come out and protest in huge numbers, there seems to be a lull in such activism. Is India getting inured to brutal rape incidents, giving politicians the leeway to make all kinds of insensitive comments? Here’s a case in point: According to a news website, Kerala minister for public works G Sudhakaran in announced that the number of rape cases would come down if women were not “obsessed” with their mobile phones (and therefore unaware of their surroundings), and if more men were to engage in farming. The logic: Busy farmers have no time to rape women. After the ‘chowmein-rape’ theory of another lawmaker, Mr Sudhakaran’s comment will top ‘the most insensitive comment’ list.
As Hindustan Times’ recent series --- Let’s Talk About Rape --- underlined strongly we need to start a conversation about sexual violence. In one of the pieces, a Delhi policeman writes that it is up to the police to impress upon a rape survivor that the police are on her side. We must extend this argument: As citizens, it is our duty to impress upon a rape survivor and her family that we are on her/their side. When it comes to gender violence, silence is not an option.