But aren’t we all to blame?

But aren’t we all to blame?

Protest at India Gate, Delhi.

This past month I have gone through varying degrees of shame, outrage, anger & helplessness. I fail to understand how a human being can be so inhumane. How can you treat another person with so much brutality? Jyoti Singh Pandey was raped 5 times, beaten up with an iron rod, stripped, thrown on the road and tried to be run over. And this happened in a city which I used to miss when I was away. I grew up here, and sadly this is not the first time something like this has happened. We see it on the news, get horrified and continue with our daily chores. But the Delhi gang rape changed a few things. Suddenly, a lot was at stake or at least it looked like that for some time (25 rape cases reported in the following week). People finally woke up to question the administration. I was a part of the movement. I got my share of tear gas & lathis and then some. I asked my friends to join in and honestly, I felt damn good about standing up against this outrageous law & order situation in my city.

Expired tear gas thrown at protesters.

I attended the immediate protest at Raisina Hill and India Gate driven completely by students and a few social groups. The government response that followed is there for everyone to see and I don’t want to talk about the same thing again. The question which I could not find any answer to was, why is our society producing so many rapists? This is a generic problem for sure but why is Delhi becoming so infamous for being unsafe for women? I have grown up here and I honestly do not know any person who could commit such a barbaric act. Then why is it that when I tell people that I am from Delhi, they instantly become judgmental? My friend from Bangalore once told me that I was nothing like what he had heard about Delhi boys. It is possible that I am disconnected from that section of society. But can we really segregate rapists from the rest of us? I have heard that the problem arises from the lower sections of our society and it’s the police who is to be blamed for their failure to curb them. But is that even remotely true? Most of the rapists are able to threaten and harass the victim forcing them to withdraw their case. Only a powerful person with substantial means can do that. Does that mean only people with power are to be blamed for our current state of affairs? No. Despite economic status and power it appears that rape is endemic in all segments of our society. Therefore, we are all equally responsible for its prevalence.

Poster translation: War of Justice

But this outrage is 10 years too late. And it is because we keep sitting in our houses thinking this could never happen to us. This attitude has led the perpetrators to become more confident. What’s the worst that can happen to them? They take advantage of our dormant society. What happened to this is girl is unimaginable but does that lessen what has happened to the other rape victims? Our society had become so diabolic that we blame women for getting raped. And our elected representatives are leading by example with questions like, “Why do you dress up like that?” or “Why are you out so late at night?”. Mrs. Sheila Dixit’s response to a woman being shot dead while returning home from work late at night was: “Why was she being so adventurous?” This lady has been our Chief Minister for the past 15 years. And we elected her. So, before we start blaming anyone else for the sexual violence that is plaguing our country, let’s all do a little a soul searching.

Laying in shame

We allowed this to happen. We saw those news updates and convinced ourselves it wasn’t our problem. We all criticized the acts but never got down to actually doing something about it. We kept looking for someone to blame, the government, the police or anyone.

The current protest is not about this girl or this case. It’s not even about getting a death penalty for the perpetrators of this crime. People are frustrated with the ineffective administration currently in power. But we are responsible for this state of our city. We have a habit of overlooking and avoiding these grave situations. We are okay with a woman getting teased in a public place as long as we don’t know her. We need to be more considerate of women in general. We need to stop laughing at jokes that objectify women. We need to change the practice of asking or demanding women to marry their rapists as a compromise, which for some insane reason happens to be very common in our country. We need to stand with the victims so that they can fight. Speak out for them and give them a voice. And most importantly we need to make sure we don’t forget this outrage in 3 months and move on with our lives. “No one is free until we are all free.” –Martin Luther King Jr. In that sentiment, our mothers, sisters and girl friends are not safe until all women in India are safe.

Pratik Manhas

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