How Safe Are Women Four Years After Nirbhaya?


It’s December 16th again – a day when parents of Nirbhaya will be forced to relive their trauma; a day when we will all stop, albeit for a moment, and decry the horrific act; when bold promises will be renewed and token gestures will be made; when we will, yet again, congregate, with solemn faces and burning candles and vow to make this city safer for women. To little avail.

The truth is that four years after Nirbhaya’s gruesome rape, not much has changed. Women are no safer. There is no fear of the law as we continue to see images of little girls being raped and left to die in drains. The Delhi rape hotline set up after the incident is strapped for funds and is all but defunct – speaks volumes about our priorities.

It’s time to ask the unpalatable questions. What does this say about our people? If a child of three can be raped, brutalised and killed – what does that tell us about the mind of a man who obviously believes he can walk free? (which he mostly does)

Are we a savage lot? What else explains the unspeakable brutality that the female sex undergoes here. When a three-month-old baby is raped, what does that tell us about a person who can do this? And the fact that we don’t address this on a war footing? These are unsettling questions, and we don’t want to answer them. We express our shock, anger and even anguish, but we stop there – we don’t want to answer the basic question – why are we a society where rape is seen as a – “boys will be boys” thing?

How does it reflect – of us as a people  – when casual rape remarks are seen as funny, and reactions to them are seen as being hyper-feminist?

The answer is indeed unpalatable. We are a savage lot. Nothing else can explain why we can subject women (and little girls) to extreme brutality; why rape videos sell like hot cakes; why three month old babies or seventy year old nuns are not safe; why policeman can ask a rape victim if she enjoyed it; why victims hide their faces while their assaulters roam free; why acid is still available freely and women are stabbed in broad daylight; why mothers of girls are killed for “letting” their daughters wear jeans; why a woman can be raped hours after giving birth in a hospital….I could go on, but I think I have made my point.

Tomorrow will be the 17th of December – and we would have moved on to another issue. Till next year, when rhetoric will peak at around the same time. Meanwhile, if statistics are to be believed, lakhs of women are going to be raped.

What will it take to make women safe, in the true sense of the word, in India? It’s time to answer these questions.

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