Man! I Feel Like A Woman

It has long been rumoured that the end is near. The Mayans predicted apocalypse, the end of world, as we know it by the end of the year 2012. 21 December 2012 to be more precise. There was a big brouhaha surrounding this rumour and as the date approached nearer people took their stands on the opposite ends of the continuum, there were some who scoffed at the very prospect of it and on the other hand there were some who chewed their nails away in nervousness. And then of course, there were the perennial pessimists who were all too glad to have the world they live in consume in flames because they were sick of it and had no happy memory of their existence. However, here we are, well into the fourth month of 2013, safe and sound. But let me share with you a fact, a truth, a secret of sorts…a reality – the world did end in 2012.

Yes, you read it correctly.

 16 December, 2012

9.00 pm, Saket, New Delhi: She was exiting the cinema with her friend having just had a good time watching the critically acclaimed fantasy adventure film Life Of Pi. It was Sunday, and there were a lot of people around the area, for the cinema is situated in the reputed mall known as Select City; it is one of the biggest malls in South Delhi wherein the elitists of the city – politicians, businessmen, and journalists – reside.

9.15 pm: It was time to go home. They were waiting for the bus that would take them to Dwarka, their destination, to arrive.

9.30 pm: The bus that they normally took to get home was delayed, perhaps due to the traffic. Uncertain, they decided to board a chartered bus also going to Dwarka that was being driven by joyriders. There were six men in the bus including the bus driver.

The bus deviated from the normal route usually taken and the six men began taunting both of them, asking them what they were doing alone at such a late hour. They passed inappropriate comments about the woman and her companion intervened.

He was gagged, beaten and knocked unconscious with an iron rod. The rod was later described by the police as being a rusted, L-shaped implement of the type used as  a wheel jack handle. She tried to attack them and did so by biting three of the assailants. The men then beat her up too and they raped her one by one. They brutalised her using the same rusted iron rod and inserted it in her, causing her intestines to be severely damaged, along with her abdomen and her genitals.

Her torture lasted for forty minutes.

She was then thrown off the bus along with her friend and the partially clothed victims lay there until around 11.00 pm when a passerby discovered them and phoned the Delhi police who then admitted both of them to Safdarjung Hospital. This twenty-three year old woman was a physiotherapist intern, who was born and brought up in Delhi. Her parents hailed from a small village in the district of Uttar Pradesh. She had two younger brothers and she hoped to acquire the highest qualifications so as to improve her family’s financial condition and be able to empower her two brothers with the best education.

She was neither a martyr nor a hero as the media has made her out to be. She did not want to die, she did not want to be the sacrificial lamb to shed light on the devastating plight of women in our society, because trust me, there have been many who have been slaughtered with no change whatsoever in society.

The Harsh Reality

It is a country where countless girls from the age of four to seventy have been sexually assaulted in some form or another. It’s a country where female infanticide is widely prevalent in nearly every village. It’s a society where woman suffers a form of abuse everyday because she has no choice. There are cases of victims that are unreported because their families are ashamed. Ashamed. And I don’t blame them because they have been living in a society where the common man has no power, where corrupt politicians can suppress their voices easily. It is a society where women are raped at the hands of policemen and are picked up by politicians – the supposed lawmakers. It is a society where a woman has been reduced to the status of a mere commodity.

The country was in a state of upheaval after the incident. There was an uproar with people showing their middle fingers to the government on national television, where the police threw tear gas at the maddened mob to prevent them from invading the Parliament House, where everyday the media posted new evidence contributing to the ire of the commoners. The President’s son passed an abysmally trivial remark labelling all female protesters as “dented and painted women” who frequent “clubs” and are “chasing their two minutes of fame on TV”. When confronted, he withdrew the remark and pretended as if it never existed. Yet another legislator commented on how women wearing skirts caused them to earn “mischievous remarks from troublemakers”. It’s not just men though; a leading researcher in the field of agricultural science Dr Anita Shukla chided the victim and said it was her own fault. “If she had surrendered herself to her assailants, the damage caused to her by the rod would have been less.”

There is no point in me going on to elaborate any more. These incidents have ceased to shock me due to their high frequency. Being a woman myself, I like countless others in similar societies have been raised to dress “appropriately”, to ignore incessant ogling and to look down or look away when some stranger tries to make eye contact. Unfortunately, nobody thinks it important enough to impart advice towards men telling them to not ogle at women, not pass lewd comments, not objectify women and never ever make the pathetic excuse that she “asked for it”. It is said that one can argue with a person and not with a mindset and everybody seems to have accepted these ghastly incidents, but people who are crazy enough to think they are going to make a change in a society where gender discriminatory values are severely imbibed in people’s minds are often the people who do.

Someone remarked that all of womankind is losing a battle, and evidenced it with the following statistics:

  • In Australia, Canada, Israel, South Africa and the United States, between 40 and 70 percent of female murder victims were killed by their intimate partners
  • Worldwide, up to 50 percent of sexual assaults are committed against girls under 16.
  • An estimated 150 million girls under the age of 18 suffered some form of sexual violence in the year 2002 alone
  • The first sexual experience of some 30 percent of women was forced. The percentage is even higher among those who were under 15 at the time of their sexual initiation, with up to 45 percent reporting that the experience was forced.
  •  Approximately 100 to 140 million girls and women in the world have experienced female genital mutilation/cutting, with more than 3 million girls in Africa annually at risk of the practice.

(Source: http://www.endvawnow.org/en/articles/299-fast-facts-statistics-on-violence-against-women-and-girls-.html)

Rape, molestation, child marriage, female infanticide, female genital mutilation, domestic abuse, verbal abuse, violence…

I am not a feminist, I am not an activist, yet I ask myself: What is this battle? Why are we fighting? What are we fighting for? Is there an end? How many casualties will there be? Has justice been served to her? Are there more effective anti-rape laws now? Why aren’t people still protesting? Why haven’t the six men been hanged? I find myself drawing a blank to these questions. Does anybody have an answer? Does anybody have a voice?

Do you have a voice?

Yes, from the way I see it, the world ended…because humanity ended. And the truth is that it could have been anybody. It could have been me. I’ve been to the mall she went to, I was living not too far from Saket. It could be someone you know, your best friend, your sister, your wife, your mother, your girlfriend, the girl you never got along with. It could have been you…

And so I implore you to draw inspiration from girls like Malala, who stand up for what they believe in, undaunted in the face of obstacles; don’t let the fire die, don’t let the questions wane, don’t lose hope, don’t fight a losing battle… in the age of information don’t let ignorance be a choice…stand up, for humanity’s sake.

 “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking that they don’t have any.”

 Alice Walker

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3 thoughts on “Man! I Feel Like A Woman

  1. I know I probably come off as a pessimist sometimes but yes I do agree with you that India has made considerable progress. But at what cost? Yes, India’s GDP is increasing, there are inspirational leaders such as Narendra Modi and Omar Abdullah, people are rising and change does not take place overnight. But I feel that all this progress has come at a cost of the people; there are gender inequalities, there are cases that take years and years to a decision (take Kasab for example, I mean what was that all about – 5 WHOLE years?). Yes, on the brighter side there are people like Arvind Kejriwal and Anna Hazare, but their voices are being sidelined by, as you said, “a corrupt system”. It is a challenge and one we are rising to, but not to our full potential. Not with people working in sweatshop factories as cheap labour for MNCs, not with female infanticide at an all time high in South Delhi, not with territorial and religious disputes, not with a black market that contributes for 50% of our GDP and other social evils still at large in the rural population which is where the “common man” resides.
    And as we have this discussion Shweta, there has been a 590% increase in rape cases in Delhi soon after the gang rape of this girl on a moving bus; and the latest victim is a five-year-old toddler. Her neighbour raped her and upon diagnosis the doctors have found pieces of bottle and candle inserted in her. This isn’t even a rape; it’s a crime against humanity. She is five. And this time, there is NO EXCUSE, she wasn’t wearing revealing clothes, she wasn’t making out with her boyfriend, she wasn’t roaming about late at night…her only mistake is that she’s a girl. A child…and when the father of the girl went to report the case to the police, the man replied: “Be grateful that she is alive.”
    I find educated people who are well aware of this situation indiscriminate against men and women unthinkingly. Simple things show how deeply embedded this psyche is…for example: we laugh at the prospect of a man being dressed as a woman, we laugh at gay jokes, we laugh at the idea of men being “sex slaves” to women but all the enlisted when reversed seems plausible albeit horrific.
    We, as women talk of equality and yet we want the men in our lives to open doors for us, pay for us when we’re out on our dates and tease them playfully by saying “You’re such a girl!” We bring our boys up with fragile egos teaching them to not cry because it’s a girly thing to do, teaching them to tough it out, denying them a Barbie and we teach our girls to cater to their fragile egos. We teach our children, the youth of tomorrow, values from a very young age that in their minds define them based on their gender than their individual characteristics. And it’s not a problem prevalent only in India or even middle-eastern countries…it’s prevalent everywhere and from a very, very long time…
    I hope, I pray and I want to believe…but with harsh facts staring at me blatantly…I am still grappling with the brutal reality and trying to find a beacon of light that will guide people who care, who appreciate to continue on their noble paths and to persuade people to try and view things from another perspective and exercise flexibility. Who said changing the world would be easy, right?

  2. I feel sad that there is a lot of truth in this article, yet I would like to focus on aspects that I don’t agree with. For example, I don’t think the world ended… humanity has not ended.
    There have always been and unfortunately will always be people like the Delhi rapists in the world. The incident was well covered and thus caused revolutionary voices for change within middle and working class communities. However, the media rarely focuses on the positive growth and development in the world, marginalising all areas of success, health and wealth for far more “lucrative and interesting” stories.
    I have noticed radical changes in the way that different communities who are furthering humanitarian missions, charities set on change for the brighter future of women and children and other such organisations and events who strive for the benefit of mankind – e.g. “Teach for India” organisation!
    India has been misguided for the last 60 years and lost its way in a corrupt system. But the country is seeing dramatic changes and terrible events like these are becoming far less frequent than they were. One cannot forget that the majority of Indians live in collectivist communities and habitually make sacrifices for the betterment of friends and family around them. However small, I see progress and hope in India’s mental, spiritual and global future! I cannot and will not allow tragic occurrences to break my confidence in the significant portion of humanity who live for the betterment of themselves, their family, their society and the world.

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