[May, 2013 – We had to do a Speech of Praise on an individual who has inpacted and/or positively affected society. This is the outline – even though it was an extemporaneous speech – so I added a lot of improvisation to make it conversational with my audience. Note that 90% of the audience were females.]
I would like to tell you a story…
A 23-year old woman and a male friend, were on their way home on the night of 16 December 2012 after watching the film Life of Pi in South Delhi, India. They boarded a bus that was being driven by joyriders at about 9:30 pm (IST). There were only six others in the bus, including the driver. One of them, a minor.
The male friend was beaten, gagged and knocked unconscious with an iron rod. The men then dragged the woman to the rear of the bus, beating her with the rod and raping her while the bus driver continued to drive. A rusted, L-shaped implement of the type used as a wheel jack handle rod was repeatedly introduced into her vagina – ripping her uterus, reaching to the intestines and pulling her guts out.
According to the International Business Times, a policeman said that the minor was the most brutal attacker and had “sexually abused his victim twice and ripped out her intestines with his bare hands.” The attackers threw both the victims from the moving bus. Then the bus driver allegedly tried to drive the bus over the woman but she was pulled aside by her male friend.
The partially clothed victims were found on the road by a passerby at around 11 pm (IST). She was found with injury marks all over her body and only 5% of her intestines remaining inside of her abdomen. The victim underwent five surgeries, removing most of her remaining intestines. She remained intubated, on life support and in critical condition. Doctors reported that she was “conscious and meaningfully communicative”. On 26 December, the decision was made to fly her to Mount Elizabeth Hospital, a multi-organ transplant speciality hospital in Singapore for further care. Her condition continued to deteriorate, and she died on 29 December.
Before I continue, I’d like to quote several Delhi police officers so that you can understand the cultural stigma towards women in India.
According to stringent criteria of the Delhi Police, almost all women deserve to be raped. And here’s why:
1.- Satbir Singh, Additional SHO of Sector 31 Police Station: “Women should cover their entire body. They wear skirts, blouses, that don’t cover them fully. They display themselves. A kid will naturally be attracted to her.”
Sub-Inspector Arjun Singh, SHO of Surajpur Police Station, Greater Noida, clarifies the position further: “She is dressed in a manner that people get attracted to her. In fact, she wants them to do something to her.”
(In other words, unless a woman is fully covered from head to toe – at all times – she wants men to rape her.)
2.- Dharamveer Singh, Additional SHO at Indirapuram Police Station in Ghaziabad, tells Tehelka: “It’s very rare that a girl is forcefully picked up by 10 boys. A girl who gets into a car with boys is never innocent. If she does, she definitely has a relationship with at least one of them.”
(If a woman is in a sexual relationship with one man, then she deserves to be raped by him and all his friends.)
3.- Roop Lal of Sector 40, Gurgaon, sought to find a rationale to the occurrence of gang-rape: “Say we are sitting and had one drink, it’s obvious that it’ll happen. What will she tell her parents?”
(So when a man drinks, he turns into a sex-crazed animal ready to rape the nearest woman. When a woman drinks, she is looking to be raped.)
4.- Ram Malik’s justification for the rape of a minor: “The girl’s mother is divorced. She’s living with another man. It’s inevitable the two daughters will be wayward, isn’t it?”
(A girl deserves to be raped because of her mother. When all else fails, blame the mom.)
5.- Yogender Singh Tomar, Additional SHO, Sector 39, “In reality, the ones who complain are only those who have turned rape into a business.”
(In” other words, if you’re “really” raped, you would never complain. If you complain, you were not “really” raped.)
After the rape, public protests took place – not only in New Delhi – but throughout the country. Protests have occurred online as well on the social networking sites Facebook and Twitter and thousands have signed an online petition protesting the incident. Protestors also specifically cited the sex crime rate statistics in Delhi, the highest among Indian cities, and more than the next five cities combined. Police figures show a rape reported on average every 18 hours.
Calling the case a “Wake up call”, the regional program director for U.N. Women South Asia said, “There are rape cases in almost all cities and rural areas, where the victim dies immediately because of the brutality of the crime.”
After her death, the main opposition party of India, the BJP, renewed its demand for a special parliament session to discuss the case and to adopt stricter laws on crime against women.
Since her death, the unprecedented protests against rape have continued across India and have motivated the media and police to focus on the rising incidents of rape and sexual harassment in the country.
Sexual assaults have made headline news almost daily, a big change from the time when such cases were mentioned only briefly and were rarely reported by television news channels.
A senior police spokesman said, “The increased media reporting and the protests have created an awakening among women, and they are now coming forward like never before to report rape and want to fight for justice. This has also made our police force more sensitive to these cases. Now they file the complaint immediately and believe the victim’s statement without questioning.”
The American embassy released a statement on 29 December, offering their condolences to the woman’s family and stating “we also recommit ourselves to changing attitudes and ending all forms of gender-based violence, which plagues every country in the world”.
Author and activist Eve Ensler “India is really leading the way for the world. It’s really broken through. They are actually fast-tracking laws. They are looking at sexual education. They are looking at the bases of patriarchy and masculinity and how all that leads to sexual violence.”
I know that all of this might be difficult to imagine, as it has happened somewhere else, far away from us. It’s not tangible. So let’s stop and reflect for a moment – what’s going on in the country we live in now? Are we women safe in The United States of America? The reality is that this story affects all of us.
Let’s consider some important facts:
- Since 1993, the US still has a relatively high rate of rape when compared to other developed countries.
- It has been estimated that one in six American women has been or will be sexually assaulted during her life.
- U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics states that “out of 100% of rape victims – 91% are female and 9% are male. And 99% of rapists are in fact male.”
- The United States Government, has granted Nirbhaya “Fearless” the 2013 International Women of Courage Award.
Complying with Indian law, the real name of the victim was not released to the media, so pseudonyms were used for her instead. After her death her father spoke to the press saying, “We want the world to know her real name. I am proud of her. Revealing her name will give courage to other women who have survived these attacks. They will find strength from my daughter.”
Her strength – not to live, not to survive, but to stay alive for 13 days – to be heard and to give women a voice is remarkable. She didn’t die in vane. I strongly believe that this was her purpose and she’s now in a greater place.
As a woman, I respect her. I admire her. I thank her.