On December 16, 2012, two friends just finished watching a film in the Munirka area of Delhi. As they were exchanging their views and perspectives on the film they boarded a privately operated bus heading towards the southwest quadrant of the city.
Whether it was a blow from a fist or a blunt object, the bus instantaneously wreaked of danger and the two friends knew they needed to fight their way off. Surrounded by a group of men, the two were repeatedly beaten. As the young man was repeatedly attacked, he probably tried not only to remain conscious, but also to protect his female friend.
However, in his battered state, most likely weaving in and out of consciousness, his friend was attacked and beaten down. Her clothes ripped off, her body thrown on the floor of the bus like a bloody rag doll, as each attacker took turns repeatedly forcing blunt objects and male appendages into her.
The driver continued on his route as her body was subjected to repeated violence and violation and as her male friend was battered into a lifeless state of submission. After an hour of brutality, the two friends were thrown out of the bus and left on the road for dead. A passerby found the two and called for help.
The next day several headlines across India condemned the violence and gang rape. News media nationally and internationally began to publish statistics on rape violence labeling Delhi as the ‘rape capital’ of India, where anywhere from 582 to 630 cases of rape have been reported in Delhi in 2012.
Women play a prominent role in Parliament, business, and sports in India, yet the disparity between the portrayal of women as leaders and the genuine respect of women is startling.
According to BBC Delhi correspondent Soutik Biswas, more than 24,000 rape cases were reported in India in 2011, where 54.7% of victims were between the ages of 18 – 30. What is shocking is that the victims in more than 94% of the cases knew their offenders.
Public protests demanding justice and an end to violence against women erupted in many cities across India as news of the brutal violation of the female victim spread. On Dec 29, 2012, it was made known to the international community that the young woman who was violently beaten passed away from the injuries inflicted upon her.
India’s Home Affairs minister publicly decried that he was “heartbroken” by her death. He also committed to “take whatever steps are needed to ensure that her killers get the harshest punishment in the quickest of time.”
The Navbharat Times published: We need to repent. And repentance would not be in hanging the accused or castrating them. Repentance will be in ensuring that no one else goes through what she had to.
On a personal level, repentance is a radical shift in one’s way of life. On a societal level, repentance is a paradigm shift in societal views. A paradigm shift can only start with a movement, a movement of individuals who are willing to go against the status quo and head towards the goal of human sustainability. As individuals, we need to condemn the violence and oppression against women and children. We need to empower men to speak out against the atrocities of sexual exploitation, to fight against the objectification of women, and to work together to restore the sustaining concept of love into words, actions, and relationships.
In an era where human trafficking for sexual exploitation is one of the top three illegal industries in the world, the death of the young Delhi woman serves as a reminder of how desensitized we have become to sex. Sex has been ‘glamorized’ and promoted to the point where its provision is no longer humanistic, but materialistic. Whether it be through promoting “benign touching” at strip clubs (Tim Lambrinos, Adult Entertainment Association of Canada), sensationalizing lustful fantasies through pornography, ignoring the marginalization and oppression of prostituted women, or disregarding the impact and consequences of sexual violence and exploitation – the ‘glamorization’ of sex has transformed it into an act that is equivalent to putting a gas nozzle in a car. Two inanimate objects come together, pay for the transaction, leave. If one of the objects is damaged, discard and move on to another. This state of apathy towards sex marketing has been successful in encouraging indifference in individuals. This indifference, in turn, has led to a large proportion of people who are not interested in advocating for justice and freedom for the sexually oppressed and exploited.
Seeking swift retribution for the death of the young Delhi woman is very different than seeking repentance. We need to start building the foundation to ensure that sexual violence and oppression against women and children will not be tolerated. This starts with supporting recovery programs for those who wish to exit the sex trade industry. We must advocate for the decriminalization of women in the sex trade, and the criminalization of those who purchase sexual acts. We must raise awareness and educate all individuals about gender equality and that the purchase of sex is a form of sexual exploitation and oppression against women, children and men. We must exercise our democratic right by ensuring government officials enact policies and practices that ensure that sexual exploitation and oppression against women, children and men are eliminated.
Swift retribution serves as a bandage solution to events that evoke public outcry. But, a commitment towards the road of repentance will provide a long-term solution that will ensure an end to sexual exploitation and oppression against women, children, and men.