What were you up to on the evening of December 16th Last year? It was on a
Sunday. You were probably getting ready to go to work the following day,
polishing up a presentation, completing a report. Or recovering from
weekend festivities. Or just home with your family. A young woman was
beaten up and raped repeatedly that night. Across the world, there were
probably several but one stirred the world.
Her name was Jyoti Singh Pandey. She was Indian. She was twenty three
years old. To the world she was “the unnamed Indian gang-rape victim”. When
the protests began in her country, they called her ‘Damini’ -Lightning. She
was about to become a physiotherapist, but before she could she was thrown
off a moving bus. Before she could become a physiotherapist, she was gang
raped for an hour or so, severely beaten up and left to die. And she did,
on 3rd January in a Singapore hospital. Damini, Jyoti are just names now.
Her story begins with her but does not end with her. Somewhere in its
course, it gets bigger than her and she ends up as just a character in her
her own story. It ceases to be her story and becomes a story about women
like her. Her story causes the world to review its battle and strategy
against raped and violence. Are we doing enough to end rape and such like animosities? Is it out of hand?
Her story is not the first of its kind and sadly not the last. In Kenya and
all over the world women tell stories similar to hers. Stories of women
beaten up, raped and undignified in every possible way.
Theirs are stories of sorrow, not written by the free and easy, not
written by anyone credited with being happy. Written by victims. Like
‘Damina’ their only crime is their femininity, the impress of their makers
hands. Like ‘Damina’ their lives are almost never the same again.
Most survive the ordeal and live tell a sad tale. They somehow rise and go
from darkness to darkness carpeted with fear of predators behind and ahead.
They wrestle with horrors of unwanted pregnancies that may result to
unwanted ‘reminders’ of dark pasts. A large number face separation from
their spouses, fiances and lovers who never want to touch their bodies
again. They see them as undesirable. They are pushed to a dark corner and
are realities only to themselves to others, to others they are seen and
described as victims.
The larger society has been keen to call to and end the violence and
justice for victims but slow to be the desired change. Daughters are
advised to dress decently to avoid provoking rapists but are young men
warned against harassment and violence well enough? Society fails at times,
instead of empathizing and sympathizing with the survivors their
vulnerability is translated into wreaking fiction. They are described as
‘inviting’, provoking or reckless. They accuse them of being drunk and
intoxicated or skimpily dressed. But there is no excuse good enough to
justify cruelties so horrible. There is no excuse to justify such
inhumanity, not exposed cleavages, not gleaming thighs.
After the horrifying ordeals, survivors have to re-invent themselves. They
have to find sanity and revive their thirst for life. Those who cannot
drink or turn to drugs to forget. Others harden their lives into
After the horrifying ordeal, they have to learn to be self forgiving and
stop blaming themselves. They have to learn to live as wholly and healthy
as possible even when society is not so embracing. Surprisingly many do
survive as themselves. They are able to smile at the world, and life
again. Despite their struggles and tribulations, they are not
superwomen. they are not larger than life. They are human and they are
easily accessible. They are human and around us, all over. You meet
them undeniably strong, they do not ask for your sympathy, tears or
prayers, they ask that others may not experience what they went
through. They ask that you do everything in your ability to ensure that
young boys and girls are not robbed off their innocence.
We may not sing praises of rape survivors and their stamina, but at
least lets salute an outstanding group in-dignified by fellow human
beings. Let’s look at them and their lives with respect.