India rises in protests, asks: will this war against women end?
The previously-anonymous woman once christened Damini [Lightning in Hindi], Delhi Braveheart, and Nirbhaya’ [Fearless] by activists and the media, has finally been named by her family as Jyoti Singh.
True to her pseudonym, in death she struck lightning in the hearts of Indians who are tired of sexual assault, domestic violence, and eve-teasing (a euphemism referring to public sexual harassment in South Asia).
Singh’s gang rape was not an anomaly. In 2011, around 24,000 Indian women reported being raped – a 9.2% rise over 2010. Over half (54.7%) of abuse survivors were between 18 and 30 years old, and the vast majority (94%) knew their assailants. It is important, however, to note that not every woman attacked and abused report these crimes to the police, therefore the real number of rapes may never be known.
Although criminal cases for sexual crimes can take years to resolve in India, the case of Jyoti Singh’s six rapists has been fast-tracked. Five of the assailants have been named, while the sixth, believed to be under 18, remains unidentified publicly and will be tried seperately as a juvenile if it is proven he is a minor.
The attack against Singh moved Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan to tweet: “‘Damini’ [is] just a name now… Her body has passed away, but her soul shall … forever stir our hearts !!!” Despite the wave of protests and calls for the rapists to be executed, violent crimes against women often provoke brief outrage before being forgotten by the public and treated with indifference by the authorities.
One such case is that of Mumbai nurse Aruna Shanbaug, a then-25-year-old who was sodomized and strangled in the hospital where she worked. For nearly 40 years, she has remained in a vegetative state. Her assailant, cleaner Sohanlal Bharta Walmiki, who served seven years in prison for robbery and attempted murder but was never charged with rape, is now a free man.
The nation-wide protests have raised many quetsions about India’s patriarchy and also judicial system.
Her father states, “We want the world to know her real name. My daughter didn’t do anything wrong, she died while protecting herself. 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.”