Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Cup of Shame Steadily Runneth Over

Indian News Media was abuzz since a couple of days by a remark by Mr. Shashi Tharoor, the Indian Minister of State for Human Resource Development, who tweeted his desire to have the new rape laws bear the name of the now-deceased victim of the brutal gang-rape outrage in Delhi. Under Indian laws, the identity of rape-victims are kept a strict secret, and the 23-year old victim has so long been referred to in the media variously as 'Delhi’s braveheart', 'Damini' (thunderbolt), 'Nirbhaya' (fearless), and 'Amanat' (treasure), perhaps to honor her desperate fight to remain alive after her grievous injuries. Now Mr. Tharoor has questioned the decision to keep the name of this rape victim a secret, indicating that the nation should honor her with her real name and identity. Expectedly, there have been a slew of responses on Twitter, supporting and decrying Mr. Tharoor's viewpoint in equal measures, while political machinations are already afoot to discredit him, with his own party distancing themselves from his remark in a cowardly manner. Let it be on record that I support Mr. Tharoor in this matter; our names form a large part of our identities, and if new laws are promulgated (and old one, strengthened) against rape and sexual violence against women, we as a nation can honor the victim by associating her real name with the said laws, as a mark of respect and remembrance. Similar practices exist in other civilized countries.

But while the "to name or not to name" argument goes on, India's Cup of Shame steadily runs over, unabated, with impunity. As author and blogger Kiran Manral tweeted today:
I had provided a few examples of this monumental shame in my previous post, but there has been no respite even after the terrible plight of the Delhi gang-rape victim was first brought to light:
  • A 17-year-old school student raped by two in South Delhi on the night of December 31, 2012.
  • Bangalore: Man lures 8-yr old with chocolates at a New Year function, rapes her.
  • A 15- year-old girl was kidnapped and raped by a Zila Panchayat (village council) member in Bulandshahr, UP.
  • A Physically challenged 15-year-old girl was raped by father in Noida, UP.
  • In Barabanki, UP, a 16-year old girl was kidnapped on her way home, raped and murdered by a young man.
  • A 17-year-old girl in Patiala, Punjab, who was gang-raped committed suicide after police pressured her to drop the case and marry one of her attackers.
And a sampling of the efficiency of Indian laws and law-enforcement against this scourge of sexual violence against women.
  • A teenaged woman from a village in West Bengal, raped in 2010 by a group of men, is still battling the system courageously to seek justice, despite being treated extremely shabbily by both police and courts.
  • Out of 635 rape cases between January and November 2012, Delhi had only one conviction.
  • A 12 year-old girl was kidnapped and raped by two men in the Sikar District in Kotwali, Jaipur. It has been five months that she was heinously injured and is battling for her life. There has been no progress since; the culprits have not been apprehended, and now the victim's family has been threatened to withdraw the case.
  • Raped by 42 men in 40 days: sixteen years later, the victim in Kerala awaits justice; only 1 was convicted by the Kerala High Court. Appeal in front of the Supreme Court made in 2005 is still pending.
Today marks the beginning of a new calendar year, 2013, with new hopes and potential. Will this be the year the scourge of rape and sexual violence against Indian women is finally done away with? Somehow, I can't find that hope in me, and that makes me sad and ashamed.

UPDATE January 5, 2013: Although no Indian newsmedia made any mention of it, a UK news website reports that the name of the Delhi rape victim was Jyoti Singh Pandey, as disclosed by her father. Perhaps now there'd be no opposition to naming the proposed anti-rape laws after Ms. Pandey to honor her memory and make the remembrance of our eternal collective shame permanent.

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