Thursday, March 7, 2013

Courageous Woman Speaks About Her Rape in India And Official Apathy

Rape. Sexual Violence against women. Gang rape. Happening daily in the glorious nation of India. I have been expressing my outrage about this through my blog posts and via Social Media (Facebook & Twitter) for a while now (See here, here, here, and here), trying to encourage - and engage in - activism against sexual violence in whichever way I can, not only in India, but elsewhere in the world, too.

I don't know if all that outrage, that anger, that activism, those protests against sexual violence ever achieve anything; certainly nothing seems to change in a country like India. Barring some token political maneuvers, nothing has been done in response to the nationwide protest against the horrifying ordeal and eventual death of Jyoti Singh Pandey, and the outrages continue to occur. Faced with an apathetic, callous and intransigent system, even people like me, who make an effort to voice these concerns and shine the spotlight on sexual violence, do run the risk of getting inured to such incidents after a while - due to the sheer volume of it.

However, when this happens to someone one knows personally, it suddenly serves as a rude awakening - calling attention to the fact that the activists' work is far from over, and continued, unrelenting vigilance is of utmost importance.

Meet Sandi Higgins, an American filmmaker, aficionado of Indian Classical Music, and student of Tabla, the Indian percussion instrument. My wife and I met her in New York City in 2010, when one early morning we drove up from Baltimore to attend a workshop on Indian Classical Music - that she had helped organize - run by none other than the pre-eminent vocalist, Pandit Ajoy Chakraborty. Sandi was kind enough to forward to us later clips of the musical morning, as well as photos she took.

This morning, via Facebook, I came to learn the story of her horrendous travails, as well as the travesty of justice that she encountered when she was in India to shoot a documentary on Zakir Hussein, the Tabla maestro. She was raped while she was sleeping in a guest room of the ISKCON temple near Juhu, in Mumbai. When she tried to get help from the Police, she was met with official apathy and callousness. Nothing eventually was done in her case; the culprit was not apprehended, and the Police even cooked up a fictitious story for the media.

Now, a year and a half after her ordeal, this incredibly courageous and conscientious woman has decided not to remain silent any longer. She has spoken out, on video, about her terrifying experience in gut-wrenching detail. Even I, embittered, hard-boiled, had an almost visceral reaction to her description.
Sandy is not the first foreigner to be raped in India, and certainly she won't be the last. In this nation of extreme contradictions, women are traditionally supposed to be revered as incarnations of the Female Form of the Divine, and yet, in daily life, according to the 2011 statistics released by the National Crime Records Bureau (PDF here), crimes against women are steadily on the rise. As ostentations of "spirituality" and the unholy influence of religion and religious superstitions on public life continue to grow in this country, the moral compass of the Indian menfolk seems to be pointed persistently at the wrong direction; misogyny, ably bolstered by religious traditions and mores of a staunchly patriarchal society, has extended its sharp claws and poisonous fangs more than ever.

This is not the kind of experience that should happen to any woman, ever. I tremendously admire Sandi's courage in speaking out publicly about her sad, traumatic experience; I don't know if this would ever help her get the justice she deserves, but I hope it serves as a warning to others and helps steel the resolve of those who are striving to fight the menace of violence against women.

I am so, so very sorry, Sandi. I feel incredibly ashamed to be an Indian right now, and at the same time, there is a Vesuvius of impotent rage and frustration in my heart.

1 comment:

  1. Skirt do not cause Rape - Sick Mentality Does