Millennium Post

One year later, has anything changed?

Today, it is exactly one year since the fatal gang rape of a 23-year-old paramedic in Delhi’s Mehrauli region shocked the collective conscience of the nation. All the agitation, all the rage and seething anger, the civil uprising against a violent and apathetic system with its inherent biases against women, sexual, class and religious minorities – what has that led to? One year on, where have we reached in terms of securing the rights of women and making the streets of, say just the national capital, safe and free of dangers? The simple, one-word answer is this: Nowhere. Not only have the rape cases doubled, molestation reports risen by over six times since the 16 December gang rape, but we also have the Supreme Court striking down the progressive Delhi high court ruling that decriminalised homosexuality. In order words, instead of strengthening civil liberties, the situation in India has gone from bad to worse, despite putting in place a watershed anti-rape bill in March this year. A number of reports, including a study conducted by this newspaper, have found that not only there’s inadequate policing, lighting on the streets, there’s also more vitriol against women and sexual minorities, with acid attacks and other heinous forms of brutalities having shot up several times since this time around last year. If the numbers are any indication, then the tag of Delhi being the ‘rape capital’ of the world not just holds good still, it has been given a year-long boost, courtesy the systemic inefficiency and the general culture of endemic, entrenched patriarchal bigotry that has only been bolstered despite some legal and judicial measures to check that.

In this context, observing the ‘Global Day of Rage (GDR)’ across several cities of not just India but the whole world comes as a whiff of fresh, if angry, air. Although the GDR is being conducted as an expression of vehement and broad protest against Supreme Court of India’s upholding of the archaic and colonial Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that criminalises gay sex, counting it as one among a number of ‘unnatural offences’, the day of rage is against this very machine that reproduces bias and discrimination at every level of its operation. The dubious argument that was forwarded by the SC, in this light, is an extrapolation of the same ‘majoritarian morality’ defence of every law and practice that spreads inequality, intolerance and cruelty. Hence, what needs to be understood is that violence against women is not just a one-dimensional problem that targets women only, but part of a deep-seated and multifaceted prejudice against the other, the deprived and the disadvantaged along the sexual, religious or class lines. It is time to, therefore, connect the dots and deepen the movements, undaunted by the challenges that have been placed in the way of this new liberation war, as it were. It is time to connect and radicalise along multiple points and realise that the right to freedom isn’t separate from the rights to health, to education, to environment and other affiliated rights and liberties that are hallmark of a developed nation. Moreover, it is also time to become a collective that does not base itself on common prejudices against the various minorities, but rather which unites for the right to dignity, love and self-determination for all.
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