The Thursday evening gang rape of a 22-year-old photojournalist in Lower Parel, Mumbai has clearly pulled off the safe city tag from the maximum city, which has seen maximum rage erupt in the wake of the horrific incident, too chillingly reminiscent of the 16 December Delhi gang rape. The photojournalist, who was out on an assignment with a male colleague, was brutally raped by not one but five men, in a deserted factory area, Shakti Mill compound, not at the dead of night but early in the evening.
The ritualistic manner in which rapes are happening all across the country and the increasing brutality of the incidences, clearly point to a collective degradation of moral sensibilities that has taken root. It seems that the candle-light vigils, the rallies and demonstrations, the lathicharges and the media talk shows, and even the passing of the Anti-rape bill earlier this year, have all come to a naught, given that no one has learnt a lesson from any of that. No amount of filing petitions before the government of India, or demanding death penalty for the rapists can come to the rescue if the very foundations of gendered violence are not broken down. Hence, serial protestations, for all their good intentions, have been ineffective to curb the crime rate, or even to tone down the escalating intensity of violence against women.
The raging debates on television channels or on the opinion pages of newspapers and magazines, too, would not create a change of heart, unless the intellectual and ideological bases of such heinous actions are not eliminated.
Reports of rape are a daily phenomenon, to the extent that unless brutality reaches above a certain notch, our response to the incidents are usually of learned apathy. Yet, India has been making the international headlines not for its economic slump or border incursions, but for the fact that it is probably the least safe country for women, especially foreign women tourists, most of whom have horrific accounts of their encounters with the unreported India. Has our collective capacity as a nation rendered powerless before the institutionalised perversion that indirectly condones violence, especially sexual violence, on women? Once again, is the outrage related to the fact that the victim is a media-person from a big city, thus establishing that the anger emanates from our own citadels being breached, just like in the Delhi gang rape case?
The problem, clearly, lies within us and it’s time to look into the mirror. Apart from holding the government and the police forces responsible for what happened to the hapless young journalist, we must also start the change from our own homes, introspecting the reasons why women, even those accompanied by men, are still considered easy preys and targets of violence that are much more than mere sexual overpowering of the victim.