The more I think of the way she suffered, the more I feel an anger rising up amongst the bile. My stomach twisted as I heard of the ways in which she’d been savagely assaulted; having been violated with an iron rod, her intestines had to be removed. She was raped for over an hour by a group of men who did this only because she was a woman.
She could be one of my friends. She could be me aged 23. The rapists didn’t think about her family or her career as a paramedic. They weren’t bothered by her male chaperone. She wasn’t a person to them, just a thing to use, an object. While she lay fighting for her life in a hospital bed, another young woman ended hers. Oblivious to India’s extremely negative profile on the world stage, police officers in the Punjabi region of Patiala advised a 17 year old victim of rape to withdraw her allegations and accept a cash settlement or instead marry one of her attackers.
I am yet to understand the thought processes in this kind of practice. Growing up, I was exposed to a lot of Bollywood I might have chosen to switch off myself. It was a sort of link back to their (my grandparents) old country (even though they were from Pakistan). They just weren’t as in to Pakistani cinema (possibly because it was crap). Sex and sexuality were forbidden in old Bollywood. Romantic liaisons would end in a nose to nose display of lust and yearning and just as their lips threatened to touch, it would cut and zoom out to an image of a tree. The viewer was left feeling like a kiss had taken place and the mere suggestion of this was enough to fire my unbearably strict grandfather into an anti-Indian tirade on how they were all sinners and destined for Allah’s hellfire. “Like dogs!” He’d bark. “Rabid and starved!”
My dislike of my grandfather’s xenophobia aside, I would personally squirm in my seat. This was one side to the representation of sexuality in Bollywood I could begin to understand, however uncomfortable it made me. The snatched glances, inhaling the other person’s smell as they waft past, all little indicators that were the cameras not there, they’d be fornicating and enjoying it a helluva lot. It was either this or the other. Bollywood sexuality was very black and white.
The alternative was rape. The phrase “izaat looti” meaning “stole her honour” describes rape. The rapist stole something from the victim, the most important thing in her culture. And the only consequence to such an incident is certain death. I was horrified whenever I saw an actress fake plunge a dagger into her own chest. Her body and her reputation irreparably sullied so that only death can purify her. An honourable action some might say. Honourable for the men, maybe, seeing as they were the ones to invent the practice. Or maybe she was killing herself to avoid another kind of fate. The kind where the victim is made to marry her attacker. Just like the 17 year old from Patiala who, in the year 2012, was advised to do the same.
Where has feminism been for these women?
At present, we in the West are experiencing a second wave Backlash. The year 2012 gave a voice to the patriarchy in which they blamed victims for bringing abuse on themselves. Victims are not doing a good enough job protecting themselves against the animalistic urges of rapists and paedophiles and rape isn’t even rape unless the perpetrator agrees it is. For a while now, Western patriarchy has been feeding us the lie that they don’t treat us like the savages over in the East treat theirs. The recent focus on India and the lack of women’s rights may make our great land seem positively equal and fair. Except patriarchy thinks we haven’t been watching this past year when in fact, we have, with concerted efforts.
Perpetrators, Paedophiles and Patriarchy http://wp.me/p1V5N4-9c
Privilege Top Trumps http://wp.me/p1V5N4-94
2012 might have been the year where victim blaming was the norm but it will also have been the year when intersectionality became mainstream. Feminism was borne out of the need for equality. For some this meant equality in the Western world for white men and women. But true feminism is intersectional. It has to be. Otherwise we’ll have wise asses like the white friend (of a man married to an aunt) who praised non-white women for knowing who wears the trousers in a relationship. “The problem with our white women is that they don’t cook for us. They wait for you to get in the door and they’re off out drinking with their friends. Asian women take care of their men”. Hm.
The images of our Indian sisters protesting against the patriarchy swell my heart and enforce a renewed vigour with which we must now battle. Together. I am Savita, the woman who died in the name of Catholicism when she miscarried the foetus whose right to life undermined hers. I am Malala Yousufzai and I will fight to the death to be heard. I am the millions of women raped for being women, for (*amendment) identifying as women and not conforming to the patriarchal cis gendered stereotype. It doesn’t matter where we are, what we wear, what our life choices are; we have the right to move freely without fear of attack. All of us.
2012 – The year feminism came back with a vengeance. The year feminism fought for all women.
This time round it will work. This time we’ll have billions more women on our side.
Patriarchy won’t know what’s hit it.