By Aishwarya Mohapatra
Edited by Namitha Sadanand, Senior Editor, The Indian Economist
One night in February 2012, the life of a 38 year old mother-of-two changed irreversibly, as she left a well-known club in Kolkata with a man who offered her a lift home. Three other men in the car were waiting, and she was held down and gang-raped in the car. She was later thrown out of the moving car half – naked.
The woman survived and reported the crime to both the police and the media. What unfolds is the story of how any rape victim in India is repeatedly raped again and again, even when the actual assault is done with a long time ago.
Mamata Banerjee, the Chief Minister of West Bengal, dismissed the case saying that it was obvious that this woman was lying to “make the government look bad”. Other politicians said she might be a prostitute with an objectionable character – after all, what kind of mother goes to clubs? Obviously, since she is a single mother whose husband almost certainly left her for her “deviant ways”, she deserves it if she gets raped! The police jeered at her when she tried to file an FIR. After months of living a half – life- when she was turned away for jobs merely for being a ‘rape victim’, boycotted by neighbours, and identified by strangers on sight only as the ‘Park Street Rape Victim’- she finally revealed her identity as Suzette Jordan.
Miss Jordan’s public revelation was a brave attempt at taking her life back. By refusing to hide behind a mask, she illustrated a very simple fact – rape victims are not the ones who should be ashamed for what happened! Yet, it was a slap in her face when she was recently denied entry to the Ginger restaurant in Hazra, Kolkata, only because “she was the Park Street Rape Victim”, as said by the restaurant’s manager.
When Miss Jordan posted about the same on her Facebook account, social media was flooded with support and anger towards this narrow-minded attitude. #StandwithSuzetteJordan and #BoycottGingerRestaurant started trending on Twitter; angry people posted negative reviews about the restaurant online.
Amidst all this hue and cry, however, Miss Jordan’s words stood out – “..there were some 20 odd people in queue to get in. All of them seemed in a hurry to eat, none of them intervened or even acted as if they heard anything..right from police stations, to court rooms to everyday life, we get raped again and again and again. There are some mute spectators who champion me when they see me on TV. I get many mails supporting me. I equally get hate mails too but I am happy that India did stand up with me when I spoke about……But in the end all the adulation has no meaning when you don’t stand up at the time of abuse. I wonder why none of those people standing in queue stood up. The manager was rude, I wonder why his subordinates didn’t speak up rather stood there listening and supporting the manager. I wonder how many rapes would this country take to finally stand up with survivors…..”
And therein lies the crux of the problem – despite all the armchair activism that we engage in, all the conversations with friends and family where we condemn such attitudes, all the hashtags that we post, how many of us really stop when a woman gets eve – teased on a bus or a train or when she is simply walking on the road? We all want to post condemning statuses about it when celebrities make controversial statements, like the famous singer Yesudas making one about women wearing jeans, but how many of us would really extend efforts to even try to change the mindsets of such people, for good? When a man leers at our daughters and sisters, how many of us would have the courage to tell him off rather than taking the girl aside for a good lecture on how she should be “careful” outside her home, even if she is covered from head to toe?
Every time we turn passive at these instances, we take it lying down! We are the ones creating an unsafe atmosphere for women and girls, literally sending out invitations to any would-be rapist to come and do all the molesting they please, since we have decided to turn a blind eye when things actually happen in front of us. In our heart of hearts, we know who is the real party to blame, and yet many of us do not let go of the opportunity to put in our two cents about how and why the woman could have “avoided” being raped! “She could have worn something that covers her legs”, “Why was she coming back at 10 in the night”, “She had a boy with him, so obviously, she is that type of a girl….”, the list is endless.
This is a cancer eating our society from within – the woman is blamed for a man committing a heinous crime against her. She is the one who has an objectionable character; she is Eve who leads Adam into the temptation of molesting her, raping her, even murdering her.A woman is not a second – class citizen who needs to stay invisible in order to lead a life free from the horror of rape. She has the right to wear anything, go anywhere, do any job and be with whatsoever company she chooses. Rape is the act of a man who turns into an animal at the moment, and not of a woman who invites anyone to do anything to herself! And unless this thinking is accepted by every citizen of this country, rape incidents will still occur every day, at the same rate, despite all our activism and efforts to stop the same.