Being the change

The Mumbai photojournalist signals her refusal to let rape define her or hold her back in any way

Written by The Indian Express | Published: August 26, 2013 3:50 am

The Mumbai photojournalist signals her refusal to let rape define her or hold her back in any way

The gangrape of a young photojournalist in Mumbai has sparked another wave of shock,anger and protest. She was brutalised in a deserted mill in the middle of the city while on assignment and accompanied by a male colleague. This incident has frustrated many,caused them to question the system’s capacity to check sexual crime and once again demand drastic,public punishment for the culprits.

Sexual violence is everyday and pervasive in India,but only after the December 16 Delhi gangrape has it become such a public cause,one that many middle-class citizens painfully relate to. Their anger and persistence,the collaboration between citizens,activists and lawyers,led to the formation of the J.S. Verma committee and resulted in amendments,not all of them rigorously thought through,to criminal law. Wresting greater accountability from the police and courts,though,is a longer process,one that calls for sustained action. It is clear that newer,harsher laws are not the solution. What is needed,instead,is better enforcement all the way from FIR to final judgement.

What is remarkable about this incident,however,is the young woman’s composure,her control of the situation after the attack. To all those anguished on her behalf,she has already announced her intention to move on with her life,go back to work and finish her assignment. That determination,not to let the fear of sexual assault deter one from leading a full life,is an example to others. She has taken the bottom out of the discourse of shame and defilement that inevitably follows sexual crime. This is also a fitting response to those who,ostensibly in response to such incidents,curtail women’s freedoms,their mobility,their right to rely on their own judgement. Patriarchal notions of honour add a special horror to rape,resulting in the victim being stigmatised for surviving an assault. By all accounts,this young journalist has refused to accept that warped perspective. That calls for respect and admiration,not pity.

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