If anyone thought aggressive, macho Delhi would overnight become safe for women after the outrage over the gruesome rape and murder of a young woman physiotherapist exactly five years ago, that person could be described as many things but certainly not a realist. As a crude reminder came the annual report of the National Crime Records Bureau earlier this month and Delhi’s tag as “rape capital” remains unchallenged.
According to the report one in three crimes against women in Metros happened in Delhi, up from 13260 in 2014 to 13,803.. But the fact that the graph despite the annual slamming is going up shows greater willingness of victims to complain – not a small thing in a country where women are held “guilty” of having been wronged against rather than the other way round – and of cops to register complaints, is a beginning. It is a different matter that between the UPA government of 2012 and the NDA government of 2017 we have moved from arguing about women’s right to be safe to defending their agency in a climate where phrases like “love jihad” have moved from the fringes to the lexicon of agencies like the NIA. And that is not exactly forward movement.
In the interim, underage rape victims have continued to approach the courts for the right to abort with alarming regularity and politicians have been exhorting their constituents to rise and “right” the wrongs against their mothers and sisters. As some argue, misogyny is the oldest tradition in India. So while we ban condom ads before 11 pm, Bollywood songs with their pelvic thrusts and rampant sexual harassment – a popular song has the macho hero trying to lift the heroine’s short skirt – routinely pass the test. One way or the other there is such complete social sanction to the commodification of women, be it as articles to protect or to conquer – 25-year- old sister- in-law are still married off to 15-year-old brothers- in- law to keep the family’s “honour” within the family – that sexual crimes are but inevitable.
And that is a conversation that December 16, 2012 raised only transiently. It still surfaces, when a “Pink” releases or when a government gives an affidavit in court that what “may appear to be marital rape” to a wife “may not appear so to others” but women’s issues remain just that. Theirs alone to solve and discuss. When a bill came to Parliament for increasing the duration of maternity leave, almost all speakers were women.
Till men become a part of the conversation about women, Nirbhayas can never really be without fear.