“I heard one of them say that all girls like me should be killed. Then they inserted an iron rod inside me.”
In Netflix’s Delhi Crime, inspired by original case records, the true story of Jyoti Singh, probably the most (in)famous rape case in the recent history of the subcontinent, only the names of the victim, perpetrators and investigating offices of December 16, 2012, Delhi gang rape have been changed.
The inhuman barbarity of human beings remain the same, and so does the soul-numbing depth to which ordinary mortals fall to, oblivious to that very thin line that is a delineation between what is just another run-of-the-mill crime, and what must never, ever happen, anywhere, to anyone.
Delhi Crime: The inhuman barbarity of human beings remain the same. (Photo: Netflix via India Today)
Yet it does. Again and again. The most brutal gang rape and murder of a child, a girl, a boy, a teenager, a young woman, a middle-aged woman, a trans-person, is not about unleashing of a sexual desire that must have satiation. It is the lowermost, the vilest, the most perverse, the most heinous manifestation of that one human trait that turns humanity on its head: the need to control a physically weaker being through violence, through sexual violence.
It is the convolution of masculinity that is the antithesis of a stereotype of a man’s age-old role: that of a protector. It is the centuries of conditioning of the masculine mind, beyond the primal role of a breadwinner, a caretaker, a patriarch, to be the one in control, to be the tamer, to be the dominant force, to be the rule maker, to be the shaper of behaviours, outlooks, mores. It is the misguided notion of physical superiority being the decisive factor in the construction of a code of ethics and conduct.
It is the institutionalisation of the mindset that those who are weaker in any form must be receptive to being guided, lectured, reprimanded, fixed, moulded, and most importantly, controlled.
From starting of wars to manufacturing of the most deadly weapons; from genocides to systematic annihilation of entire races; from overreaching military mis-adventurism to dehumanisation of the “other”, the enemy; from molestation of a child to rape of a corpse; from sexual assault of a beautiful young woman to sexual assault on a 90-year-old frail old person who is long past any physical allure, personal and otherwise; from beating a dog to death to beating helpless children to the point of brain incapacitation; from raping a girlfriend to gang-raping a stranger; from stripping a woman on a date naked against her will to group-raping a woman on a moving bus, inserting an iron rod in her repeatedly, pulling out her intestines with a bare hand, there is nothing that has not happened, that does not happen and that will not happen.
There is violence on women everywhere. (Representative photo: Reuters)
Despite outrage, despite protests, despite passing and implementation of stricter laws, and despite making it all a subject of mainstream discourse, there is repetition after repetition of violent crimes against women. In a world full of countless men who are good, kind, decent, and ashamed of and horrified by everything bad done by people of their gender, there will always be countless men of all ages and backgrounds who believe that controlling the world, on micro and macro levels, through violence is the only real way of validation of their manhood, their masculinity, their maleness.
That the real test of their strength is through fixing what they think is wrong with the world. That their badge of honour is ridding the world of “girls like...” Fill in any name. Jyoti Singh, Deepika of Delhi Crime, Michelle, Ayesha, Aaliyah, Fei Hong, Amelia, Eugenie, Zainab. It does not matter who you are, where you are from, what your age is, what the shape of your body is, what you do, how you are dressed, how you behave, what you think, where you are. It could be anyone. It could be anywhere. There could be a line crossed. An inappropriate word. An indecent touch. An unwelcome move. An uninvited attempt of closeness. Humiliation. Harassment. Abuse. Violence. Sexual abuse. Grievous bodily harm. Murder.
There is violence on women everywhere, behind closed doors, behind a façade of righteousness, in the guise of doing good, in the form of systemic weakening of spirit, to demand submission, to punish assertiveness, for an expectation of toeing the line, for daring to cross the line.
The recent stories of Asma Aziz of Lahore, an alleged victim of physical violence, that included shaving of her head, at the hands of her husband and his employees, and Hajra bibi of Lahore, an alleged victim of mental and physical violence of her husband and in-laws are two cases that are a stark look into the black mirror of society that despite changing expects its women to be “good”, obedient and obliging.
It is the blatant distortion of that age-old notion, even a religious belief, that the man in the family, notwithstanding his personal character and conduct, has the power and the right to “fix” the woman. It is a little preview of that giant ugly truth that could be of anyone, anywhere.
No more. Never again. Justice for all. (Photo: Reuters)
That a woman obeying every order and demand of her husband and in-laws could be treated worse than an animal. That a woman who has a mind of her own and appears to be a willing partner in one activity must be expected to always dance to the tune of her husband’s incoherent and insane dictates. That a woman must be beaten to be moulded into the ideal version of what those around her expect her to be.
Irrelevant are the details of Asma and Hajra’s marital life. Immaterial is the protestation of those they filed cases against. Insignificant is the “evidence” being presented against them in front of an investigating officer, or an inquisitive, callous, mostly apathetic, mostly disparaging jury of social media. The only thing that holds weight: they are both victims of violence. Their medical reports prove that. The whataboutery is inconsequential, and so are the ifs and the buts.
What is heartening is that the pleas of Asma and Hajra were heard through the good of social media. That in Asma’s case the Punjab inspector-general of Police Amjad Javed Saleemi issued an order for immediate action and an immediate report.
What is heartening in a world full of violence is that Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government is not apathetic, and that minister of interior Shehryar Afridi and minister of human affairs Shireen Mazari have ordered an immediate inquiry and issued an order for protection of Asma. That thousands of people have tweeted, demanding justice for Asma and Hajra, and others whose cases have recently come to attention. That now there is a growing awareness that violence against women is not an individual act against an individual; that violence against women is a crime against the entire humanity.
Me too. Enough. No more. Never again. Justice for all. The world around us, slowly but steadily, is cognizant. There must not be any violence. Against anyone who is weak in terms of physical power, or in any other form. Unleash your anger in a form that is not physically harmful. Make your point in a non-aggressive way. Unless it is a matter of life and death, unless you are fighting to protect or survive, find a way that is not violent. There always is one.
Notwithstanding the alleged “misdeed”, notwithstanding any justification of any kind of provocation, notwithstanding the level of exasperation or anger provoked within you by someone’s attitude, and notwithstanding the effect of emotional manipulation, a drug addiction, intoxication, and subliminal pressure of those that affect your behaviour in a negative manner, there must be absolutely NO place for violence on a woman in this world. Period. There must be absolutely NO place for violence on anyone in this world. A child. A girl. A boy. A teenager. A woman. A man. A transgender person. An old person. An animal.
There is much that needs to be said. There is much that needs to be done. One voice heard at a time, one act of justice at a time.
Tonight, I write for those whose voice is heard. For that seven-year-old child who is beaten to near-death, witnessed by his four-year-old sibling; that young woman who was gang-raped on a moving bus; those little boys and girls who are raped and killed; those silent wives whose long sleeves cover their bruises, their fear of what-will-we-do shadowing their pain-filled eyes; those tortured spouses who seek refuge in a police station and are humiliated, despite presence of laws for violence against women, even in their attempt to file an FIR.
Tonight, I write for those victims of years of violence who die unheard, buried covered in a white shroud hiding their broken bones, their broken hearts; those countless victims of abuse who we will never hear of; whose stories will never reach us; whose tears mixing with their blood will go unnoticed; whose pain will be long and deep and unending, and there will be no justice. Ever.
Also read: Netflix series 'Delhi Crime' spins a web of unacceptable half-truths on the December 16 gang rape case