Running out of excuses

Apr 24, 2013, 07:40 IST | Ranjona Banerji

I don't want to hear these explanations any more

I don’t want to hear these explanations any more. She was wearing revealing clothes. She was out at night. She was with a male friend. She was alone. She was in a bus. She was at a movie. She was using a cell phone. She did not maintain the Laxman Rekha. She was not wearing a burkha. She was not married. She was married. She lived in India. She lived in Bharat. She was westernised. She was not westernised. She wore jeans. She wore salwar kameez. She wore saris. She wore overcoats.

Outcry: Protestors shout anti-government slogans during a demonstration following the rape of a five-year-old girl in the Capital

This is what I want to remember: she was five years old. And that is why all those earlier explanations don’t make any sense. None of them applied to a five-year-old girl playing outside her house. And none of them saved her from being raped.

We have erupted with rage once again. And we want resignations left right and centre. Of course we do. We are frustrated by the fact that we could not save a five year old from rape. We are angry because it was only four months ago that we heard all the same reasons and promises and platitudes. We are angry because this time around, instead of more sensitivity from the authorities, we got less. We are astounded that even as the story of this five year old from Delhi emerged, we were told of children who had been raped all over India, including a four year old struggling in the same hospital.

We are confused because we are dealing with so many issues. There’s the rape itself, an act of violence and control. There is the sexual depravity and perversion in raping a child. There’s the rampant patriarchy, which works at all times to diminish women. There’s the law and the protectors of the citizenry who would rather be doing something else, evident in their callousness, inefficiency and unwarranted arrogance. There are the law makers who feed us some meaningless lines and go back to their daily routines. There are the “experts” who start by giving us some textbook pap and end up by fighting with each other on nitty-gritty details.

None of them will make any difference to the five year olds or four year olds or nine year olds. Indeed, since December 16, 2012 and all that talk of the death penalty for rapists, we hear of more cases of children and women being raped and left for dead.

It is unlikely however that rape itself can be eliminated. But it is possible to deal with it more effectively, starting perhaps with a police force which does not try to bribe its way out of having to investigate a case as the father of this victim says happened to him. We can have doctors who are interested in the welfare of the victim and are not interested in whether the victim had “habitual” sex, using their fingers to determine just how much. We can have a medical protocol to deal with rape victims. We can use DNA to check on the perpetrators, so that they don’t accuse each other to try and wriggle out, as is happening in the case of the five-year-old.

We can have police commissioners who do not pat themselves on the back for doing precious little. We can have ministers who restrain from making gratuitous comments. We can have politicians who decide to concentrate their fake concern on the victim rather than see an assault as a glorious opportunity to attack their political opponents.

But even after we have all that, we’ll still have each other and our ugly reality to live with: That she was only five years old. And we have created nothing in our society to protect her, any her. We do not want to look our faults in the face and acknowledge that this is how we are. We would rather pretend that we are perfect and some outside force has made us like this.

And as long we do that, we can’t have any of the other things we need. And soon we will forget that she was only five. 

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