Reclaiming the identity of the December 16 victim | StudyTution

ndian law does not permit the naming of rape victims. Presumably, this is because the crime of rape is so terrible that, in society’s eyes, it stains not the rapist but his victim with shame; a shame so indelible that her honour and that of her family is irretrievably lost.

And, so, even though Badrinath Singh, the father of the 23-year-old gangraped so brutally that she died of her injuries, said he had no objection to her real name being used, media christened her the fearless one.

We made her the braveheart who accepted her martyrdom. A martyr is someone who embraces death, usually for a religious cause.

But in India, we use the word freely whether it’s for a jawan killed in battle or a woman murdered in India’s ongoing epidemic of sexual violence.

By all accounts, the 23-year-old was a plucky flesh-and-blood woman who was persuasive enough to convince her father, then an airport loader, to finance her education by selling his ancestral land. We know that she hung out at malls, loved shoes and enjoyed the cinema. Was she a martyr, or was she a young woman with everything to live for?

It didn’t matter. India seized upon the idea of a hard-working, aspirational woman, beloved of her family — there were no uncomfortable edges here, no drinking, no late night parties, no small acts of rebellion.

We loved the idea of what she might have represented and made her India’s daughter.

But the Legend of The Fearless One also serves as a cautionary tale for India’s other daughters, telling them that the world outside is a dangerous place and that the men who rape and kill come from a dark underbelly that is far removed from home.

In fact, the reverse is true. Some 95% of rape is committed by men known to their victims, finds the National Crime Records Bureau. With one in three women experiencing domestic violence at the hands of a male partner, the home is emphatically not the safest place.

The debate on violence against women following the 2012 gangrape limited public discussion to the overwhelming, albeit crucial, question of the safety of women, rather than focus on what the Constitution promises us, not as India’s daughters but as equal citizens.

Political parties scrambled to promise CCTVs and repair streetlights. But they continued to be stingy in fielding women candidates. The debate on the precipitous fall of women’s labour force participation has been all but absent. Underlying these is the idea that public spaces, whether in politics or paid work, remains out of bounds to women.

The hangman’s noose was, despite the delays, an inevitable destination for the four convicts. The question to ask now is what really changes for India’s women?

That answer is depressingly brief. Nothing. But for now, to honour the one who died, we could begin by reclaiming her identity and calling her by her name.

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