That girl in the woods
Why it happened, we ask. How could they do it to her? People in the hills are not supposed to behave like that. They were monsters, high on their manhood fuelled by liquid courage and perhaps other things.
She was innocent, and what bad could she have done to them to invite this horror in her life. She just wanted to go to school like others. I assume that actions of these men have unintentionally put the future of many girl students in the area and beyond at risk, especially the ones who are not privileged enough to study in Shimla or other towns.
The girl’s parents, who are not in the position to arrange for a safe environment in which their children could study, will suffer the most. This applies strictly to rural areas where students are required to take long walk through isolated woods to reach school and back to home.
Of course, in this girl’s case, she had to walk through the prying and judgmental eyes of several men and women in village, predators worse than what are encountered in woods.
Not only in India, but women throughout the world face similar circumstances in which their mobility is a daily struggle with a risk rape, death, mutilation, acid attack, sexual harassment and so on.
Half of the Indian population, and perhaps many regions of the world, knows what it means when it gets dark. This particular insecurity where your mobility is constrained by your gender is perhaps relatively less relevant to the male population. So, now we know why males have advantages over females in terms of education, employment, and many other fields.
On the other hand, being a woman is scary, honestly. Women are more courageous than any man can ever be. They have to keep several aspects in their mind, so many things to consider apart from the regular jobs which along with normal things. For females, it’s much more challenging to keep up with male counterparts in this world of men. What else it could be since this trend works with the rhythms of male anatomy.
Does the society have any kind of sensitivity towards female body apart from granting here maternity leave?
The former only carries stigma, and is looked down upon by the society. I read the victim girl was a regular student, and had been rewarded for her sincerity.
I wish that day she had missed the school, but I am not sure these predators would have spared her another day. She was all but a game to them, and they were on a desperate hunt. They had planned it like good hunters do. Was there a way she could have saved herself from these predators? Maybe yes, maybe not!
Then why are we angry and sad when her fate, in one way or the other, on that day or another, was destined to be doomed. The odds were always against her since birth. Maybe, we, as human beings, are too hopeful, and we want the underdog to win. Maybe we see ourselves, our vulnerabilities in the underdogs. Maybe, it is our own reflection which strives to come up against all odds.
Just like a part of us that perceive things from victim girl’s perspective – striving hard, going to school, carrying an ambition, carrying hope, there is a part of us which is the predators’.
We do not acknowledge it, we have repressed it deep in our conscience, but we are one of them.
It is us as individuals, and as society that does swarm upon on women like monsters, and hunting them by exploiting their vulnerabilities. They took turns to rape her. They were aware if the pain was going through, but still they went on and on, and enjoying it. They beat her as she screamed, breaking her bones as she resisted and went mad with pain. They choked her to death for yelling for help, screaming out of suffering of being raped, beaten, bitten and maimed.
How dare she behave like a human being, react to pain, cry out in agony knowing she is on the verge of death.
She was just an object throughout the entire act, before it, and after it: an object of lust, an object of sexual gratification, an object for projecting one’s rage and anger, an object that dare not resist or fight back, and an object that cannot decide for its own.
She was an object on whom they could make declaration of the male superiority and all that patriarchy could ever be. Her death is an open declaration of a patriarchal society. We are angry because that is what we as a society are.
We see ourselves in those men, but our righteous and hopeful part is in a conflict with this perception. This part of us refuses to equate ourselves with those men, those lowly men who did that to that innocent.
Our mind cannot come to terms with it. It says we cannot be so mean and lowly, it cannot be us, we are not violent, we do not prey on weak, we are not patriarchal, or we do not objectify. Yet, as a society and those individuals, we share same traits. It is sad but true.
We are angry because it is us. This incident has only brought into public domain what we already know in private life and inside our heads, but still live in denial, waiting for the next incident, and so on.
Thus far social and physical violence against women in upper Shimla area was a private affair. It was something well known but unspoken like everywhere. But this incident has questioned the ‘Devbhumi superiority syndrome’ that afflicts us all.
If only we had realised how our gender biased and perverse gods and demigods had behaved historically and mythologically. If only we had questioned those gods and goddesses in terms of their attitudes towards women.
Rape is a mentality which afflicts our society; we just do not acknowledge it. Our day to day attitudes towards women and the impact of violence in lives of women is a case in point.
Wherever in the world such mindset exists, rape and violence against women will exist. No matter who does it, but all of us as society are responsible for it.
It is not an individual act, but is a societal act cutting across regions, faiths, etc. The language of rape is universal, and it is easily understood. The tools of violence against socially perceived weak gender are universal. Symptoms of rape and violence are present in societies where we see daily objectification of women.
The reification of lust through gestures, body language and dress is already there in our social psyche. Social stigma, social shame, and moral policing are all indicators of a dysfunctional society, which is just an incident away from violence against women, where the only thing which remains to be seen is who and when – by whom is not important.
I wish she could have survived to live another day, but then again how could she?
We make noise, we shout, we condemn, and we want perpetrators to die and suffer in hell. We are willing to kill them ourselves given the opportunity, thinking it will make a difference but sadly a societal effort will be required to prevent the next incident.
Shutting girls inside homes, putting restrain on their mobility, accompanying them to their schools implying they are weak will never solve the problem, but only reinforce the old ideas and conventions of patriarchy.
Changing the social idea of a woman will help, otherwise it can happen to anyone, anywhere, by anyone, and like always fault will be of everyone. It is a common notion that since patriarchy is about male superiority and dominance, only males are to blame. But sadly this is not true. Women equally carry patriarchy or perhaps are more lethal in spreading it because being women themselves they make it more acceptable to others.
Women have to reclaim the public space for themselves. They have to lead this battle against patriarchy with assistance of likeminded in society. They have to resist every aspect of violence like that girl in the woods did; rebelling against death. Win or lose but the battle has to be fought at all fronts starting with the idea of family itself.
Disclaimer: Views expressed in the article are entirely of the author, and do not necessarily reflect opinion of Himachal Watcher