In 2012, the brutal gang-rape and assault of a young 23-year-old woman shocked the nation, prodding at our collective conscience, and prompting nationwide outrage over the state of women safety in our nation. She was named ‘Nirbhaya’, for fighting for justice for herself till the end.
It was the same year I moved to Delhi, for my post-graduation. In the years that followed, I have lived away from home, and my family, and me, have lived in constant fear.
Because I, a ‘daughter of this nation’ am not ‘Nirbhaya’ – the name that means to be without fear, but by which we recognize and seem to accept the utter lack of safety for women in India.
The same lack of safety that resulted in yet another mother grieving her daughter’s death in Hathras – a woman, who was a victim of not just gender violence but also caste-violence.
But, does the nation which constantly tweets about #Justice truly understand what it is like to be a daughter of this nation?
As a woman, I step on the road constantly conscious of the clothes I am wearing, the speed at which I am walking, the company I am keeping, the male driver riding my cab or auto.
At any time of the day, I’m scared of the roadside vendor, the male colleague who offers me a ride, the delivery boy who has my house address, the date I am meeting for the first time.
And every day, I fight this fear and go about my day, proving to the very world that has failed women for eras (yes eras, not years), that as a woman, I deserve a place in the society.
The reason my life has been reduced to constantly looking over my shoulder, staying on a call when returning home late, and sharing location with friends and family, is because of the men who have never had to learn how to use a pepper spray.
The sons who have enjoyed the benefits of being a family’s ‘pride’ just by being born a man have no idea of what the burden of carrying the ‘family’s honor’ does to a young woman.
Only the mother who waited for seven years to see the men who committed heinous crimes against her daughter finally get punished, knows what it means to be a daughter of this nation.
Only the bereaved family who was robbed of the right to properly grieve their daughter knows what it is like to be a woman in this country.
Because men in general, and especially the criminals, seem to enjoy unparalleled impunity in this nation that worships its goddesses in the same breath with which it kills women in the name of honor, tortures them in the name of dowry, and throws acid on them in the name of love.
And most of these criminals continue to roam around, scot-free, almost perversely inspiring other men to treat women as objects and assert their dominance over the ‘weaker sex’.
The governments changed, states changed, scenes of crime changed. What remained the same, or rather worsened, is the state of women’s safety in this nation. Shakti Mills in 2013, Budain in 2014, Kathua in 2018 – these, and countless other cases are proof. After all, women are not safe today, even in their own homes.
Shocking news of Madhya Pradesh :Special DG Purshottam Sharma brutally assaulting, beating her wife, I think brutality and domestic violence is rising with education and status in India!! #MadhyaPradesh #aajtakHaiTohSahiHai #MPnews #DGP #DG #domesticabuse #domesticviolence pic.twitter.com/0AHBpJOOlu— Lavina Adwani (@lavina_adwani17) September 28, 2020
How long will we battle physical assaults at one end, and casual sexism at the other? How long will we have to sacrifice daughters of the nation because we are not holding the sons of the nation accountable? How long?
Every hour of every day, a woman becomes a ‘victim’. The ones who are ‘worthy’ of primetime debates on news channels earn the moniker of being ‘fearless survivors’, and in their names, yet another political battle is waged and media channels fight for TRP.
But we women want to neither be victims, nor fearless survivors. We don’t want to be character-shamed for presumed sins or worshipped at an altar.
We just want to be given the same choices, opportunities, and chances as ‘all men’ have received for ages. We simply want the right to exist without fear, and with dignity, as human beings.