Just two days ago, a widow in the city of Meerut was sold for Rs. 10,000, gang-raped and shown the door by the police. She set herself on fire later on.
And still, as a society, we claim to have progressed.
We claim to have made strides as vast as the seven seas. We claim to be a developing economy, growing faster than any other. We claim that all signs point to India becoming a developed country at the soonest. We fight in the UN Security Council for permanent membership, and we have developed nations like France backing us up. As a society, we claim to have progressed.
The woman in question was just in her late 20’s and had been widowed. Her aunt and her father decided that the best way to deal with a widowed daughter was to “sell” her to a man for Rs. 10,000. This man who bought her was supposed to have made her work as domestic help. Instead, every house she went to, she was raped and she was harassed. Repeatedly.
As a last hope, as a victim who had seen unsurmountable pain, she approached the law enforcement agency. But alas, instead of helping her as is their job, they turned her away. When left with no option and reluctant to go back to life where she would be used as a sex object, she chose to end her life. She chose to set fire to herself.
This woman now has sustained as much as 80% burns and is battling for her life in a hospital in Delhi. Who takes care of her? The husband who’s dead? The family that sold her to another man? Or the man who bought her and used her to gratify others’ sexual needs? Who takes care of her? Who pays her bill? Even if this woman survives, what kind of a life would she have left to live?
When I read this news, I was shocked and horrified and in so much pain for this poor woman. Not poor because of her financial status. Poor because of how beaten down she was. Poor because of how belittled she must have felt. Poor because of the trauma she was made to undergo. And yet, I don’t see news channels going crazy. I don’t see protests and candle marches. I don’t see people asking for justice.
When the Nirbhaya rape case happened, we as a society came together and decided that we won’t stand for women’s abuse any longer. We took to the streets to protest that we would respect and protect our women. That we would fight for them and give them the justice and the security they deserve. And yet, in the six and a half years since then, not a day goes by without multiple reports of sexual assaults. Gang-rapes. Girl child being raped. Old ladies being raped. Infants being raped. And better yet, middle-aged women standing in the middle of a restaurant and telling girls that they deserve to be raped for wearing short dresses.
This widow will probably die. Her father who sold her for Rs 10,000 will probably not have the money to pay for her medical bills. Her assaulters will be charged in the court and their trials will go on for years. But what about her?