I don’t want to know her name. I don’t want to know what she wore. I don’t want to know who she was with. I don’t want to know if her parents knew she was going out that night.
I don’t want to know where she lives. I don’t want to know details of what was done to her. I don’t want to know her friend’s name, or where he works, what he wants to do with his life, and where they live. I don’t want to know if they had gone out the first time or many times. I don’t want to know if they were active in the social media, nor to see their Facebook pages, their Tweets, their Orkut profiles, or recollections from their friends.
I don’t want to know if she had boyfriends before. I don’t want to know if they had a favourite restaurant or what she likes to eat. I don’t want to know what her family thinks. I want them to have the respect and dignity of privacy and the solidarity so that they know they are not alone.
I want to know what happens to those men. I want to know what made them like that. I want to know what their mothers and fathers, their elders, their teachers taught them. I want those lessons changed.
I want them charged quickly, tried swiftly, punished harshly—put away for a long time in jail. But I do not want them castrated, chemically or otherwise. When they attacked her, they exercised force and power; I want them to lose that control, that power, but not stoop to their level and brutalize them. And I don’t want them to get the death penalty. I want them to learn what they’ve done, and to repent and to understand the horrific violence they’ve perpetrated. I want many Indians, all men, to know that.
I want her to get well soon. I want her to walk again freely, to live a happy life, surrounded by the ones she loves, respected for who she is. I want her to realize her dreams.
She can be our daughter or sister. She deserves her privacy. She deserves justice. And not only her—we must also remember Aruna Shanbaug, Geeta Chopra, Priyanka Bhotmange, Jessica Lal, Soni Sori, Thangjam Manorama, and the many nameless ones, all the way to Draupadi—at workplace, in hospitals, in a park, in crowded places, in police custody, on public transport, dragged from their homes, attacked in safe places, in central India, in the North-East, in Jammu and Kashmir: all the women abused, beaten, stripped, molested, assaulted, raped, murdered, or violated. We mustn’t forget.
And we should remember, that the solution doesn’t lie in locking up our sisters, wives, mothers, girlfriends, or daughters; not in setting curfew times for them, not in telling them what to wear or to do or who to see or not, whether to work or not and in which sector, whether to take public transport or private, and how to speak—but in letting them be, letting them decide whatever it is they’d like to do.
For that to happen, the battle has to be won not by making the law harsher, but by rebalancing our universe—in our homes, bedrooms, kitchens, and kindergartens. The state long ago abandoned its responsibilities: when law enforcers use rape as a weapon to be used with impunity; when the Parliament and legislatures may have members who have rape charges pending against them; when policemen attack non-violent women protesting against men in a bus raping and torturing a woman; when a chief minister thinks the woman scared of using public transport should go home using a company car, instead of securing public transport; and when a judge doesn’t understand that rape can occur in a marriage, or counsels women to return to their abusive husbands; trusting the state is naïve. Blaming Bollywood, the media, the way women dress, or whether they should work and in which industry, and the hours they should keep, is outrageously simplistic.
Doing any of this does not have to be patronizing, as though our sisters are the weaker sex, but because they’re our equals, deserving the same we’d expect for ourselves.
It is really that simple, which is why it is so hard.