A 30-year-old tourist from Japan complied with her rapist, out of fear of ending up suffering Nirbhaya’s fate. According to a report published in The Times Of India, the woman was raped by a taxi driver who offered to take her from Manali to Kullu. She resisted when the driver stopped at a secluded place and tried to force himself on her. The accused however allegedly went on to threaten that he would “call five or six men and have her gang raped”. Fearing that she may end up suffering a fate like Nirbhaya, the tourist stopped resisting.

 Of all the things Nirbhaya’s grueling fate could have done to our psyche, it shouldn’t have motivated men to use gang rape as a threat.

People of India took to the streets to get justice for her. It raised questions about the safety of women in India, the misogyny which turns men into beasts and how we look at juvenile perpetrators. However, instead of turning into a lesson for the perpetrators and stimulating empathy in Indians about women and rape survivors, somehow it has turned into a threat!

The fear of gang rape

The fear every woman in India harbours the most today, is that of being mistreated especially sexually. Even simple things like boarding a bus raise a million safety checks in our mind. Are there any women on the bus? Do male passengers look troublesome? Should I rather call for someone to pick me up, instead of taking a taxi, auto or bus on my own at eight in the evening?

It wasn’t as if women were not afraid or cautious before December 2012. We have always lived under this terror of sexual aggression, but that fateful evening was like our worst nightmare coming true. And it just didn’t instill terror of gang rapes in us, but in women across the world. That evening painted our nation as being a country full of monsters who subjected women to inhuman tortures, which were too brutal to even be classified as rape. Now women of foreign nationalities are warned about safety in our country. They look at every Indian man and see a potential sexual threat in him, just like us natives.

It is sad that the girl’s fate is being used to force other women into subjugation.

Why couldn’t we take her sufferings as a lesson on how to sensitize Indian men on violence against women? Why is it that men have failed to feel shame at their conduct? But instead proceeded to use gang rape as a weapon to threaten other women with?

Award stricter punishment to men who use gang rape as a threat

Amidst all the outrage to hang her rapists, and enforce stricter punishment for juvenile perpetrators, we forgot to relay Nirbhaya‘s pain. We forgot to convey it to Indian men on how traumatic rape is. We may have asked for stricter punishment for rapists after 16th December, but we haven’t shown commitment to change the mentality responsible for rape culture in India.  The sexual predators on streets, however, sensed this fear in us and decided to capitalise on it. What happened should have shaken them to their core, and made them question their views on gender, forced sex and violence. But it didn’t.

This leads me to wonder, if Indian men are beyond redemption? Did we move on too quickly?

If we do not want to fail Nirbhaya or countless girls like her, then we must feel their pain everyday and commit to consistently working to attain women’s safety in India. Men who threaten women of gang rape should be awarded strict punishment. It should be clear to them that even using gang rape as a threat is a grave offence. It will take a long time to change Indian mindset, but we can certainly do damage control at this stage. We have to stop weaponisation of Nirbhya’s fate. It must be a word which floods us with pain and a resolve for a safer and better country, and not fears.

Also Read : Dear Germaine Greer, Rape is Anything But Lazy And Careless

Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are author’s own.

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