On September 29, India witnessed the tragic culmination of a gruesome and inhumane act of violence against a 19-year-old Dalit girl from Hathras, Uttar Pradesh. The girl succumbed to her injuries in a Delhi hospital on Monday morning after being reportedly raped, mutilated and strangulated by four upper-caste men. The condemnable incident has incited universal fury and once again put a spotlight on India’s pervasive rape culture.
Such horrific incidents of sexual violence can prove to be particularly traumatic for teen girls in India. SheThePeople.TV reached out to five teen girls who articulated their anger, apprehensions and anxieties in the aftermath of the Hathras gangrape.
No Country For Women?
Sixteen-year-old Kavya Shah, from Ahmedabad, Gujarat, said, “As a teenager, the unfolding of such a traumatic event is deeply saddening. I cannot fathom what she (the late rape survivor) endured and what her family is still going through … I cannot imagine such an event happening to anyone. The mere sight of the incident’s pictures or news headlines immediately makes me flinch.” Shah, who identifies as a staunch feminist, went on to say, “The caste-based discrimination that foregrounds this heinous act of sexual violence is plain outrageous! It makes me wonder if I even want to be part of a country where no woman, no minority is safe.”
Furthermore, she added, “The blatant government inaction doesn’t surprise me. After all, what can one expect from a country whose constitution permits marital rape?” Highlighting the impact of such cases on young girls, Shah said, “Such events lower the self-esteem of girls and force them to ‘cover-up’. I hope they (the perpetrators) receive the harshest punishment, but nothing can justify their actions.”
“You Keep Thinking That You Might Be Next”
Haryana based Neha Bhatia (name changed) echoed Shah’s misgivings about the rampant rape culture in India. The 18-year-old student of Delhi University said, “In this day and age, everybody expects women to be ‘powerful’ and ‘strong’ but how can we be so when such incidents occur almost every day? Cases like the Hathras gangrape make me feel really angry and, above all, helpless.” Bhatia elaborated upon how these rape incidents make women feel acutely vulnerable. She said, “You keep thinking that the next headline might just be about you. There is this constant fear surrounding me. The Hathras incident is horrible and I have no words to express my disgust for it. Indian women are not safe anywhere – not even in their own homes.”
Saisha Mittal (name changed), a 17-year-old student of Humanities from Delhi, told SheThePeople, “ I’m genuinely sick and tired of hearing about a new horrible rape case almost hourly. Day by day, my will to fight with my family for my freedom slowly ebbs away. How can I justify a late night-out with friends when the threat of rape looms large all the time? An act as vile as the Hathras gangrape indicates the failure of our entire societal structure.”
“No Girl Wants To Be ‘India’s Daughter’”
Delhi-based Sakshi (name changed), an 18-year-old Dalit girl studying psychology, spoke about how the Hathras incident has shaken her to the core. She said, “The horrific gangrape just goes on to show that as a woman and as a Dalit, my existence will always be doubly oppressed.” Sakshi added, “I hope my privileged classmates can recognise the caste discrimination associated with the case and not view it as just a sexual crime.”
Sixteen-year-old Aakriti Sharma, a resident of Delhi, condemned the rape, the media’s apathetic coverage of it, and government inaction regarding women’s safety. She said, “It seems like everybody just keeps waiting for the next horrible rape case without pushing for any sort of structural reforms to ensure our safety. The media sensationalises the most gruesome rape cases to ostensibly ask for justice for ‘India’s Daughter’. No girl wants to be ‘India’s Daughter’. Every girl just wants India to protect its daughters.”
Tarini Gandhiok is an intern with SheThePeople.TV