Navratri is a festival observed to honour goddess Durga, the supreme goddess. The festival, which is celebrated over nine days with each day dedicated to nine avatars of the goddess Durga, celebrates the power of women. With just one day ahead of the festival, I’m left wondering if we as a society deserve to celebrate goddess Durga when, in reality, the plight of women is daunting.
Crimes against women have been a concerning issue for several decades now, and they're only getting worse. While we boast about the numerous advancements in women’s lives, can we vouch for a woman’s basic safety in our country? Sadly no!
Gruesome Crimes Against Women That Shook The Nation in 2023
On September 25, CCTV footage in Madhya Pradesh’s Ujjain district showed a 12-year-old partially clothed and bleeding girl who was subjected to rape, going door to door seeking help for over two hours. However, no one came forward to help her, and one man even shooed her away. Eventually, she reached an ashram, where a priest came to her aid, gave her clothes, informed the police, and took her to the hospital, where her condition stabilised. The accused, an auto driver named Bharat Sonu, was arrested on September 28. But is that enough?
Does that bring justice to the horror that happened to this child? We clearly witnessed the apathy in all the bystanders, who, despite seeing the perturbing condition of the girl, didn’t bother to offer help. Does a society with zero humanity towards a distressed girl deserve to celebrate a festival that honours women's power? I don’t intend to put this forth as a blanket statement and blame everyone, but again, this isn’t the only case where witnesses to gruesome crimes remained only as bystanders.
Earlier in June, we witnessed the horrifying news of two women belonging to the Kuki community being paraded naked by a mob of men in Manipur. The ethnic conflict has been escalating for several months, with women being the collateral damage. Numerous cases of assault, abuse, rape, and murder have been grabbing headlines, yet the plight of women in Manipur continues to be wretched. The incident happened on May 4, but the video came into the public domain on July 19.
Why wasn’t anyone aware of the barbarism until then? Despite women crying and begging the attackers for mercy, the brutality continued. How long do women have to bear the brunt of conflicts, riots, and wars? How long are people going to believe that exploiting women’s bodies is a show of authority? How long are women going to be perceived as instruments to establish power over the minority?
Also, let’s not forget that Bilkis Bano, who was gang-raped and witnessed the murder of her family members right in front of her eyes during the Gujarat 2002 riots, is still fighting for justice. Why is even the justice system continuing to fail women? Another incident when the system let down women was when three of the four accused in the Hathras rape and murder case of a Dalit woman in 2020 were acquitted by a local court in March 2023. Despite the dying declaration of the 19-year-old whose tongue was gashed, three of the four accused were acquitted.
Celebrating Navratri Amid Rising Crimes Against Women
The National Commission for Women (NCW) received nearly 31,000 complaints of crimes against women in 2022. While this is only the number of registered complaints, there are thousands of other women who suffer in silence.
It’s painful to say that women are still not safe anywhere—not at home, at the workplace, in public places, at educational institutions—anywhere at all.
What have we as a society done to combat the crimes against women? What stringent measures have been implemented to ensure the safety of women? When we aren't doing anything to protect fellow women, what are we going to achieve by worshipping goddesses for the next few days?
Suggested Reading: 5 Shocking Crimes Against Women That Shook India In 2022