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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Sister, my Sister

by Anastasia (writer), London, January 06, 2013

Credit: artofliving
Hand up against rape

A woman was gang raped and disembowelled in Delhi last month. She was my sister.

I feel ashamed. Late last month I was loosely aware that some horrible crime had been committed against a woman in Delhi, the capital of India. But I looked no closer. I was too full of the joys of life. I was getting ready to host a party in London; I was looking forward to a family Christmas in the country; I was preparing for my annual skiing holiday. What was happening in my own life was more important than what had happened to some unknown female in a place as far away as Delhi.

I’m now back to reality, my eyes wide open. I now know exactly what happened to this twenty-three year old physiotherapy intern, so far unnamed. If you are at all sensitive to these matters it might be best if you read no further. She was gang raped, horrible enough in itself, but the details of what was inflicted on her, the violence and the mutilation, are almost beyond any horror that I have the power to conceive. What happened had nothing to do with sex and desire. It was an act of atavistic and sadistic hatred. It was an act that goes deep into India’s heart of darkness.

It was the evening of 16 December. The woman, let me just call her Sister, was on her way home with a male friend, an engineer. They had been to the cinema together to see The Life of Pi, something countless numbers of couples were doing that day across the Earth. They hailed a chartered bus, a private vehicle used to ferry schoolchildren by day. That night it was being taken on a joyride. Six men were on board, all members of staff.

Sister and her friend got on, after being told by one of the alleged perpetrators, a seventeen-year-old youth, that the bus was going in their direction. No sooner was it underway than the taunts and suggestions began. The bus had large tinted windows, so nobody from outside could see what was going on.

Sister’s male friend, trying to protect her, was beaten unconscious with an iron bar. She was dragged to the back of the bus, beaten with the same bar. Then the rape began, five men taking turns as the sixth drove the bus around the city streets. The sexual assault was violent enough. Making it even worse was the torture.

Later medical reports show that Sister suffered serious injuries to her abdomen, her intestines and her genitals. Doctors also report that a rusted iron implement had been thrust inside her. Part of her intestines was pulled out. She was then almost completely disembowelled. According to police reports, the youngest of her attackers, the seventeen-year-old, pulled out her intestines with his bare hands. Later in hospital she was found to have only 5% of her bowels left inside her body.

The couple were then dumped into the streets from the moving bus. The perpetrators allegedly tried to run Sister over, but she was pulled aside by her male companion. Both were later found bleeding on the sidewalk and taken to hospital, where doctors struggled to save Sister’s life. With her condition deteriorating, the decision was taken to move her to a specialist hospital in Singapore.

It has to be said that the motives here were political and not medical. She was going to die and the government, already embarrassed, did not want her to die in India. She did die. She died on 29 December, when I was skiing on the slopes of French Savoy.

As the details of the horror became public the mood in India turned toxic. There were widespread public protests in a country where rape and violence against women is commonplace. Not only that but the law is notoriously slow in dealing with accusations of sexual assault. There was only one conviction from the 635 cases of rape reported in Delhi between January and November of last year.

Most of India’s rape victims are poor and generally of a lower cast. Sister was different. She was a child of India’s emerging middle class. Disgust at the callousness of the attackers turned to disgust against the government. Across the country Indians, women and men, protested at the incompetence of the political classes. As I celebrated the arrival of 2013 half a world away a more sombre mood settled. Writing in the New Statesman, Soumya Bhattacharya said “We were shamed and chastened, united in grief, and the notion of revelry was not something that figured in most people’s minds.”

Deeply discomforted, the Indian government has promised to introduce harsher laws against rape, including thirty year jail terms, chemical castration and the setting up of fast track courts. In the meantime shock over the incident led to anti-rape protests spilling across India’s borders to the rest of the Subcontinent. There were demonstrations in Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Even Ban ki-moon, the Secretary General of the United Nations, was moved to make a statement, saying that “Violence against women must never be accepted, never excused, never tolerated. Every girl and woman has the right to be respected, valued and protected.”

Sister was cremated on 30 December in accordance with Indian custom. Her fate may, I stress may change attitudes towards women of all castes and classes in India. I certainly hope so.

Sister was my sister. She is your sister, your mother, your daughter, your cousin, your aunt; she is Everywoman



About the Writer

Anastasia is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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10 comments on Sister, my Sister

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By Uttam Gill on January 06, 2013 at 08:14 pm

Anastasia over here In India we are totally aghast by this horrendous crime…I hang my head in shame…She is gone…she is no more…I am clinching my fist…I wish I could nail the head of those brutal rapist personally…our women are not safe…Police is inefficient…you will be horrified to hear the statement by politicians…they are letting us down…Many of them of them have the audacity to say that woman must dress properly so as not to invite rape…how the hell they think on this line…I am so horrified to see even women politician saying the same thing…Instead of gearing the police system and introducing strong laws against rape they are preaching nonsense…talking about moral policing…My foot…they don’t know what they are talking…

Please read my article “Mother I want To Live”

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By melanie jean juneau on January 06, 2013 at 09:54 pm

So well written, so heart-rending- as a woman I feel speared with pain. Thank God there are men with a strong, humane voice like Uttam

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By joshuaallen on January 07, 2013 at 02:36 pm

Unfortunately, the most unusual part of this story is that it was widely reported and notably, the public is, "shocked, shocked." Women and children are abused and maltreated at an alarming rate in India, with nary a peep from media outlets. This is not a new phenomenon, and I can only pray that this horrible rape, and subsequent media exposure, will start something. So I pray, really pray, that ingrained attitudes towards women, and children, which are morally wrong, quite common, and reprehensible, will somehow begin to change.

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By Rum-Punch Drunk on January 08, 2013 at 08:38 am

This case has appalled and disgusted me to no end. I saw the news with an Indian woman explaining that everyday she has to fight off men from her on these buses. She stated she had no other choice, if she wanted to work but to get on the buses during the morning and evening rush hour times where she was constantly being groped by men on both journeys. If she dared to make a fuss, she was deemed to be the bad person. So shocking to hear this woman and many others speak out to confirm what had been said.

I wish I was able to come up with some solution or answer to stop this, but words fail me, especially as it is more common than I thought. Like you Anastasia, things 'may' change due to what has happened.

As a wild thought, maybe governments everywhere should have severe warnings to any female from their own country who is traveling to Delhi to be aware, and put pressure on the Indian government to deal with their atrocious cases against women.

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By Anastasia on January 08, 2013 at 05:32 pm

Uttam, thank you; I will.

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By Anastasia on January 08, 2013 at 05:33 pm

Melanie, yes, thank goodness for all decent and humane people.

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By Anastasia on January 08, 2013 at 05:34 pm

Joshua, so do I.

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By Anastasia on January 08, 2013 at 05:41 pm

Rum, I was in India on vacation a few years ago. Here is a brief extract from an article I wrote afterwards;

I loved talking to people where and when I could but my boyfriend was an essential companion...because some men entertain the usual stereotypes about women from the west. The offers of ‘jiggy jiggy’ get just a shade too tedious after a bit.

I’m used to this sort of thing as a traveller, and I assumed it was simply because I was a traveller. Now I know different. I was sick and angry when I read the discovered the details of this awful story. I still am sick and angry. I do take precautions wherever I go. In future I shall be even more vigilant.

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By joshuaallen on January 09, 2013 at 11:24 am

Unnatural selection also has something to do with this. Millions of surplus men and boys, existing, because of selective abortion of female fetuses, and neglect of girls in general, are a horrible recipe. This will cause greater rates of sex traffiking, slavery and overall violence towards the female gender. A real "war on women" says the writer Mark Steyn.

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By Anastasia on January 10, 2013 at 05:49 pm

Joshua, this is part of a response that I gave elsewhere, specifically on what I referred to as India's heart of darkness:

India’s ‘heart of darkness’ is its attitude towards women in general. Rape in the country is, as the UN’s human rights chief said, a national problem. Convictions, as I reported, are absurdly low. More generally India, given the fact that it is rapidly emerging as one of the world’s leading economies, is at or near the bottom when it comes to attitudes towards women. The UN index of 2011 on details of female education, employment, opportunities in public life, and sexual and maternal health showed India at 134th position in a list 187 countries, worse than Saudi Arabia and Iraq. In that same year the Indian national census showed an increasingly distorted ratio among new born babies in many states, with parents using ultrasound scanners to identify the sex and then abort female foetuses. The country is now missing millions of girls. Fewer girls will inevitably mean greater and greater levels of sexual harassment from men unable to find partners. Girls who manage to get over the birth hurdle then face a lifetime of discrimination, things that would not be acceptable if the matter touched on race rather than sex. In the villages boys are better fed and more likely to get an education. Illiteracy among India’s women, particularly among the lower castes, is particularly high. The women, who make it to the top of Indian society, generally from the wealthiest classes, do so against manifold obstacles. There are so many issues to be addressed here. The Delhi rape case is the worst symptom of a deeply rooted disease.

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