“Balatkar ka doshi kaun? Hamari Chuppi, hamara maun.” (Who is responsible for rapes? Our silence)
A ten-year-old hapless child is raped in a police van by three policemen along with four others and then left on the roads, bleeding. Perhaps that is not enough for the sexual predators, for they come again after an hour to gang rape the girl once more, when she is immobile due to the first assault. The incident takes place in Lucknow.
How does one react to such an incident? Most of us would shrug our shoulders in apathy, blaming the system. Or we would resort to candle light demonstrations in protest. Some would say that the proper place for a girl is within the four walls of the house. Or they would blame the woman saying that the way she dressed would have invited the assault.
Would anyone consider the question that the men who rape should have thought that a lone woman travelling at night is not an opportunity but a responsibility- that she may have had some emergency that she is out on the streets at that hour? Who does not want a peaceful night’s sleep? Would we consider that being free also means feeling safe enough for a woman to travel? Would anyone question what the men were doing on the streets at night? “Boys will be boys.” How many of us would even cover the body of the rape survivor with a decent piece of cloth?
This is where Afreen Khan and her fellow teenage rape survivors make a difference. Afreen, the leader of Red Brigade, was herself sexually abused, first by neighbours, then by her cousin and then by her teacher. She was six years old when she was left under the charge of her brother by her parents for a night. The only “protection” he offered was to climb on her and violate her the whole night, stifling her protest that it hurt. Rape takes place on the streets you say? Is the home any better?
When the act was done he threatened her that if she would tell anyone, he would take her far away from home and leave her there, telling everyone that she had got lost searching for her mother. As a frightened child, she might have fallen silent then, but every subsequent case of sexual abuse that she hears about brings back the haunting memories and she cries.
But she does not wallow in sorrow for long. That is not the answer. She galvanizes her peers to conduct signature campaigns and then barges into the office of the Chief Minister with the petition to teach the men in uniform a lesson. They build pressure to change the system. Once the mission is accomplished, these survivors of sexual abuse can be seen joking and laughing. Their mission brings them those smiles of satisfaction,
But there is still a long way to go. The latest rape survivor has to be provided with medical treatment and psychological counseling. Her case has to be handled in the court. Her education has to be taken care of if she is a teenager, so that she does not live in perpetual trauma and comes out of it, healed. There are preventive measures to be taught. That is why the POWER GIRLS are in favour of martial arts training. “When someone harasses you, then this is what you can do to break his jaw,” Afreen says while jabbing a boxing pad with her elbow.
The Power Girls may live in slums, in destitution. They may look like ordinary women who help their mothers in the simple household chores. They might have been dismissed as just another gang of slum girls. However, underneath this off-handed rejection is the unrelenting spirit of these girls who refuse to let matters lie down and take them in their hands.
The Logical Indian community salutes their indomitable spirit. Our country is in need of such action. Silence will not do.