Friday, April 8, 2011

Letter to an Honorable Woman

Dear Jane Roe,

Upon reading about your terrible ordeal in Ghaziabad, I was, like many others, saddened and outraged. I cannot say that the circumstances are unprecedented, unfortunately. I am reminded of the similar case in nearby Noida almost exactly two years before, and of one in Navi Mumbai in 2007. Yes, for a woman to pursue her own happiness is seen by some as a sin. Retribution has to be threatened. And occasionally, dealt.

While you should have filed a report and gotten a rape kit done immediately, we can forgive that oversight thanks to the phenomenal stupidity of your assailants, who decided to rob you and your friend as well, thereby directly establishing a link between them and the scene of the crime. Your friend eventually gave in and reported the incident to the police. From all I have read, he, the police and your father are all behind the case against those men.

Your response? "The police cannot restore my honor"

Your honor?! Woman, who gives a flying fsck about your honor? First of all, we don't prosecute murderers to bring the murdered back to life. Secondly, if you were such a devoted subscriber to the honor/shame model of traditional society, you would be sitting at home waiting to get married off, instead of getting an education, getting a job and meeting internet lovers in the fields. While I fully support your right to do so, others clearly don't. "Tony" and his boys sure as heck didn't - as in the other cases I mentioned, these backward patriarchalists decided that "loose women" like you were outside the social Laxman-Rekha that supposedly protects "good girls" from the depredations of people like them.

Sorry, but you can't cross that line and suddenly decide to hop back when you get cold feet. Tony boasted that he was counting on your cowardice, and you know what? You proved him right. In the meantime, a woman call center worker from the Northeast was subjected to another horrific experience not too long before, and despite being a "visible minority," she cooperated with the authorities to bring those responsible to justice.

But you had a winning case practically dropped in your lap, and there you were wringing your hands and threatening suicide over matters of "honor." I wrote "had" because while you were playing the tragic Lucretia, the charges were dropped. Congratulations.

You know, Tony & Co. are unlikely to stop with you. Thanks to your hasty retreat, they and their ilk will be further encouraged to target "loose women" for the crime of being out on a date, or working late, or just being an independent outgoing person. Their victims' suffering will be in no small measure on your head. I hope you can live with that.

Yours Honorifically,




  1. Hey Sohan, what about the indian law ? How are punished the rappers ?

  2. Ideally with some serious jail time. Unfortunately, they will likely not pay for their barbaric crime - despite the material evidence, and the confession, and the apparent support of the authorities and the victim's family - because the victim herself is more concerned about her honor than about justice. I hope she never has children, if that is the kind of thinking she will be bequeathing them. Because of her drama, the charges have been dropped, and that gang of savages is at large again.

  3. The rape charges were dropped, but not the rest.

    I can understand her unwillingness to testify - it is not so much her (IMO) notion of honour, but I'd presume that the society she lives in is not at all supportive of her as a victim. Though I doubt if the society is more willing to accept her if she keeps quiet, I think perhaps she does not feel she owe it to her society or herself or even future potential victims to go through the ordeal of testifying, "martyring" herself in the process in return for ingratitude from the general public.

    I daresay many societies around the world went through a similar phase when such attitudes prevailed.

    Even if she were to migrate to another country, I don't think she would change her mind about testifying - most migrants, unless they have prior acceptance into the mainstream (having spent years there as students or working), would still depend on the expat community from their own hometown.

  4. I can understand that we are all individually responsible for the society we live in - and if we want to live in a "better" society, we have a personal responsibility to ensure that our own actions contribute to the establishment of such a society. If we sit passively and our own actions are counter-productive to the creation of such a society, we have no right to expect others to create such a society for us or perhaps to even enter such a society.

    But in real life, I can appreciate it is not easy for a person to be willing to confront his society unless something drastic happens or there is nothing else to lose.

    To be a rape victim is drastic, but if the victim still harbours hope of going regaining or retaining what she had, then she'd rather die than let her name be publicised ...