‘India has been jolted into doing something, but for how long?’

Pic: Tooba Masood

Right now, all eyes are on India.

Everyone wants to know what is going to happen next in the Jyoti Pandey’s rape case. Journalists, residents, activists, students, friends and family of the rape victim are waiting for some justice and serious reform. Too bad no one can get in.

On Monday, the five men who appeared in court to face charges of raping and killing the 23-year-old physiotherapy student in Delhi, found themselves two lawyers. This caused quite a commotion in the courtroom as the local bar association had refused to represent them. The judge was forced to reconvene and hear the case privately. It was later announced that the media would not be able to report the trial at all.

Jyoti’s case has made its way into everyone’s home. It is what people were talking about on the underground, at work and at home. It struck a chord in everyone and is refusing to go away.

Her rape and subsequent death seems to have opened a box of worms in the sub-continent.

The day after Jyoti’s rape made the news, several other rape cases started coming up. A 19-year-old girl committed suicide because she was raped and the police refused to register an First Information Report, a document used by the police to file a complaint or offence. The body of a 21-year-old factory worker was found in the suburbs, her family said she was raped. Protests were organised in India, human rights activists prepared themselves to fight and create awareness.

The blood curling details of how Jyoti’s rapists violated her has jolted the country and its people into doing something, but for how long?

A similar incident took place in Pakistan a few years ago. Mukhtar Mai, a woman who is now in her 40s, was gang-raped and paraded around her village naked to settle a matter of honour. A case was filed after the story was picked by the international media. The suspects were arrested but released on bail, and eventually they were acquitted. They are now wandering around the village freely.

In Pakistan, you still need four adult male witnesses or eight female witnesses to prove that you’ve been raped.

I hope India is different, but I don’t see how we’ll ever find out.

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