Raped Since Birth

It may take a while for the public outrage to subside over the vicious assault and gangrape by five men of the 23-year-old girl in Delhi. Actresses-turned activists, young collegians, middle-class families, the media — it seems everyone is united in their horror at this atrocity. Yet, the sad fact remains that after a few days, the memory of this barbaric event will fade and the situation will revert to status quo.

Only the victim and her family will never forget that fateful evening and, with any luck, if the judicial system moves swiftly and justly, neither will her five aggressors.

Violence against women begins in the womb. The desire for male progeny is so ingrained in our society that families across various demographics indulge in the practice of female foeticide, either in collusion with a medical professional or through a back alley abortion. Of course, there is always the option of female infanticide, when after having given birth to a girl child one can either smother her, bury her alive or simply discard her in a rubbish bin.

Those that survive are often subjected to molestation as infants and later as children and teenagers. A staggering number of women in this country have been sexually violated by a family member at some point in their lives. But the strong omerta or code of silence ensures that these crimes go unreported and, therefore, unpunished.

Everyday, across the nation, be it from the wild, wild west that is North India or in the more genteel environs of Kerala and Andhra Pradesh, horrific stories emerge of young girls becoming victims of incest and sexual abuse. Fathers, brothers, uncles, in-laws — male family members who are meant to nurture and protect are ironically the worst perpetrators of crimes against their own women.

It is seen almost as a curse to be born beautiful in this country. Enduring wolf whistles, bottom groping and unwelcome male attention is a rite of passage for any halfway decent-looking lass. And woe betides the bitch that spurns the affections of a roadside Romeo. The quick fix solution to that problem is to hurl acid on the arrogant girl's face so she is disfigured and cured of her vanity forever.

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