The silence has been broken

Ruchira Gupta

An open letter to Indian women, a year after December 16, 2012.

Dear Sisters,

Congratulations. You've survived this far. You have forged a large and diverse movement in 2013 that has resulted in a stricter law against male sexual assault and made visible women's oppression at home and in the workplace.

You have broken the silence against your oppressor, even though they were your friends, colleagues, brothers, and fathers. You have found the courage to overcome your so-called shame and stigma and finally shifted the blame to your abusers — in Goa, Gujarat, Delhi, Maharashtra and West Bengal.

You have survived being called a man-hater, a family-breaker, revengeful, frigid, shrill, divisive, ugly, and "not feminine." You've paid the personal price, when you confronted your father for assaulting your friend, or your boss for assaulting you. You've survived men yelling, "This law is too strict, women are falsely accusing us." You have survived bitterness, when your abuser got off scot-free and you were told you seduced him by wearing the wrong clothes. You have survived guilt for not being a "good" mother or "good" wife.

You have succeeded in facing off a conservative backlash from a society that wanted you to stay indoors after dark, wear certain clothes, behave in a certain way and not give you jobs because you were female. You have shown those who said they would fear hiring you as their secretary, that you would now be the Boss looking for a secretary — male or female.

You've endured despair, when only the failures felt real — when the numbers of repeated and continued rape seemed unrelenting and when feminist victories got conveniently dissociated from feminism — when some people declared that over the past 30 years, the Women's Movement "didn't care about" class, caste, homophobia, the environment, men, or that the women's movement was different from other movements against inequality.

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