“Sexual violence then becomes one particular expression of a broader structure of violence, amplified by other entitlements of class, wealth, institutional authority, religion, caste, ability, sexuality and gender. In such a context, our understanding of and responses to sexual violence must broaden. The lack of safety for women on a city bus must not be separated from the devaluing of public transport in general—the insufficient number of buses at night being one sign of poor investment in the most commonly used means of mobility in the city. We must also remember that the idea of being “unsafe” takes different forms across our different identities and bodies.” Gautam Bhan on new perspectives on rape.
In the early weeks and months of 2013, Delhi, the city and what it means to inhabit it, rather than the rape itself, was the subject of some writing online. Here are two of them.
One of the first, by Prayaag Akbar (who tweets here) attempts to dispel the myth of Delhi as the Rape Capital. And there was another sort of reclaiming of the city by @Koinon3a called Freedom in Three Acts.
However, the go-to guy on all things Delhi really is Gautam Bhan; here he is writing about another upheaval in Dilli, the 2010 Commonwealth Games. I link to this piece because Gautam’s passion is about all about imagining a new Delhi and his work about making this a reality.
Let me know if there are other articles about Delhi that you’ve liked.
numbers of small car sales, and profiles of buyers
numbers of new private taxi companies in the city and data about their customer profiles
numbers of mapping projects for women to record where they experienced violence
pepper spray sales
numbers of people on different streets across Delhi who can remember the police emergency helpline number
numbers of people on different streets across Delhi who have emergency helpline numbers on their phones
streets in Delhi that were never well-lit are now well-lit
streets in Delhi that were never well-lit are still not well-lit
streets in Delhi women feel unsafe walking down alone
numbers of people on different streets across Delhi who know the sections of the Indian Penal Code dealing with violence against women
a comparison of the numbers of new non government, corporate and civil society schemes and projects called ‘Nirbhaya’
numbers of reported cases of crimes against women
the everyday lives of people who work in the crimes against women cells in Delhi police stations, and chowkidars and security personnel
the number of new gates built in residential colonies in Delhi
un-gated colonies in Delhi that now have gates.
Berlin, March 11, 2013
Today I’m sitting down to put down some thoughts and writing that have brewed for the past few months.
I was here in Berlin last December when news of the gang-rape of a young woman came in. I returned to Bangalore on the 22nd and for the next twelve days was glued to the internet. (I don’t have a television). I sat at my dining table reading, listening, talking and thinking about how I started my career 17 years before . I didn’t know at the time that this was the start of my career – I just thought it was an internship at ‘violence intervention centre’ called Sakshi.
I was lightheaded from the awareness that all kinds of everyday people were talking about rape, and with great enthusiasm, at dinner parties, in their living rooms: my parents, their friends, my friends’ parents. There was the horror of the brutality of the incident: speech trailed off after the mention of ‘iron rods’, everyone silently doing a mapping that was too awful to say aloud.
There was the routine head-shaking about North Indian male culture; I could feel myself cringing at the measuring of the general against the particular. There was always that aunty who said that’s why I sent my daughter to Bombay to study.
There was the spectacle of the protests unfolding on television screens, and the even more spectacular bumbling of the government. There was the bland, trite parsing of intricate social and cultural dynamics on TV news shows and everyone who watched these shows believed they had something more grave, incisive or apt say.
Personally, I didn’t know what to make of what was going on or how to engage with it. Was it real? Far away from the epicentre it was hard to tell. Was this just a mob gone mad? The mob appeared to me the most conservative of all; the ones who believed only capital punishment could equal the death of honour through rape. Frankly, I couldn’t believe that rape had galvanised so much of Delhi across gender and class lines. The noise of change rattling around waiting to amount to something.