Yesterday, the young girl who was brutally gang raped and assaulted in Delhi passed away. For once, the entire country is united- united in grief and united in anger. This is the first time that people have stopped asking about what she was doing, what she was wearing or whom she was with. Instead we are asking for justice for the victim and for meaningful action to prevent such tragedies in the future. But one question seems to pop up everywhere . This is not the first or the most brutal gang rape to happen in the country. So, whats different this time? Why are we reacting so strongly now when we never did before?
We should have reacted the first time we saw somebody buy a kitchen set for a girl and building blocks for a boy.
We should have reacted when we heard somebody say, “Oh you lost so much weight!! Isn’t your mother feeding you well?”. We should have asked why it is only the mother’s responsibility to feed the child and not the father’s.
We should have reacted when an uncle or a cousin misbehaved with a girl and she was asked by her parents not to tell anyone about it .
We should have rebelled when people told a girl to wear a salwar kameez , return home before sunset, not to have too many male friends, not to party and to be a “good girl”.
We should have reacted when we saw a family member opting for abortion because it was a girl.
We should have reacted when we saw people taking/giving dowry.
We should have reacted when we see movies that glorify and romanticize the hero harassing the heroine (somehow she magically falls in love with him and everything is ok at the end).
We should have questioned why the mother always have to leave her job so that she would have enough time to look after us while the father always did what was best for his career.
We should have questioned ourselves why a girl could never muster up enough courage to openly confront the guy who misbehaved with her in the bus, or complain against that teacher who misused his power to make inappropriate comments.
We should have questioned why to this day, most girls cannot openly share their experiences of sexual harassment with their family.
We should have reacted hundreds and thousands of times before now. Sometimes, we don’t realize that some things were wrong because that was how they had always been. Sometimes we don’t react because it did not concern us directly and so we don’t care. Sometimes we are just too embarrassed or scared to say anything. But, we should have said something and should have stood up for ourselves and for women in general. I now regret not doing it.
I don’t know what it is about this young brave girl that touched so many hearts. Maybe all of us could relate to her on some level. Maybe it was the last straw. “Why now” really doesn’t matter. What matters is that we have woken up from our slumber and apathy “atleast now”. I sincerely hope that her death is not in vain. Let us think about her every time we say or do anything remotely sexist. Let us remember that seemingly small and harmless gestures add up to the whole patriarchal, misogynistic mindset which is responsible for incidents like this.