The gang rape of a young woman in Delhi last month continues to consume public and private discussions. Some of you may have read details of the rape in the NYT or WSJ. Six men attacked the woman on a bus, raped and assaulted her with an iron bar and threw her naked onto a road, along with her male companion who was beaten unconscious. Her injuries were severe and shocking, the damage was fatal and she died two weeks after the rape. Doctors say it was a small miracle that she held on for so long.
One poignant detail is that the victim was on her way home from a movie theater where she watched the survival story, Life of Pi. The film is about a boy who survives a shipwreck and is stranded on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger. It is also a tale contrived to mask an unthinkable truth.
The unthinkable truth of the victim’s attack mirrors the fears of many woman in Delhi. Women are not safe here for a slew of reasons, some easier to fix than others: poor and insensitive policing, unenforced rape laws, traditional values clashing with modernization, misogyny… to name a few sweeping problems.
And people are angry. Large numbers of protestors met for weeks demanding action. The government was spooked enough to deploy riot police and paramilitary troops. They closed streets and public transport to block access to government buildings and popular protest sites.
One of the more controversial public demands is the death penalty for rape. India already has capital punishment for murder in the “rarest of rare” cases. This means that a crime must be exceptional and heinous to warrant a death ruling. In December, India hanged one of the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks after years of appeals.
The protests have ceased but the dialogue hasn’t. The rape still tops the news and people are discussing it from classrooms to dinner parties. An old friend, Mark Magnier of the LA Times, called me naïve this weekend when I told him that I couldn’t understand why the attack was so savage…so inhuman.
Our conversation tried to make sense of factors that may have led to the crime. The accused lived on the margins of Delhi’s booming economy in poor urban villages. Some cocktail of poverty, anger, ignorance, drink and according to Mark, the anonymity the city offers, (and other factors) fed the beasts who raped and killed this woman.
Still, I don’t get it. Maybe I need an alternative tale or some other narrative to help me comprehend this unthinkable truth.
I have no graceful way to seque into Kenya other than to say that we are blessed to have shared this holiday adventure with our dear friends and former Beijing and India neighbors, Kristi and Nathan Belete. Thank you for introducing us to your childhood home and new posting.
Kenya! I was bowled-over by the landscape and the diversity of flora and fauna. The red earth around Nairobi and the black earth of the Rift Valley oozes richness and fertility.
We celebrated two weeks in Nairobi, Maasai Mara game reserve, and Mombasa. I let the photos say the rest: