A rape victim can never be Nirbhaya, she lives with horror for rest of her life


Dr Kouser Fathima

On 16 December three years ago, the nation had woken up to a shocking news of brutality, which put even the animals to shame and angered every citizen .

23-year-old girl, who can now be named as Jyoti Singh, in Delhi was raped, tortured and left to die by a group of monsters. The condition in which she was found even shocked the doctors, who had no words to explain. With all the efforts of doctors and prayers of the nation, the young girl succumbed to her injuries, inflicted by human predators, one of whom, the most brutal, is all set to be freed this Sunday. Although she died she remained in the memory of the nation reminding all of us how badly we failed her.

This girl from a middle class family, with lots of dreams about her future was named Nirbhaya by the media so as to protect her identity. Nirbhaya means fearless and she continued to be identified with this new name for three years until her mother revealed her name as Jyoti Singh.

Jyoti’s identity was changed and she remained a fearless victim of a brutal crime. But how right were we in calling her Nirbhaya? By calling her Nirbhaya did we not take away her true identity?

Did she not deserve to be known as the person she was rather than as a fearless victim? How could she be fearless after all the pain she had undergone? She didn’t even know why she was suffering. Did she tell us that she was not scared or that she had conquered her fears? Had she forgiven the perpetrators of the crime? There were many such questions that Jyoti couldn’t answer but we were fast in describing her as Nirbhaya or the fearless .

Even today many feel it was wrong to name her so especially after her parents had openly announced her name after her death and wanted her to be remembered her as Jyoti not Nirbhaya.

Legally, the court had ordered to refrain from announcing her name to protect her identity but after her death her family especially her mother requested all to address her with her real name. But we blindly continued to address her as Nirbhaya.

Yes, she was brave, but fearless? How did we arrive at this conclusion? Based on our assumptions we tried to create a false image but forgot that in doing so we were only undermining her suffering.

She was brutally raped and left to die on the streets with no one coming forward to help her for a long time. This tells a lot about the society where how unsafe a girl is if she ventures out after dark and also the apathy of fellow citizens who ignored her cries of pain.

The brutality of rape was gruesome reflecting the beastality of humans and apathy reflects the shallowness of our society. After all the pain she faced, we had the audacity to call her Nirbhaya without actually assessing her reaction.

By calling her Nirbhaya we are sending a message that girls who are raped are fearless, which is wrong and insulting to women in general and victims of sexual assaults in particular. Forget rape, even after Eve teasing many girls dread to step out of their houses, only out of fear.

And here we are calling a raped girl fearless. Rape has to be condemned in harsh words and severe punishment ascribed to the rapist. The victim needs to be supported to lead a normal life but sending a wrong image of raped victims is unfair. Raped victims do face fear and only after a long struggle do they manage to overcome their fear and in Jyoti’s case, the girl died before she could even tell if she was afraid or not .

Even after three years the streets continue to remain unsafe, girls still dread to step out in the nights and parents are still fearful about the safety of their daughters.

After all the initial furore the girl was almost forgotten and people continued with their daily lives. Rapes continued to happen not only in Delhi but also in other places, nothing much changed for women.

Fear is still in everyone’s mind, so it is extremely unfair to address Jyoti as Nirbhaya. She was Jyoti and should be addressed by her real name. We failed her and the least we can do is retain her true identity and respect her mother’s plea to call her Jyoti.

The views expressed here are author’s own


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