On 17 December a beautiful Indian girl boarded a bus in New Delhi, accompanied by her male companion.
This seems harmless enough. But, this is only where this horrific story starts.
The 23-year old student and her companion were attacked by six drunken men, who took turns raping and beating her with a rod before tossing her off the bus.
There she lay, limp, lifeless, hanging onto the threads of her life as passersby did not even have the decency to cover up her exposed genitals, let alone call for help.
And when help did arrive, it was too late. Because after 10 days of fighting for her life, she passed away due to multi-organ failure.
This tragic story appeared on my Facebook feed a few days ago and I did not even take the time to read it until today.
I guess the routine of my mundane life had me too busy to mourn the death of another rape victim who died tragically.
She could have been my neighbour, my mother, my sister or me.
This had me thinking about how far society has decayed when events like this could escalate to such tumultuous lengths. More importantly, it had me thinking about how I reacted to the story. It was as if it never happened, like I was reading some or other Stephen King novel and was following it with a certain amount of detachment.
We are bombarded with similar graphic stories in newspapers every day. We watch horror movies every other weekend. We constantly hear of gruesome murders and rapes on the radio. In some way all of this has desensitised me to the point that I couldn’t fully empathise with a young girl who was murdered because she was beautiful.
In a way, it reminds me of when a South African woman was raped because she was wearing a mini skirt on a taxi rank.
But now, it seems that even if women are modestly dressed as they are in India, they are still under threat.
How does this make me feel?
Time and again as I travel to and from work I receive snide sexual comments from taxi drivers and their taxi guards.
“Ek sal jou stukkend ry, wanner gan jy jou bene op maak?”
Translated – “I’l ride you till you’re broken, when are you going to open up your legs for me?”
After ignoring them and walking away, I had an instance where one of them had the audacity to grab hold of my wrists and swing me around. Then I realised how powerless I was. How quickly a simple comment can turn into an action and how vulnerable a woman trying to be independent really is.
But, who protects us against this when the cries of an Indian girl was muffled by six men raping her on a bus?
Who helped the woman who ‘deserved’ being violated because she wore a mini skirt?
Who gave the taxi guard the right to touch me when I did not condone this action?
It appears that I could only sympathise with these women when I somewhat suddenly found myself in their shoes...which makes me utterly ashamed.
This brings me to my next question
Is it human condition to dismiss anything that does not remotely affect us or, have we become so used to tragedies like this that we deal with it by pretending that it doesn’t affect us?
Have we opted to rather intellectualise instead of internalise because it’s easier to have an opinion on an issue than to actually empathise with someone?
Either way, I have become aware of my own selfishness and wish to change it because if it happened to a woman in India, it has happened to me.