India has never been the same again, since a 23-year-old physiotherapy student was gang-raped in a moving bus in the capital New Delhi exactly a year ago.
The girl died a few days later, but the emotional scar that the brutal assault on the night of December 16, 2012, left on an outraged nation is yet to heal.
The gang-rape triggered street protests, murmurs of which are still felt across the country. It also led to a fresh set of stringent laws against crimes against women.
But has the upheaval that followed the Delhi gang-rape made the capital any safer?
Showkat Shafi spoke to a cross-section of women to find out what has changed, or what remains to change:
|Manta Sidhu, 30, Musician|
|Manta Sidhu [Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]|
From what we read in the newspapers every day, rape cases continue to be rampant. Despite the national uproar demanding security measures for women, there is no sign of implementation of such measures, no matter what the government or the police authorities might claim. If a woman is pulled into a car full of men while she walks on the road, I wonder how a women’s helpline number is going to help?
The general sentiment among women in the city is that of insecurity. Everyone talks about it. Everyone tells the other to try and be safe. I, being a performing musician, have many late nights. And with most of my work based in South Delhi and, my residence being in West Delhi, I often found myself staying over at my friend’s place during the nights to avoid driving across the city alone.
A few months back, I finally shifted to South Delhi. My family considered it to be the safest choice.
There have been umpteenth cases of sexual assault or rape cases during broad daylight and early evening hours. Women being asked to be home before dark is an absurd and primitive thought. There is no fear of the law, there is no fear of punishment. Until the country imposes capital punishment for rapists, there will be no fear and there will no stopping for these criminal minds.
|Anushka Bhartiya, 27, Journalist|
|Anushka Bhartiya [Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]|
Not much has changed in reality. Just after the incident, I could see that people were a bit cautious.
The Delhi Metro’s women coaches were not flooded with men, which generally used to be the case. One could find police vans at random places too.
But this happened only for a month or so. After that, the city was back to its real self. Personally, I have experienced eve- teasing and once, there was a man who deliberately stopped at a red light just to abuse me.
These are things that have unfortunately become a regular feature in a girl’s life in Delhi. The city is of course not safe in the night. You can never be sure that you are at a safe place in the city. I avoid travelling in autos after 10 pm.
I end my day quite late in the night but thanks to the cab provided by my organisation, I can afford to reach home by 11.30 pm. Otherwise, it is just impossible to step out so late.
|Pema Tashi Pelden, 21, Law Student|
|Pema Tashi Pelden [Al Jazeera]|
Prior to the horrific gang rape incident things were still better, I would travel alone and didn’t fear going out at night.
After that incident my parents back home got alarmed about the condition in Delhi, they are worried whenever I am out. I no longer go out alone. Instead I prefer travelling in a group. I am scared to go out at night.
I don’t think much has changed in the last one year, in fact as long as the society is patriarchal here nothing can change.
|Manisha Dutta, 22, student|
|Manisha Dutta [Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]|
Yes, women are not safe in the city, in the country, anywhere.
I don’t feel safe not even in broad daylight or when there is a police station in the vicinity. I am from north-east and there is an extra baggage of discrimination that I have to bear for the place I belong to.
Right from stereotyping terms like ‘chinky’ to the differences in terms of language, dresses and food habits, there is sheer discrimination in which our inability to speak proficiently in Hindi, pork being in our list of diet are seen as inferiority complex.
The root of any violence begins with such discrimination and it stretches for generations.
My parents are liberal in whatsoever decisions I take, wherever I choose to go but if it comes to travelling from Delhi to my hometown by train they strictly forbid me owing to a decade-old case of harassment of a group of women from North-east while they were travelling by train.
What deeply saddens me is that the capital has come to bear the tag like ‘unsafe for women’ ‘city of violence against women’ ‘rape city’ due to the soaring cases of crime against women becoming prominent.
Ironically this is the same capital where thousands of young girls and women pour in from far away regions across India to receive the best of education, work in the best of places and yet at the end of the day, has to think twice before stepping out in the dark.
|Inshah Malik, 28, research scholar|
|Inshah Malik [Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]|
I may not have personally faced any but this is the point, there is an intersection of many things that comes to play when it comes to sexual violence.
For Muslim Kashmiri women, it may be sometimes Muslim identity sometimes that of being a Kashmiri or then simply a woman which may attract assaults of sexual violence.
In which case, all such acts are politically laden.
But this politically explosive difference can sometimes also help Kashmiri Muslim women to maintain a distance that protects them from assaults that are rampant on women of Hindu structure.
Though, among Kashmiri Muslim women who choose to veil or who don’t experiencing sexual violence may vary according to class and level of engagement with the structure.
|Alpana Devi, 32, cook|
|Alpana devi [Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]|
Nothing has changed in this city even after so many protests by the public and promises by the government on increasing the safety of women.
I ensure that I am back home by 6 pm because the moment it gets dark I feel unsafe to travel alone.
There have been so many times that men have passed lewd comments at me while walking on the streets or even while traveling in buses.
I guess death sentence is not the answer. These guys have to be punished and castrated.
|Swasti Pachauri, 29, professional|
|Swasti Pachauri [Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]|
Incidents of crime against women from the rural areas have received attention in the press and mainstream media post the Delhi gang-rape.
These issues were generally ignored till a while back and there was minimal rural reportage on issues pertaining to gender rights. However, post December 16th, 2012 – debates on gender violence, women rights, gender identity & politics and issues of socio-economic relevance such as wage disparities between men and women in the informal sectors – have seen participatory dialogue from across spectrums.
Additionally, I feel owing to stronger legislations, civil action in the public sphere and a far more evolving, conscious youth have together resulted in more sensitive and empathetic attitudes towards women lately.
Even if this is a restricted sample – I would still see it as a welcoming characteristic redefining gender equations, respect and dignity towards women.
Almost every woman would have faced instances such as these. I feel post December 16th and the more recent cases, women from all across the globe stand united on issues pertaining to sexual abuse.
More so, many women now have garnered the strength to report such incidents and underscore the importance of bringing to light – not just the injustices done, but also the politics underlying such patriarchal social structures thereby highlighting, that women no longer want to remain silent but speak out loud.
I usually am well guarded when it comes to commuting alone in the night or day. For my own self -defense I carry my own safety kits. Because I have a travelling job, I keep all important numbers with me say local police official’s numbers etc.
However, my most reliable weapon in instances such as these is my instant reaction i.e. to face things head on. I have realised this really scares off miscreants and help you emerge a confident, a far stronger individual.