Her name is Jyoti Singh Pandey. The 23-year-old female medical student was brutally raped by six men on a private bus on her way back from watching a movie in New Delhi on December 16. She died from her injuries two weeks later in a Singapore hospital.
The crime has sent India and the world into a fury of protests and debates about the safety and security of women–and social justice, in general. Some are calling for tougher laws and enforcement; others demand police reform and surveillance. The news media is both pointing fingers and accepting the blame for under-reporting sex crimes. In the midst of the international wake-up call, five men have been charged with Jyoti’s abduction, gang rape and murder.
As gut-wrenching as it is, Jyoti’s case is not unique. TIME magazine reminds us: “As the five accused were driven to court on Monday, for instance, a 16-year-old girl in the northern city of Allahabad was in critical condition after being set on fire by a boy who allegedly attempted to rape her on Saturday. That same day in Delhi, the body of a 21-year-old woman was found; her father says she was gang-raped and murdered on her way home from work the previous evening.”
How are we supposed to make sense of these heinous crimes – and all the other countless incidents like it? You could start by the telling the stories over and over again, until someone finally listens. Here are a few examples:
SCULPTURE: Indian sand artist Sudarshan Patnaik created a sand sculpture with the words “We Want Justice,” displayed on a beach in the eastern Indian state of Odisha.
FILM: The city of Kolkata hosted the OUR LIVES…TO LIVE Film Festival on January 4-6, calling attention to the growing global phenomena of gender crimes and violence. It was organized by the International Association of Women in Radio and Television India Chapter, in association with Swayam, a local women’s rights organization. The screenings covered stories beyond India, too. The featured film, for example, was the Academy Award-winning “Saving Face,” a documentary about victims of brutal acid attacks in Pakistan. Other stories shown included “Facing Mirrors,” about a transgender girl fleeing Iran to have surgery with the help of a female taxi driver, and “Orchids: My Intersex Adventure,” about an Australian woman’s discovery of intersexuality. Since the multi-city film festival’s launch in November, other screenings and panel discussions have been held in Bangalore, Delhi, Trivandrum, Gwalior, Thrissur, Bhopal, Mumbai, Bihar and Pune. More are planned for the rest of the year. For updates, visit www.iawrtindia.blogspot.com.
GRAFFITI: If walls in Delhi could talk, they’d be screaming in rage. Self-taught graffiti artist Rush expressed her anger by spray-painting “designated rape zone” on one wall next to Green Park Metro station. The guerilla trend has gone corporate, with media advertising agency Discoveri Media Group posting billboards declaring: ”Wake up India. She’s dead. Stop sexual terrorism.” According to Joint Managing Director Sunjjoy Daadhicch, “We felt it is now important to keep the public anger against sexual crimes…This is the first time that we have advertised for a social cause.”
WRITING: Sohaila Abdulali created a stir in the women’s movement nearly three decades ago for her essay, “I Fought For My Life…And Won,” after surviving rape as a teenager in Bombay. Now, following Jyoti’s death in Delhi, she has published another poignant piece in The New York Times, “I Was Wounded; My Honor Wasn’t,” this time, older, wiser, more forgiving of herself, and more empowered to take on any violators of a woman’s body, intimacy and control. “This is where our work lies, with those of us who are raising the next generation,” she writes. “It lies in teaching our sons and daughters to become liberated, respectful adults who know that men who hurt women are making a choice, and will be punished.”
DANCE: Playwright-activist Eve Ensler created a global dance-inspired movement called One Billion Rising. The campaign will stage performances and activist meetings in Delhi and Dhaka this month, and founder Ensler will make appearances in Paris, London, and Bukavu in February. People around the world are invited to host their own events, including a “dance strike”, concert, flash mob or performance, on the campaign’s launch this February 14. The campaign is based on the statistic that one in three women on the planet will be beaten or raped during her lifetime. Based on the current world population, this adds up to more than one billion women and girls.
NETWORKS: Genderlog.com is an excellent crowdsourced hub of research, news and resources on gender violence in India. Also, Real Talkies has carefully curated Pinterest boards on videos about women, particularly on gender violence, as well as a list of documentaries, PSAs and nonfiction films that explore the status of women, sexuality and gender from an Indian perspective.
ART: In the aftermath of the Delhi rape tragedy, artist P.S. Jalaja designed a fresco calling attention to violence against women. His work was on display at the Kochi Muziris Biennale, an international exhibition of contemporary art. ”We salute the courage of the woman who fought ’til her last breath,” said the artist. A makeshift “tomb” was built in front of the fresco. “What lies buried in the tomb is not the girl who put up a brave fight,” writer K.R. Meera told The Hindu. “It is the conservative male ego that has for long claimed ownership of the female body.”
SOCIAL MEDIA: Reena Combo, a media specialist and editor of an entertainment magazine, organized a candlelight vigil for the Delhi rape victim in Birmingham, England, by sending a tweet that went viral, even among Bollywood stars. ”People were saying ‘you work in media — you can do something!’” Reena told CNN. Supporters are urged to continue using the hashtags #JusticeForDamini to raise awareness about the issue.