Earlier this year, the attack of a young Indian woman who was brutally gang-raped in a bus generated headlines from all around the world, triggering public outcry and protests in India. Police allege that the 23-year-old trainee physiotherapist was attacked, along with her male companion, by six men who repeatedly raped and tortured her with a metal bar. The couple was also severely beaten before being callously thrown onto a road. The woman later died of internal injuries in Mount Elizabeth, despite doctors’ best attempts to save her. The assault triggered nationwide protests, a toughening of rape laws and fierce discussion over the rampant crime against women in India, as well as the safety of women there.
Recent news, however, have disclosed that Ram Singh, the main accused and one painted by a police report as the ringleader, had hanged himself in a jail cell. While his lawyer and family suspected foul play, it is highly likely the death would be greatly advantageous for the remaining charged, as they could easily declare him the main conspirator to get lighter punishments.
The victim’s brother expressed discontent, claiming to be “not very thrilled with the news that he killed himself because [he] wanted him to be hanged … publicly”. “Him dying on his own terms seems unfair. But oh well, one is down. Hopefully the rest will wait for their death sentence”.
The frustration that boils from within over the case stems from indignation and a sense of moral righteousness not only for the victim’s behalf, but also for women in India and across borders. Despite seemingly conclusive evidence, the six had pleaded not guilty to rape and murder, contributing to the negative and unrepentant portrayal of themselves to the hostile public despite the heinous deeds they committed and the unrest and uproar stirred.
In addition, should the others pin the blame onto the dead accused for their own benefits even when they were not really coerced into their actions, the injustice and justified disgust at their warped sense of ethics would surface. Not only would it illustrate their dishonesty and selfishness, but it would also pave the way to more lenient sentences that could possibly diminish the effectiveness of new measures to be unveiled.
It also causes much fury how the accused were involved in the plan of taking the bus out that night to look for a victim to rape. The motive they had was likened to be like a wild animal acting in the role of a predator where innocent and weaker ‘preys’ could be grabbed at will and destroyed. Their complete lack of moral and humanistic values leads to growing tensions in India.
Lastly, some may agree with the victim’s brother. He was dissatisfied with how his sister was not properly addressed in his way of death where he is believed to have committed suicide, dying out of choice and not as a punishment and a warning as intended should he have gone through sentencing. Did he really repent and atone for his sins then?
All these bring a larger issue to mind. With all the insecurity and vulnerability women are silently facing in parts of the world like New Delhi, usually forgotten or disregarded, are we women in Singapore taking our freedom and standing for granted here? A world of forced prostitution, forced marriages, abuse and child labour may seem surreal and distant where we are, cocooned and protected by bubbled isolation from the frequent scandals that rock other countries. However, perhaps it is time to appreciate the opportunities such as access to education, and social security we are provided with, all because we are born at the right place at the right time. Otherwise, we could have easily been any one of the faceless females in the world trampled on by our male counterparts. Their howls for change have to be heard.
– Sharon Kuah (3H)