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No, Calling Rape Victims and Survivors 'Nirbhaya' is Not as Empowering as You Think

No, Calling Rape Victims and Survivors 'Nirbhaya' is Not as Empowering as You Think

Who are we to call the victims fearless? Why should a woman, who has been subjected to inhuman torture and pain which may or may not have resulted in her death, be called brave?

Jashodhara Mukherjee
  • News18.com
  • Last Updated: December 4, 2019, 3:13 PM IST
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In 2012, when news broke about a fatal gang rape and assault of a young woman in South Delhi's Munirka, media agencies and newsrooms were law-bound to conceal the name and identity of the victim. As more and more gruesome details about the crime emerged, the nation who mourned the death of another daughter, collectively decided to address her as "Nirbhaya", meaning fearless.

On December 16, the victim was travelling back home after a movie with her friend when she was tortured, raped and sodomized in a moving bus by six men. The woman was still alive when she and her friend were thrown out of the bus. However, three days and five surgeries later, she succumbed to her injuries. The heinous nature of the crime shook the nation; candle marches were organised, social media outrage ensued, protests which often turned violent also followed.

Amidst all this, the identity of the victim was fiercely protected by media houses and the investigation teams engaged in the case. Naturally, people around the country began to use pseudonyms like "Damini" and "Amanat" to refer to her. The one that stuck, "Nirbhaya", became symbolic of women's strength and bravery. Literally meaning fearless or brave, the term has since then been used to speak about the hundreds of other rape survivors and victims who have come after it. The pseudonym resonated with Indians to the extent that then Finance Minister of India, P Chidambaram, decided to name a fund created to ensure the safety of women the 'Nirbhaya Fund'.

Seven years later, things haven't really changed much. India still continues to be one of the most unsafe countries in the world for women with crimes against women at an all-time high. The rape and murder of a 26-year-old woman in Telangana last week has once again taken the country by storm, with many comparing the incident to the 2012 brutality.

Several headlines addressed the Hyderabad rape victim as "Hyderabad's Nirbhaya." Posts with the hashtag, Nirbhaya, have been aplenty on both Twitter and Facebook. While it can be argued that the sheer nature of the incident and the mood in the country is reminiscent of that in 2012, it is completely irrational and illogical to compare one crime to another.

Another trend which is alarming, to say the least, is the tendency to call these victims "Nirbhaya."

Who are we to call the victims fearless? Why should a woman, who has been subjected to inhuman torture and pain which may or may not have resulted in her death, be called brave? The dictionary defines "brave" as someone who shows courage in the face of impending danger. To summarise, everyone should aspire to be courageous and brave. In this case, the impending danger in question is every woman's worst nightmare, and not something one would wish even on their worst enemy and definitely not something any woman should have to endure in order for her to be called brave.

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