Mother of December 16 gangrape victim Says ‘I feel like we are frozen in time’

‘I feel like we are frozen in time’: Mother of December 16 gangrape victim.

The gang rape of a 23-year-old five years ago was thought to be a watershed moment against sex crimes. But not much has changed on the ground

Five years ago, on this date, six men gangraped a 23-year-old woman in Delhi. The brutality of the crime, which led to the death of the victim, shook the collective conscience of the nation and brought into limelight the question of women’s safety. It precipitated legal amendments, increased reporting and a discussion around the issue.

Mother of December 16 gang rape victim breaks down during an interaction with Hindustan Times at her residence on Tuesday.

Five years later, the mother of the 23-year-old physiotherapy student feels not much has changed in the attitude of people and the response of the justice system. And a sense of impunity still prevails among perpetrators.

“When I saw the number of people who had stood with us, we thought a lot would change. Maybe now, nothing like this will ever happen again with any other girl... but the way the situation is continuing now, the way young girls are still falling prey to this monstrosity. A few weeks ago, two children were assaulted. The way such crimes are still happening, I feel like we are still frozen in time five years ago,” she said.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau, the number of rape cases reported in Delhi more than tripled from 706 in 2012 to 2155 in 2016. Across India too, this number jumped by over 40% from 2012 to 2016.

The woman, whose daughter died in Sinagpore on December 29, 2012, after battling for life for 13 days, said it is encouraging to see more and more women coming out to report the crime. She, however, said that stigma and shame persist in certain sections of society where victims are still blamed.

“Even today, I meet people and families who have gone through something similar and want the culprits punished. But they don’t want to come forward. They are worried about what will people think, who will marry her. I say you are worried about things that will happen maybe 10 years in the future but how will the girl survive right now? How will she forget? If there is some justice, then the girl will also get some closure,” she said.

Rape laws were amended on the suggestions of the Justice Verma Committee and around 1,600 fast-track courts were set up in the aftermath of the incident.

However, this mother argues that the “system” has not changed. Five years down the line, courts are still hearing review petitions in her daughter’s case.

“Things that need to change haven’t changed. Our governments have not changed. Their thoughts have not changed. The system has not changed. Some police stations and officers haven’t changed their ways. If our regime, administration and system changed, then we would not be in this condition,” she said.

However, she finds a glimmer of hope in increased awareness, especially among the younger, educated lot.

“I visit colleges not just in Delhi, but outside as well (for events). I feel satisfied when I see that it is not the university officials who organise these events, but students. Young boys and girls are organising talks and debates on women’s safety. This shows they have started thinking about it. They want to work against it, because they feel they need to do something. That they need to change people’s thoughts, attitudes and perspectives,” she said.

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