Certain Unalienable Rights

Salma Gundi's picture

Piscine Molitor Patel got named after his father’s best friend who loved to swim. This friend enjoyed swimming at the Piscine Molitor, a luxury pool in Paris. Instead of giving their son their friend’s name, his parents named him after the swimming pool. But kids at school often teased him, calling him “Pissing Patel.” So he shortened his name to Pi.

            I loved this scene from the movie Life of Pi. Late in 2012, friends, family, and coworkers raved about this movie—how it was based on a novel, and starred Irrfan Khan. So my husband and I went to see this movie together in Dec 2012.  

            After the movie, my husband and I emerged into a cold dark parking lot close to midnight. We often go to late movies on Friday nights. We like to end a hard week this way. My male companion and I walked across the parking lot, got in our car, and drove home. I wore jeans with a furry jacket on this chilly December night. You may wonder if my clothing matters. It doesn’t.  

            Ten thousand miles away, also in Dec 2012, a twenty-three-year old woman went to see the film Life of Pi with a male companion. I can picture her laughing at the same parts I found funny. And maybe tearing up during the same emotional parts. Around 8:30pm the movie ended. By 9:30pm she and her male companion stood by the side of the road. What did she wear? I don’t know. On a December night in Delhi, I picture her wrapped up from the crisp winter air, looking out for the headlights of a bus. A white bus approached. They stepped on board to join five other passengers—all young men.  

            What happened to Jyoti Singh over the next hour on that bus would sicken anyone, would scare any woman, and would make any parent scream. These five demonic men gang raped her, bit her all over her body, and disemboweled her with an iron rod for just over an hour. They beat the male companion with the same rod, then threw them out of the bus. The police found them naked on the side of the road at about 11pm. Thirteen days later Jyoti Singh died.

            In a TV interview from Rapistan, one of her accused stated, “She should have just been silent and allowed the rape. She would not have died if she had not fought.” Even the defense attorneys for the accused blamed the victim. “She was an unmarried woman out ‘late at night’ with a man.” How did the rapists know her companion was not her husband? Did they ask to see their marriage certificate as Jyoti and her friend boarded the bus? Victims get blamed due to regressive attitudes toward women. Shame should lie with the perpetrators, not the victims. But most of the world teaches men that they are entitled to getting what they want. 

            The night I saw Life of Pi, I would have had a different outcome had I worn a mini-skirt and stilettos. Just kidding—I would have had the same outcome. How do I know this? Because that night many woman wore clothes that were too tight, too low, and too short. Some had male companions. Some had female companions. Some traveled in large groups; others in small ones. I would not doubt if some women went alone. And nothing happened. To anyone.  Do Indian men surpass American men on the Richter Scale of Perversity? Doubtful. Then why will women more readily go outside after dark here compared to there? Two words: lethal injection.

 

    

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