I agree no one wants to be India’s daughter, but when it comes to sexual violence in our world, is it safe to be anyones daughter?

“No one wants to be india’s fucking daughter,” said a post by redheadwayfarer on Instagram.

Priyanka Reddy, a vet from Hyderabad was brutally raped, murdered, and set on fire by her assailants just a few days ago. This instance breaks my heart because this violence and sense of entitlement to women’s bodies is so common, that it enables sexual violence in such mundane ways, and in such deeply aggressive, violent ways in our society to happen all the time.

Cases of gang rape, murder, brutal rape of young children, sexual assault even within families are rampant in some South Asian countries, with many recent cases of both of these things, but sadly, this doesn’t mean it’s limited to these places -- and somehow continues across the globe.

 I agree, no one wants to be India’s daughter, because these cases continue due to the ways women’s bodies and sexuality are looked at. Sex and sexuality are considered so taboo, never given a voice or even formal education, but when things like this happen the victim is interrogated about what they could’ve done to prevent it. Women are hypersexualized in media and in Bollywood films, but if a woman dares to be a sexual being in real life, she is shamed and blamed, making it easier to blame the victim when instances like this happen.

Priyanka couldn’t have done anything to prevent it because it wasn’t her fault -- but the truth is, it’s never the victim’s fault, and it is an absolute shame this world could not keep her safe. It’s the fault of the disgusting people who felt entitled to her body and her life, and we can’t sit here and act like this is only India’s problem. 

According to Stats Canada, one in three women will experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetime.

I agree no one wants to be India’s daughter, but when it comes to sexual violence in our world, is it safe to be anyones daughter?

India is the most dangerous country for sexual violence against women according to a Reuters survey conducted in 2018. With 338,954 crimes against women – including 38,947 rapes – in 2016. However, we have to keep in mind these are only the cases that are reported. Because there is so much stigma around sex, sexual violence, and honour and pride, reporting sexual violence in India or as someone of South Asian descent in other parts of the world, has so much added stigma because of this taboo, which victim blames as a result of honour and pride. 

You have to think the system is entirely broken when the safety of a stranger, your sister, your wife, your daughter, is less important than upholding your or your family's honour, and when women are blamed for the violations of their safety that were nowhere near their fault.

According to YWCA Canada, there are 460,000 sexual assaults in Canada every year.

When I think about Priyanka, I think about women, including myself, who have faced sexual violence in their lives and are forced to think it could have been prevented if they did something differently.

“If you had just worn something else, if you had just said no, if you had just walked with someone to your car, if you had just been nicer to that stranger on the bus, if you had just accepted his compliment, if you had just stayed quiet after he grabbed your ass, if you had just” 

… the list goes on.

When I think about Priyanka, I think about Chanel Miller, the survivor of rapist Brock Turner, whose entire life was brutally transformed by one night where a man felt entitled to her body. While her case reflects the toxicity of a college culture that allows males to encourage this type of sexual entitlement and gross rejection of consent, it also demonstrates the real life impacts of a victim who is just a woman trying to go about her life who will forever be changed  by one night that wasn’t her fault.

I think about the documentary film “Because We are Girls” that tells the heartbreaking story of 3 sisters who were all sexually assaulted in their early childhood years by a family member, and waited for decades to expose this painful secret. 

I think about Grace Millane, a 21 year-old backpacker killed in Australia during her travels by a man whose identity has been protected by the courts, while the details of her horrific case become public. She met the man who brutally murdered her on a Tinder date, and the details of her case, of  her private life, of things she chose to do with her body lay bare to the public. The defence of the perpetrator in her case was the “rough sex” defence, claiming that he strangled her to death during consensual sex. This defence has been used in a number of other murder cases, and often in rape cases victims reputations are picked apart in order to protect perpetrators from facing prosecution.

I think of Ruth George, who was killed just last week, a 19 year old University of Illinois student who was brutally murdered after declining a man’s advances and comments and who was angry he was being ignored while trying to hit on her. He catcalled her, followed her to her car and brutally murdered her all because she dared to say “no.” Sometimes saying no isn’t enough.

I want to end off by saying it is especially unsafe to be a woman in India, and to link the case of Priyanka to other cases of sexual violence I by no means want to underestimate the impact of her case because it is a reflection of how women in India face brutal violence simply for being women. They are disregarded and stripped of their humanity at the whims of men who think they can get away with it -- because they can and because they have. I link her to other cases of sexual violence because I think we need to stand up for and always believe survivors in all forms, and remind victims, it is never, ever their fault. 

So while this world consistently shows us that it isn’t safe to be anyone’s daughter, I offer you some words from Chanel Miller’s poem “I don’t give a damn.”

“So here’s the takeaway. / When we step up for survivors / when we stop sealing them off in shame / When we quit interrogating them with stupid questions Look what happens.

Books are written, laws are changed, / We remember we were born to create / To not only survive, but look hot and celebrate.

Tonight you must come away knowing / That I will always, always give a damn about you / The way you gave a damn about me.”

Rest in peace Priyanka. I am so sorry this world could not keep you safe, but we will always give a damn about you.

About the author

Rumneek Johal

Rumneek is a journalist, host and speaker. She is currently the BC Reporter at Press Progress where she focuses on systemic inequality, workers and communities, as well as racism and far-right extremism. Her previous work centers on asking tough questions within her community, starting conversation and chipping away at the status quo. Other focus areas for her work include the South Asian community, arts and culture, pop culture, and more. She is a proud Punjabi woman from Surrey, BC.

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