A frightening reminder of the past

Navika Mehta discusses the similarities between “India’s Daughter” and the Belfast rape trial victim

Photo Credit: Joe McCallion/ Trinity News

Content Warning: Sexual Assault

 

Wednesday afternoon, after finally submitting my essays last minute, I checked my phone and the first thing I saw, was a notification from Irish Times. It said: “Four cleared of all charges in Belfast rape trial.” I had been following the case, but not too closely. For some reason, I always believed the verdict would be in favour of the victim. This couldn’t have happened in Ireland surely?

 

Flashback to 2012, I’m in school and it’s like any other day when the news breaks out: “Shock and outrage over India Delhi bus gang rape.” A wave of terror and anger spread across the city. In school, we were confused. How could something so horrific even happen? In the middle of the city? On the way back home, my friend’s 10 year old sister asks, “what is gang rape?” We didn’t know what to say.

 

In a country where sex is rarely even mentioned, rape became a central topic of discussion. Specifically, the gang rape of “India’s Daughter”. This 23 year old had been flown to Singapore by the government to be treated. She did not survive.

 

The atmosphere is Delhi before this was of disgust and disbelief. After her death, the anger took over and everywhere, protests began. Throughout the city, and the country, people took to the streets demanding a country where women could be safe.

 

When a girl is born, they say “Lakshmi has arrived” – Lakshmi is the goddess of wealth and prosperity. Women are seen as goddesses. However, on the streets, in offices and homes, we are harassed, mocked, and underestimated. Even on the streets, while driving, men want to assert their dominance. Marital rape is legal. When I go back during winter or summer, I realise the extent of my freedom in Dublin. Often, I complain to my friends in Trinity, “I feel so restricted here”.

 

Every time I go out, I have to let my parents know my whereabouts, I can’t stay out too late, I must inform my friends when I get back home. In taxis, I constantly check Google Maps to be sure I’m being driven in the right direction. In the metro I make sure to be in the one compartment reserved for women.

 

On the streets I ignore the stares and avoid lonely alleys. If somebody catcalls – ignore them and walk away. These things are a part of life, no matter how much it frustrates me, or how much I feel like arguing, or even fighting back.

 

My parents sent me to study in Ireland for many reasons. One major one was so I could have a life in college that does not restrict me in any way. That lets me grow without fear and inhibition. They often say that they feel more at peace and safe, sending me to Ireland, than if I was studying in Delhi. It’s what I tell people considering Ireland for higher education. It’s safe.

 

Six years later, in third year in Trinity, déjà vu strikes. A gang rape but the verdict clears the accused. They’re high profile rugby players. In the Delhi gang rape, the four men were migrant workers from a highly patriarchal state in northern India.

 

Reading about the court case in Belfast makes it clear how justice has not been served. When justice should not just be delivered, it should be seen to be delivered. If such “celebrities” can get away with something like this, anyone can; that is dangerous.

 

In spite of the evidence, they got away. The victim is immensely courageous to stand up against these men at a huge personal cost. Enduring the process of the trial can sometimes be even as traumatic as the crime itself. I ask you to step into her shoes and imagine yourself doing that. It’s not easy. I am no law student to understand the technicality or question the verdict.

 

But an unjust verdict will discourage so many more women, who have possibly been in a similar situation, from coming forward to report. The damage such a verdict can cause is irreparable for people who have gone through sexual harassment of any kind. If indeed the accused were innocent, it should have been seen as crystal clear, not as a benefit of doubt. If at all, the benefit of the doubt should go to the victim and not the accused.

 

Today I see my friends and people around me in Ireland angry. It’s time to let your anger and frustration be seen – rally behind the victim who must be feeling isolated and make your voices heard. For the women and men you love and the ones you’ve lost, for “India’s daughter,” and for the country you hope Ireland becomes.

 

I am disappointed and angry but I do believe the least we can do is stand in support of the victim. We must fight for justice and not allow the freedom of women sink to the period of medieval anarchy.

 

If you have been affected by the issues raised of this article, support is available from the following services:

Dublin Rape Crisis Centre: 1800 77 8888

Women’s Aid: 1800 341 900

Samaritans: 116 123

TCDSU Welfare Officer: welfare@tcdsu.org

Navika Mehta

Navika Mehta is the current Features Editor of Trinity News. She is a Senior Sophister PPES student.
  • poly.anna

    In Ireland we have had a skewered progression to ‘equality’ , liberal values and sexual freedom. Add easy online access to porn to celebrity “culture” and a hearty approach to all kinds of alcohol, heady stimulants and highs and it is surprising that only one girl was involved in this scenario.
    There have been many debates about a womans right to get drunk wear what she likes and be treated with respect .There should be no exploitation of her if she is drunk high or dressed suggestively to a male gaze or if she flirts suggestively and goes unaccompanied to an unknown male s house both very drunk.
    This was a very long drawn out case that could have been dealt with much faster quietly but also with consequences. Whipping the nation up into a storm north and south two years after the events seems like a meaningless exercise in social media baiting .
    What the men texted as ‘banter’ was awful. The mentality crude immature and arrogant.
    The alleged assaults have been denied or lied about.

    But – these things are known about such types. Their reputations precede them.
    There is no real comparison with Indias Daughter.She was not drunk in a club travelling to a strange celebrity males house voluntarily putting herself at risk of at least the suggestion she was open to testing the waters as most stag athletes will do if they are also drunk – sad fact.
    These men behaved deplorably. Opportunistic, sadistic and with no concern for her physical safety or younger age .
    It will happen again.
    It will because the generation older than them and the generation older again have very little defence against the pervasive sexualised media content this group have been immersed in since old enough to use a smartphone turn on a tv or listen to any mainstream jock on radio. They were imitating what theyve seen and heard .

    Her lacerations are not evidence of excessive force. The taxi drivers assertation that she was sobbing in extreme distress is not proof of a lack of consent. Her drunk state did not mean she could not consent.

    I think many people question privately why she went with them alone without her friends when she was drunk.
    The defence used that too – she pursued the young player because of who he was and sued for same reason. Very cynical.

    It seems like a modern day hallmark disaster romance story.Shed finished exams was in celebratory mood and had stars in her eyes…dashing young rugby man would sweep her off her feet for a night of joie de vivre….not gynastic assaults and barbecue references…
    men must learn better how to be lovers and girls must learn to recognise when the prince is just a plain old warty frog.
    Hard lessons all round.

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