Ms. Jordan was not a liar - society owes her some answers too

Apologise TMC for your own sake if not for the sake of Indian women
Voices Suzette Jordan Thursday, December 10, 2015 - 18:40

Suzette Katrina Jordan was gang-raped. A Kolkata Sessions court has found three people guilty and two others are absconding. Five men (three were convicted and two are absconding) raped the 37-year-old in a moving vehicle in 2013. She was on her way home from a bar in the city’s posh Park Street. And then followed this macabre rape in a moving vehicle – as if the rapists didn’t want to be identified in one place, in one piece of time, in one street. Except this time, their victim was a lady who fought hard and fair to claim her space, her dignity and her life.

She broke the narrative and died in the meantime. Narrative? That one about being in a bar all by herself or playing a game of tennis after sunset or going out with friends to eat an ice-cream. Why was she out so late at night, what was she wearing, was she drinking, how many glasses two or three. That matters. That extra glass of wine or that last cigarette is license to rape. The ruling Trinamool Congress made light of the incident and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee dismissed the rape as a fabricated incident. A TMC MP Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar had sought to call the crime a misunderstanding between a "woman and her client". The city’s streets are secure was the drift. So, Madam, now that a court in your state has found three men guilty of raping Ms. Jordan, an apology is in order, isn’t it? If you don’t, then by inference you are also telling your courts they backed a lie. Ms. Jordan was no liar – let us not lie to her now.

Ms. Jordan died of a brain infection earlier this year, fighting till the very end for her life and for justice. She did not live to see and hear the sentencing of her rapists, but in her struggle is the story that speaks to millions of Indian women – young and old – who now constantly look over their shoulder as they step out of their homes. Or remain in homes to be raped and silenced. The quantum of punishment for Ms. Jordan’s rapists will be pronounced tomorrow – what should it be, Ms. Banerjee? Maybe you want to consult your colleagues who also joined the ‘fabricated story’ chorus?

When mocked at and finding herself at the receiving end of stories accusing her of fabricating the rape, Ms. Jordan unmasked herself. She no longer wished to be called the “Park Street” victim. Instead she told the world through her blogs and interviews that she was a single mother of two children and if she was no longer anonymous, why was the state government hoping her story would disappear? To be fair, the police and courts must be felicitated for taking the enquiry to its logical end. In a moving letter to his dead daughter, Ms. Jordan’s father says as much – he doffs his hat at the police machinery but laments that the judicial process is long. It is inexorably so, almost as if someone has written outside the court’s door – take a number and stand in the queue.

In his letter to his daughter, Ms. Jordan’s father says the court examined 50 witnesses. Every piece of evidence had to be cross-examined, questioned, re-examined. That is how a case is built – cases that inform justice as well as jurisprudence. But what to make of the growing rape-log? Not a day passes when stories of infants and grandmothers, office going women as well as stay at home mothers are raped, beaten, mutilated and many cases burnt to death so no evidence remains? In its 2014 report, the National Crime Reports Bureau (NCRB) says 93 women are raped everyday in the country. Would Ms. Jordan’s grief have halved if she had lived to see justice done so one number could be erased from statistics? Was justice delivered to the late Ms. Jyoti Singh who met her butchers on that fateful evening on December 16, 2012 as she was making her way home?

We called her Nirbhaya, the fearless. For other victims of rape, we use the term brave-heart. Ridiculous.  Victims of rape are neither weak nor brave. They are normal people. It’s the extraordinarily brutal violence they are subjected to which makes people call them brave. An apt term would be violent and shameless society that we all inhabit. What cowardice that is. Was Ms. Jordan brave when she sat alone in a bar drinking, was she brave when she wrote about her story publicly, or was she brave when she pursued justice against all odds?

Should this even be a conversation? Show us you care Ms. Banerjee - you still have a few hours ahead of you. The Kolkata court will pronounce the punishment on Friday. We are watching. India is watching.

Read our earlier piece here.

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