The loss of a living, breathing, human being. Because she was seen as less than so.

Lindsey Rieder has Masters in Anthropology from Syracuse university, USA and wrote her dissertation on street children of Jaipur . She also has Masters in Clinical Nurse leadership Program from University of New Hampshire, USA, and works as Clinical Nurse Leader at Maine Medical center Portland and lives in Portland Maine, USA. She had lived in Jaipur and Delhi in India. Lindsey can be contacted through her blog disconnected thoughts.

Lindsey Reider

Lindsey Rieder

On the night of December 16, 2012 a 23 year old student made her way home with a friend. She had just left City Walk, a mall with shops like Fab India and Cinnabon and a movie theater, and was on her way home.

In Munirka  (in my old neighborhood) she boarded a private bus headed home, her friend stayed with her. It was around 9:30 pm. What happened next seemed unimaginable– a brutal attack and gang-rape that left her friend brutally beaten and her with injuries so extreme from the rape and assault with a metal rod that she had to have the majority of her intestines removed. As the story sparked controversy and protest in India, she was flown to a hospital in Singapore. Reportedly, unable to speak, she wrote a note to her mother saying “I want to live”.

On December 28, she died.

This young women has sparked something in people. Protests appear. People demand justice against the perpetrators. Anger and fear over such acts of violence against women.

“This could have been your mother, your sister, or your daughter.” Anyone might say.

But I say no. I want to stop this line of thought right here. Her role as a daughter, sister, or potential mother are not what is important.  She was not a mother, a sister, a daughter. She was a human being. A living, breathing human being. She had dreams, aspirations, goals. She bled, she felt pain. She died. She didn’t want to. She had things to do. She had a life to live.

This could have been you. Anyone of us. This young woman has become a symbol, a symbol for horrible acts against another human being that occur everyday in this world. Acts that are far too often allowed to happen. Especially to women. Our mothers, daughters, and sisters often have the finger pointed at them. Why were you there, who were you with, what were you wearing?a19

Maybe this young woman’s horrible assault got more press because she seemed to be doing everything “right.” She just went to a  mall– she came home early– she didn’t travel home alone. She was a student, she wasn’t poor alone and unprotected in a slum. Maybe this is why her plight was brought to so many people’s attention. A regular young woman– doing everything “right”– and this was how her life ended. Brutal violence, suffering and pain. She didn’t “deserve” this.

Some years back a preteen Russian tourist was sexually assaulted in Goa. A [female] government official said “She should not have been wearing a bikini.”

In these cases of horrific sexual and physical violence against women we are told that men cannot control themselves– they are not to blame. How are men to control themselves when faced with a 10 year old blond girl in a bikini, or a woman on a bus in the evening with only one male to protect her? How can we expect men NOT to viciously assault, rape, or brutalize a girl or woman (or boy or man) in such a state. Next thing you know, a woman might just be walking alone somewhere. Doesn’t she know how men are? Where are her bodyguards? Her stainless steel chastity belt? Or why didn’t she just stay home.

If the reason NOT to hurt this human being is because she “could be our sister, our mother, or our daughter” that means she only has WORTH in one of those roles. This paradox gives someone the right to hurt any woman not in that role– or who does not appear to fulfill one of those roles. It says that those are THE only roles that have worth for a woman.

That is not the reason why we should not hurt women. We should not sexually assault, abuse, throw acid in the faces of, stalk, molest, grope, or kill women because they are HUMAN BEINGS. Living, breathing human beings. With goals, aspirations, and dreams. That feel pain. That bleed. That can die. Just like you. Just like me.

“Men” are not a separate brutal species that are wild and prone to violence and abuse at any moment– lest we protect ourselves against them. The paradox is that the same cohorts also argue that these wild violent beasts known as “Men” are also wiser, smarter, and more capable to run the world. How can such wild beasts be trusted? So smart and capable yet unable to control themselves when faced with the temptation of a woman visible in the dusk of evening?

Please. It’s so obvious that this is a cop out answer. Men are not a wild brutal species all their own. They represent half of the species of homo sapiens. A species capable of great and amazing things, the most important of these is thinking and reflection.

The reason such violence and abuse happens is not because “men” are incapable of self control– but because they live in a world where they have been allowed to see women as less than human beings. Where messages come to them that they don’t HAVE to control themselves– and that a woman’s life is not as valued as their own. These are the conditions that allow for such acts of violence to continue to occur.x24

This same reasoning doesn’t just go for acts of violence against women. Think about it. Anytime societies have targets that they have abused, murdered, raped, discriminated against, starved — it has come with the righteous understanding that “We are more human. We are more worthy than them.”

And those that stand against it– those who say “this is wrong” they have also always existed . And often act as the catalyst for change. Those who know by instinct, by insight, or by role-modeling in their world. I often think [hope] that these people are in the majority. But people feel helplessness, disillusionment, and they back down.

Letting a world built on a shoddy foundation of “men can’t help it– the burden lies on women.” continue to thrive, continue to see women as less valuable and less worthy of protection– less worthy of hopes, dreams, aspirations. Less worthy of life.

And so we come back to this 23 year old young woman who died yesterday. Her life cut short by people who saw her as an object onto which to commit their brutal acts– even while she bled, screamed, and cried in front of their eyes, they did not see, or did not want to see, or felt too ’empowered’ to be able to see, or were willing not to see…

She was the same as them.

She is not the only one. But she is a catalyst, even in death.

No more excuses. We all have hopes, dreams,  and aspirations. We all feel pain, bleed, die.