Yesterday, five of the alleged assailants responsible for the gruesome December gang rape and eventual death of a 23-year-old woman in New Delhi were brought to trial in India. The proceedings were closed to the media, and the accused were ushered into their trial wearing woolen caps to obscure their identities. This cloaking of the attackers’ faces is a grim reflection of the way in which details of the case have made their way into the public consciousness thus far.
Details about the crime in question, as well as the people involved, have been shadowy and, at times, confusing. Across the world, people have been rallying around the victim of the attack, some even taking to calling her "India’s Daughter". We watched from a distance as she fought for her life in a Singaporean hospital, only to pass away and return to New Delhi for her cremation and burial service. But even as the world looked on, very little was revealed about the woman herself. Though Indian laws prohibit the publication of rape victims’ names, the woman’s father has insisted that he wants his daughter’s identity to be known.
This morning, the Wall Street Journal released an in-depth look into the life of the woman whose brutal ordeal has captured the attention of the world. The woman, nicknamed “Bitiya” by her family, was bright, industrious, and ambitious. Coming from a line of agricultural workers, Bitiya was determined to be the first of her family to have a professional career. At the time of her death, she was juggling academic classes and a call center job. Becoming financially independent endowed Bitiya with the freedom to explore her interests, fashion and technology being among them.
The WSJ article gives a play-by-play of the day that Bitiya and a male friend were brutally attacked inside a private bus and left, gravely injured, on the side of the road. Included are names and descriptions of the five adult attackers now standing trial for kidnapping, rape, murder, and other charges. The sixth man is still a minor, and will be sentenced before a juvenile court.
Whenever crimes of this horrific magnitude come to light, it’s tempting to think of the victims as abstractions. It is, after all, far less painful to think of “the victim of the New Delhi gang rape” as an idea to be rallied behind, rather than an actual human being. But this crime should be painful to think about. It should inspire anger. We should think of Bitiya as the brilliant, individual, promising young woman she was. This way, we can not only take action to stimy violence against women in the wake of her death, but also honor her memory as a person.
Photo via CNN