The Delhi Rape Horror and Underlying Perspectives (Part I) – Adfar Shah

Adfar Shah

“The aftermath of the Amanat rape tragedy (December,16) evoked a plethora of activism against and debates on the continuing rape horror in India. A daring call to change the contemporary system (mainly perceived as the failed system) became a public slogan. People and media after the heart wrenching tragedy treated the poor victim the hero, brave heart and daughter of the nation who practically awakened and mobilised a virtually dead, deeply self-seeking and narcissistic Delhi Public. Anti-Rape laws will definitely improve but will the security measures for women improve and shall the crime against women be controlled and show expected decline is a curious question. Also it is being observed that mass anger, protest and activism has been selective and more regional”.


Amanat’s tragedy was discussed, paraphrased and debated as the star activist, Malala Yousafzai of Swat province. While some called the tender rape victim the Nation’s hero, a great mass mobiliser and cause of a revolution to come. Some others perceived the agitation aftermath the incident as the Indian spring and even compared the rape victim with the Tunisian fruit vendor (Mohammed Bouazizi) whose self immolation sparked the infamous Arab Spring, still live in Syria. Some painted the whole episode as gendered and many others jotted poems, delivered commentaries, participated in stand ups, discussions, lit candles, mourned the innocent creatures’ plight, etc,. But the fact remains that we are yet to engage with the psycho-social background and academic discourses of rape and other crimes against women in a realistic perspective to know actually what causes such situations and how such heinous crimes can be tackled and avoided. This goes without saying that only stringent anti-rape laws and installing men in uniform in every nook and cranny of India to stop such a disturbing menace is hardly the solution. But there is a greater need of approaching such a social pathology from its very roots like the pathetic socio-economic conditions and wretched life of a considerable section of Indian populace, sense of rejection and alienation among the poor, declining urban living standard, slum and ghetto culture, culture of poverty, increasing moral corruption, culture of abuse, ethical corrosion, defective socialization and broken homes, lack of education, exposure and gender de-sensitization need to be discussed besides having a deep insight about and repercussions of  sexual pathologies (sexual addiction, incest, frotteurism, Sadism, paraphilia, voyeurism, stalking, exhibitionism, fetishism, pedophilia, etc,)  in a wider perspective if at all India needs to get rid of the rape  shame and cease to be a rape culture.

Are we a rape culture?

Yes, indeed we are a rape culture society, even a small dhaba (local food stall) working boy’s mother is raped (culture of verbal abuse) hundred times a day by one and all, for every one abuses him be it his owner, co-workers or the customers. A rickshaw puller’s sister/daughter is raped thousand times a day using foul language against him by bikers, drivers and passengers and others even for none of the faults of the poor. We are of course a culture of abuse and rape, sexual slurs, bad language against women even physical attacks on women do not seem to be shameful at all. Even the small children get acquainted and socialized with the culture of abuse and foul language in their tender age. So the culture of rape is deeply rooted in our society and has been highly routinised in this part of the world.

Understanding Amanat Rape Horror

The young Para-medical student’s (Amanat, Nirbhaya, Damini-media’s symbolic names of the recent Delhi rape victim and now the debates going on making her actual name public or naming the law after her) rape and murder indeed shocked the nation and highlighted the tragedy primarily for certain reasons:

  • The kind of the horrific incident it was.
  • The incredible reporting and coverage of the episode by the media.
  • The place of the incident being the national capital.
  • Smart, active and praiseworthy role of Delhi police in nabbing the culprits within days.
  • Delhi being a hub of social and political activists, NGO’s, student unions, etc,.
  • The dramatic and deceptive style, story of the victim’s suffering in the violent and inhuman incident.

The Amanat’s case despite being heart wrenching has evolved a an extensive debate on the status of vulnerable female India, legal aspects and apparatus, security machinery, sociological discourses of equality and public space for women, etc,. Undoubtedly she has opened a new chapter in the domain of discussing the practical aspect of egalitarianism, humanity, male-female world, emerging vulnerabilities, concerns, apprehensions, security flaws, policing, parenting, mobility, etc,.

Amanat’s tragedy also explained the horror of rape experienced and perceived by a human being. She enabled us understand that rape must not be treated merely as a crime against women but a crime against humanity for it shook the conscience of all humanity irrespective of gender. The brutal rape and murder of the innocent girl is an eye opener to those who paint such crimes purely gendered or paraphrase in feministic prism hence misinterpret the whole concept of the gender and violence in public space. It has broomed the dust from certain contested themes on gender violence like modern dress pattern, skirt craze, make up etc,. It is not the dress pattern but spatial vulnerability, criminality, psychology, violent nature, time and opportunity. Had it been only attracting dress, there would not have incidents of rapes of even minors and elderly where a 65 year old woman was raped too. Even the incest rapes of daughters by fathers, brothers and other family members is the contemporary reality. Amanat also made us understood that People’s coming to streets for protests is a means for realizing women’s security if not the solution in itself. But yes slut walk (Besharam Morcha) suits west only not the India’s age old rich traditional ethos.

To understand the Amanat rape horror narrative it is not necessarily to recount the specific case and whole episode of Amanat rape and murder but the momentum and attention this episode gained even outside India must be utilized to provide practical security to women of the sub-continent. The abused departed soul forced us to think upon:

  • The need for a rethink of the holistic system
  • The call for a change
  • The difference between a scuffle between a man and man and a woman and man
  • The correlation between sexual offences and the prevailing trend of Women’s objectification and commoditification presented by the cinema.
  • Our transitional and violent nature out of the lack of exposure
  • Our faulty shared value patterns
  • The loss of the sense of being and the loss of the sense of loss
  • Culture and Socialization of abuse and common routinised language of abuse.

(to read part II of this article click here)


Adfar Rashid Shah is a Doctoral Scholar of Sociology at Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. Mail at

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