She refused to marry one of them, next? They attempted to make every living moment miserable for her. Little did they know that she was a seed, which when buried came back as a massive tree. She found a purpose in life, to ensure that the demons of her life, and many others with such motives would never find success ever again. This is definitely a long battle for her, but she has come far from a fifteen year old acid attack victim to a happily married modern nari, now to take over the world as the face of a fashion brand!
This is the story of just one Lakshmi, however there are thousands of other acid attack victims who most unfortunately have miserable lives. Was this possible for Lakshmi because she hails from New Delhi? Would the scenario be the same if she hailed from a humble Indian village? Did the Nirbhaya outrage occur only because Delhi was an urban area?
If we look at the traditional setup of Indian villages, the obvious conclusion would be that such issues receive wider publicity in the cities compared to the rural areas. However, these villages have a very different setup from the cities. In cases of violence against women, instead of filing FIR’s they resort to remedies from their ‘Gram Panchayats’. The Panchs again have punishments like shoe slaps and boycotting the families of the accused. This is because of the reason that absolute importance is given to the honour of a family, punishing a family through boycott or with shoe-slaps is a form of deterrence there. One such recent incident is a Panchyat of Hisar District in Haryana ordering five shoe slaps to the person accused of gang raping a girl.
With this, the Panch also ordered the girl to leave the village. This again portrays an entirely different picture. The victim was forced to leave her home even before police action could be taken on the accused. This would not have taken place had it been Delhi or Mumbai. However, we have to remember the fact that an untimed action in these cases is usually futile. In this case the police had not registered an FIR, in another a brutally assaulted Nirbhaya was left devoid of medical attention in the glitter and glory of Delhi. The Supreme Court came out with the Prevention of Sexual Harassment at Workplace only when one Bhanwari Devi was raped in the village where she worked.
The answer it appears is that wherever there is courage and determination, rural or urban background hardly matters. Lack of awareness and education, however, does contribute a great deal when it comes to answering who has better access to resources. For instance, marriages in distant villages of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh are known to have been carried out with the girls bought from backward states like Bihar and Orissa these days, the happiness of a girl sacrificed, she is made to sleep with all the unmarried horny men of her family, all of it going unnoticed. whereas one Lily Thomas or one Lakshmi approaches the Honourable Supreme Court to pass a rule against subtle bigamy by Hindus or to regulate the sale of acids.
Villages and village women in general unfortunately face a dearth of education. That is precisely the reason why they suffer exploitation at the hands of the masses. That is when campaigns like Pinjra Tod come in and along with breaking the locks of the hostels, they create a huge grapevine around there activities. This is also spread to nearby folks in villages, and that’s how village women in Orissa get together to fight a paedophile with chilly powder.
I believe that crime against women is a global trend. The cities certainly have an edge when compared to the villages. However, revolutions begin in the remotest of places and can spread around like wild fire. Remember Sampat Pal Devi was a Bundelkhandi, what made her Gulabi Gang stand out was her indomitable spirit and unfathomable efforts to secure a future for her women folk that mattered. Thus, I believe that opportunities can be easily created if one is willing to work for a greater cause. The platform or the place, rural or urban does not really matter.
Photo Credit: commons.wikimedia.org (Gulaabi Gang)