We don’t know the name of the 23-year-old student who was raped and killed on a city bus in Delhi.
We do know that, after getting on a bus home after watching a film with a friend, she was tortured so badly that she lost her intestines. Six people – including the bus driver – have been arrested; they have been widely denounced as “animals” on social media. It’s always comforting to think – despite everything that the 20th century should have taught us – that those who commit vile acts are sub-human, are not quite like us, so we can create emotional distance from them. But it was thinking, feeling, living human men who committed this rape, however nauseating it is to accept.
The death of a woman popularly named Damini – “lightning” in Hindi – has provoked thousands to take to India’s streets, furious at endemic and unchecked violence against women. Some have been met with police batons, tear gas and water cannon. But, in the West, Damini’s death has triggered a different response: a sense that this is an Indian-specific problem. “The crime has highlighted the prevalence of sex attacks in India,” says the Daily Telegraph; “India tries to move beyond its rape culture,” says Reuters. Again, it’s comforting to think that this is someone else’s problem, a particular scandal that afflicts a supposedly backward nation. It is an assumption that is as wrong as it is dangerous.