Keeping the Fire Alive

Keeping the Fire Alive

It’s been almost two years since the Nirbhaya rape-murder case that enraged citizens across India and prompted men and women, young and old, alike to stand up and say “No more!” to gender violence. This was undoubtedly a critical moment for raising social awareness around gender and gender equality in our country. More importantly, it sparked real action: changes in national law, workshops on gender awareness in colleges, street theatre to raise awareness about street harassment, to name just a few examples.

Yet I sometimes worry: Will this action and momentum for change last?

Fortunately, example after example from across the country allay my concern, showing that Nirbhaya was not a flash point, but a profound turning point. The following stories are inspiring examples of this—and they are only some of the most recent and well-publicized actions amongst many.

After the Kolkata restaurant Ginger refused entry to Suzette Jordan, a rape survivor turned anti-rape activist, hundreds protested outside the restaurant. Thousands more boycotted the place, and as the campaign went viral across the country, lakhs more signed petitions or wrote in protest of the restaurant’s appalling behavior. Not surprisingly, their rating on Zomato’s has plummeted to a single star, making clear the very real impact that this kind of protest can have on business.

More recently, 100,000 students and citizens took to the streets of Kolkata in protest to insist that the Chancellor of Jadavpur University appoint an independent council to investigate a case of sexual assault. And the “Kiss of Love” campaign, which began in Kochi and spread to numerous other metros, expressed resistance to the rise in so-called moral policing through the courageous and performative act of…kissing in public.

It’s so important, and heartening, to remember that these protests and acts of solidarity against a culture of sexual assault and in support of gender justice are continuing in towns, cities, and universities across the country. Together, through small steps and significant actions, we can keep the fire alive.