Jyoti Singh’s parents call for honorary museum to use her real name
The parents of a woman whose 2012 gang-rape and murder in Delhi triggered national outrage have asked that a museum established in her honour uses her real name in its title, to dispel the stigma around sexual assault victims.
Jyoti Singh and a companion were attacked by six men aboard a moving bus in December 2012 and left to die by the roadside. The brutality of the 23-year-old’s murder provoked intense anger and weeks of protests across Indian cities, and led to legal reforms including the introduction of fast-track courts for sexual assault victims.
Among the tributes to the physiotherapy student, who was dubbed “Nirbhaya” – meaning fearless – because of Indian laws against naming rape victims, was a science museum established the following year in the city’s south.
The museum’s title still carries the pseudonym, but Singh’s parents, Badri Nath Singh and Asha Devi, have asked local authorities for their daughter’s real name be used instead.
“Why should we hide our daughter’s name?” Singh said. “My daughter was not at fault. And, by hiding crimes, we only allow more crimes to take place.
“Has the society become safer for women after the gory incident that shook the conscience of the nation? It is perpetrators who should hide their names. We are proud of our daughter,” he said.
“She got immortalised as ‘Nirbhaya’ but we also want the society to know the girl we raised, before she was violated by a few devilish men. Memories are painful but her name will serve as a reminder to the society to never let such things recur.”
Singh said he hoped the open use of his daughter’s name would “remind women of their condition in the country and men will perhaps become more conscientious, which will lead to a better society”.
Rape victims are still regularly shunned and vilified in India and politicians continue to link attacks to women’s dress and behaviour.
Singh added: “I do not know if there is any legal complication involved in putting the real name, but we are fine with it. Later, we would also like to have her photograph put up there. We are not ashamed, [the] criminals should be.”
Devi, the victim’s mother, was the first to publicly name her daughter at a December 2015 rally marking the third anniversary of the attack, telling the crowd: “I feel no shame.”
“I say this in front of you all that her name was Jyoti Singh,” she said. “You all must also from now onwards call her Jyoti Singh.”
Statistics released this week by the Delhi police showed a small drop in reported rapes and molestations in the city last year, and a 10% fall in offences against women overall.
But crime rates remain high, with at least six rapes and 12 molestations reported each day, while the rate of convictions has actually fallen to about 30% in the past year, from nearly 50% the year of Singh’s attack.
Activists such as Swati Maliwal, the chair of Delhi’s Commission for Women, attribute the stubbornly high rates to sluggish or insensitive police investigations, inadequate street lighting and CCTV cameras in parts of the city, and deeply entrenched patriarchal attitudes.