In Memoriam: Suzette Jordan; The Iron Lady of Kolkata

I must come back home from where ever I am, before it gets dark. I ought to dress ‘appropriately’ so that I don’t appear provocative. I have to do the household chores. I should be submissive and meek. I must avoid going out alone.

No brownie points on guessing who I am. Yes, a girl.

I live in 21st century India, that India which people refer to as Bharat ‘Maata’ but forget to mention the pun they intend there. I live in a country which no longer seems to be mine!

Welcome to Incredible India!

Another rape story resurfaces today but unlike others, this is a story of courage. This is about a woman who fought for herself, who motivated hundreds other women suffering from domestic and sexual violence to stand up against the wrong and who chose to be known by her name instead of just ‘Park Street rape victim’.

The Anglo- Indian woman, Suzette Jordan, an anti- rape campaigner and the Park Street rape victim died of encephalitis at a state-run hospital in Kolkata today morning.

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Who was Suzette Jordan?

She was a woman who waived her right to anonymity after being gang-raped in order to encourage other rape survivors to speak out. In a country where rape victims hide their face in anonymity, where rapists remorselessly brag about their crime; Suzette was one woman who refused to hide in darkness and who made us stop using the word ‘victim’ and ‘survivor’, instead treat her as a normal human being.

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In February, 2012, Suzette was leaving a night club on Kolkata’s popular Park Street area when a man who had befriended her offered her a lift home. She accepted but once she entered the vehicle, she was held down and raped and then thrown out of the car.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who had taken charge a year before, was widely criticized for commenting that the complaint of rape was a “shajano ghotona” i.e fabricated. She also claimed that it was cooked up to malign the government. She thus made a ‘Kolkartoon’ of herself.

 

Her Life after rape

In the last few years, Jordan, who found it difficult to find employment after she came out, was working as a rape counsellor at a helpline for victims of sexual and domestic violence. She was also active in condemning the gang rape and killing of a 20-year-old student at Kamduni in North 24 Parganas District.

Her story raises many essential questions; one of them being the blame the society puts on the victim. Was it her fault? Did she invite a rape? No, she didn’t. But it’s always ‘her’ who has to suffer.

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We hope that the 40 year old single mother finds peace.

She remains an inspiration for thousands of women who aren’t courageous enough to openly talk about the harrowing experiences of their lives. She fought and made us all realise that even in the worst situation, being strong inspite of whether you lose or win, is the only way.

She was a fighter and that’s what all girls need to be! We’ve had, tolerated and stayed numb about a lot; now is the time to act.

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