Rest in peace dear child.. you whose name we do not know but who has become our very own.
I know you are in a much better place, a place where you can roam free and safe, a place where you can walk at night without fear, a place where you can soar free and see all your dreams come true. A place worthy of your spirit and courage. Rest in peace sweetheart we were not worthy of you.
We salute your courage to fight the most horrific ordeal and some out of it alive; we salute your desire to live in spite of all odds. But it was not to be. Did you give up or did you know deep in your soul that it would ultimately futile as things never truly change. Maybe you are the wiser than us all.
You came to this city to fulfill your dreams. We as a city let you so terribly down. You went that fateful evening to see a film with a friend. You went to see a film that was about surviving all odds, did you know that you would be faced with the worst nightmare barely a few moments later. I cannot begin to imagine what you went through when you were aggressed in the most revolting way but I know that even if you were humiliated in the most debasing way, and yet I know that the perpetrators were never able to violate your spirit and soul. That remained yours, and yours alone. We salute you little braveheart who today stands taller than us all.
Today we hang our heads in shame for not having been there for you.
We hang our heads in shame for every time we were made aware of an aberration perpetrated on any woman and simply moved on after a few clucks of false pity. We hang our heads in shame for simply having looked at rape and violations as statistics, disturbing yes, but not worthy of our intervention.
We hang our heads in shame for every time we have silently witnessed a woman being slandered and abused, be it in our homes or outside. Every time we have chosen to adopt the code of silence in the name of honour, reputation or simply misplaced morality. We hang our heads in shame for having kept silent each time a girl was killed; be it in the womb or because she wanted to life life on her all terms.
We have much to ask forgiveness for.
Will you forgive our apathy and indifference. Will you forgive us to have remained deaf and dumb when we should have screamed loud. Will your forgive us for not having raised our voice when we needed to. Will you forgive us for having made a mockery of democracy and not expressing our horror and distress each time we saw injustice being done.
Your terrible ordeal did move us out of our apathy. Somehow it touches us in a way we had never been touched before. That is perhaps we intuitively felt you were one of us. But will your forgive us for not having felt the same anger and outrage when others had suffered the same plight. Maybe if we had you would have been with us.
While you lay in the ICU fighting for every breath, we did not always look good. Will you forgive those who made the most insensitive remarks, some coming from those in power, those made to protect us, those we are meant to trust. Many young people like you faced the brutality of those who should have been in the streets that night and come to your help. How can I explain to you why it took days for those who rule us to make come out and mumble words of concern that sounded so empty. Will your forgive those who thought they should indulge in self praise rather than address the harsh truths that stared us in the face. While you lay in your hospital bed, other women were violated and abused. The horror does not stop. I do not know if ever will.
While you lay stripped of your clothes but not your dignity in the dead of night and in bitter cold, many watched and did nothing. Can you forgive their indifference. I cannot and will not and wonder sadly whether all the people who came out in your support will at least now reach out to anyone in distress. Why is it that I find it difficult to believe they would.
They say you are the turning point that will bring change. I hope this happens but somehow find it difficult to believe. Everyone wants the perpetrators punished. But will that ensure that such horror does not happen again?
You fought bravely and your spirit has given us the courage to go on and ensure that you did not die in vain. Everyone of us is responsible for your death. We need to look within ourselves with honesty and accept our wrong doing and see what we can do.
Today darling child we salute you and beg your forgiveness.
May your death not be in vain.
We as a country hang our heads in shame.
Rest in peace beautiful one. You live in our hearts and will so forever.