The terrible tragedy of the gang rape and death of a 23 year old woman in Delhi has sparked tremendous outrage the world over. Several organizations in the New England area organized vigils to mourn the death of the woman and condemn violence against women. The Network of South Asian Professionals (NetSAP) organized a vigil in Boston outside Trinity Church, Back Bay on Sunday December 30th, 2012. Saheli, an organization that helps South Asian victims of domestic violence and the Boston South Asia Center organized a vigil at Harvard Square in Cambridge, MA on Tuesday Jan. 1 2013.
Over a hundred people came braving the bitter cold weather and in strong voices expressed their condemnation for violence against women at both the Boston and Cambridge vigils. “We are very sad and mourn the death of Nirbhaya”, said Pallavi Chhabra who was one of the key organizers of the vigil held in Boston. Several others in the audience joined their voices to hers and spoke out sharply against rape and insisted on dealing the harshest punishment to the perpetrators. For several members of NetSAP, the tragedy hit close to home. “Many of us are from Delhi. The woman who was raped is about our age”. Members felt a great sense of urgency and wanted to transform their anger into action and do something to prevent such tragedies in the future.
Umang Kumar, from the Boston South Asia Center opened the vigil held at Harvard Square with a brief statement followed by a moment of silence. A short statement followed this from the members of Saheli. All present joined Saheli in taking the following pledge:
- We will personally treat all women at home and elsewhere with respect and demand the same from others
- We will not practice discrimination against women at home and in the workplace and will fight it wherever we see it
- We will intervene in whatever way we can when we see a woman being harassed whether verbally or by deeds.
- We will work to end domestic violence.
“This is a cultural fight, not limited by national boundaries,” said Geeta Aiyer, President Boston Common Asset Management who was instrumental in organizing the vigil. Why did she feel so strongly about organizing this vigil? “It is important to let victims of such tragedies know that they are not alone”, said Geeta.
Saheli read a poem written by a survivor of domestic violence. The poem was about a woman who was a volunteer with Saheli and tragically was murdered by her husband.
Aparna Das presented a very strong street theater skit depicting the attitudes of society against women and how groping and sexual harassment are so common in parts of India. “While the rape of this middle class urban women caused such rage, rape is an unfortunate reality for lower caste and tribal women”, said Das.
Moving speeches, powerful poems and beautiful songs brought the vigil to a close. As people left the event, there was much hope that perhaps we are at the beginning of a movement that will end violence against women world over.
The commission headed by Justice Verma has an email justice.Verma@nic.in. Please send all your comments before Jan. 5.