As the nation grieves the death of Delhi’s 23-year-old gang-rape victim, Kerala is reminded of its hour of shame two years ago when Soumya, another 23-year-old who succumbed to her injuries less than two years ago after being pushed out of a moving train, was raped and killed.

Govindachamy, 30, of Virudhachalam in Cuddalore, pushed Soumya, a commuter from Kochi to Thrissur out of the train when she resisted his robbery attempt on the night of February 1, 2011. She was later found lying unconscious close to the railway track and succumbed to injuries five days later. A fast-track court awarded capital punishment to Govindachamy, a physically challenged person, nine months after the incident, but the brutal rape and murder continues to be a searing memory for all those concerned about the safety of women in public spaces.

The numbing effect that Soumya’s death evoked has worn off now. Life is, in a sense, back to ‘normal’ where the recurring instances of sexual harassment of women in public places — and within homes — largely go unreported. But, there have also been instances of women standing up to harassment and, at times, bringing the culprits to book.

Tales of resistance

The battle waged by P.E. Usha, feminist and environmental activist, against the humiliating experience she had had while travelling by bus braving persistent and concerted attempts at isolation, and the way Thasni Banu fought harassment under the garb of moral policing, have all proved to be inspiring tales of resistance for women. Such far and few instances notwithstanding, statistics continue to be weighted against women with each day producing its share of stories about harassment, big and small.

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