Rape Victim Aruna Shanbaug Dies After 42 Years in Coma

Rape Victim Aruna Shanbaug Dies After 42 Years in Coma


ahmed mohiuddin siddiquiInternational columnist, political analyst and senior journalist Ahmed Mohiuddin Siddiqui’s articles are published across Asia, Africa and Europe. He writes for The Moroccan Times, The Tunis Times, India Tomorrow, Kohram NewsThe Etemaad Urdu Daily and for news papers published from Muscat, Sultanate of Oman. You can follow him on Twitter at: @journopolana[/symple_box]

20- year old Aruna and Aruna in coma.
20- year old Aruna and Aruna in coma.

Muscat, Sultanate of Oman—Aruna Shanbaug, an Indian nurse who was sodomised by a hospital sweeper in 1973 and lived in coma for 42 years, passed away in Mumbai, the commercial and film capital of India on Monday.

She worked as a junior nurse at the King Edward Hospital in the then city of Bombay, now Mumbai. She was changing clothes when a sweeper Sohanlal Walmiki spotted her and the animal in him was unleashed in full measure.

Sohanlal sodomised Aruna and strangled her with metal chains and left her to die. Aruna did not die immediately but went into Coma as oxygen supply to her brain was disrupted. This rape case shook the conscience of India back-then in the 20th century but rape cases have only continued to rise and rise year after year even in the 21st century. The Delhi rape case of December 2012 brought out the women on streets like never before to protest the rape in which the rapists pulled out the intestines of the victim and threw her from a running bus. Aruna’s case was the precursor to the ‘passive euthanasia’ law in India and the Delhi victim’s rape made the laws stringent with provision of death penalty for rapists in extreme cases.

Pinki Virani, a journalist friend of Aruna made a plea to the Supreme Court of India to allow euthanasia as Aruna had been in a vegetative state for 37 years. The court constituted a medical panel to examine Aruna. The court did not allow the mercy killing or euthanasia. The Supreme Court, however, in a landmark judgment allowed ‘passive euthanasia’ in India. The court laid down the guidelines for passive euthanasia which allowed the withdrawing of treatment or food that would allow the patient to continue living.

The rapist Sohanlal was apprehended and convicted for two concurrent seven-year jail terms for assault and robbery and not for sodomy! There were no laws for punishing sodomisers. Generally, victims of rape shy away from reporting about the incident due to the fear factor and the shame that follows the victim and her family instead of the victim. The police do not show much interest in helping the rape victims but are seen as compounding the agony by putting questions that make the victims mentally raped also. The judicial system takes ages to decide about cases and the onus is on the victims to prove the rape. The two-finger vaginal test to confirm the rape deterred many victims to report the ugly life-changing incident. As with any tragedy, the relatives are the first to disown the victim and it happened in Aruna’s case too. The relatives deserted her and the hospital looked after Aruna for 42 long years and when she died today, they are mourning her passing away. Books have been written and films made on Aruna  highlighting the tragedy of the then 20-year old nurse who was looking forward to getting married and settle down with a doctor from her hospital.

No crime is pleasant but crimes like this case of Aruna shook the human conscience and leave many questions unanswered about our claims of being civilized. Even to write about these tales of untold misery is not easy for journalists though we report on many crimes of devastating nature. Writing this column has given me a headache and choked me with emotions but it is nothing compared to the agony of Aruna. Fellow journalists need to be sensitive while writing about rapes. A common phrase used that I have come across is ‘brutal rape’. Is there a pleasant rape also? There is no need to brutalize the expression. Everybody understands that rape is brutal. Some things are left unsaid better.

The unbridled youth must realize that a woman is not a tissue paper to be used and thrown away. A woman is to be loved and respected by all means.