Surrey residents gather at vigil to honour of victim of fatal gang rape in India (with gallery)

LARISSA CAHUTE
VANCOUVER DESI

Sukhy Dhillon speaks to a crowd of about 60 people during a candlelight vigil for the 23-year-old gang-rape victim who died in a Singapore hospital on Saturday. Steve Bosch/PNG

Sukhy Dhillon wore her skirt with pride in support of women’s rights and rape victims at a candlelight vigil in Surrey Wednesday night.

About 50 people gathered at Holland Park around 5:30 p.m. holding candles and banners as they discussed the corruption and violence against women that continues to plague India.

The memorial was held for the 23-year-old woman who died Saturday from her injuries after being brutally beaten and gang raped on a Delhi bus on Dec. 16, 2012.

“This broke my soul that day,” said Dhillon, a school teacher in Delta. “I didn’t sleep for days.”

But everyone in attendance Wednesday agreed it’s been an ongoing issue out of the public’s eye for far too long.

“They continue to blame the victim,” said Dhillon, adding that women are shamed from coming forward when they face violence.

Families “hush” the women and if they do come forward, police don’t record the incidents, she said.

“The laws are there – they’re not implemented,” said Dhillon.

She even heard of a village telling women not to go out at night or dress in a certain way – which is why she wore her skirt.

“We are so fortunate to be here in Canada,” said Dhillon. “(Indian women) deserve that respect and dignity, too.”

But Dhillon and many others in the crowd acknowledged these issues exist in Canada as well.

She spoke out about Maple Batalia and her grieving family, who were present, holding candles and contributing to the discussion.

“I don’t know how to console her father,” Dhillon said through tears, adding that she can’t believe the Surrey community still places blame on Maple, asking why she was at the SFU campus at midnight.

“She had the right and I have the right and so do all the women out there,” she said.

Many men were also present at the vigil and agreed it’s not just a women’s problem – men must take action as well.

Surrey-Fleetwood MLA Jagrup Brar said he was there as a community member, but also hoped to do something about it at the legislative level.

“As a father of a young girl, it’s very hard for me to imagine the pain and suffering of this young woman’s family,” he told the crowd. “At the government level you must do something … implement laws. We need to do that here, we need to do that in India, too.”

In India, women are viewed as the lowest form of society, said a vigil organizer, Jarnail Singh, and he wants that mindset to change.

“The whole nation (India) I think needs a conscience overhaul,” said Singh. “The people in power, they just don’t care for anybody.”

And the worst part is there’s “no accountability,” he said.

“There should be stricter laws and speedy justice — like, the cases like this go on and on and on,” he said.

And it only instills fear, because although Singh moved from India in 2000, some of his family still lives there.

“I have extended family over there,” he said. “It could happen to anyone — it could happen to my family.”

The tragic gang rape from Dec. 16 forced India to confront the reality that sexually assaulted women are often blamed, which discourages them from reporting the crime.

Protests have since erupted across the country for better protection of women from sexual crimes and raising questions about slack attitudes from police.

The Dec. 16 attack happened on a New Delhi bus. Six men beat the woman and the man she was with at the time, raped her and inserted an iron rod into her body, resulting in severe organ damage. The couple were then stripped and thrown off the bus, according to the Associated Press.

The woman was in hospital for 10 days until she was flown to a Singapore Hospital, where she later died.

Global Girl Power will be holding another vigil and “peaceful protest” at Bear Creek Park Sunday at 3 p.m.


Surrey vigil for gang-rape victim


Picture 1 of 9

A candlelight vigil for the victim of a fatal gang rape in New Delhi, India,. was held at Holland Park in Surrey, B.C., on Jan. 2, 2013. Steve Bosch/PNG

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