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My Name Is Suzette Jordan

She did not allow the sexual attack on her to define her and cocoon her in victimhood. Rather, Suzette Jordan was a brave woman whose adamant fight for justice has done so much to restore the dignity of survivors of sexual assault. A personal tribute.

Our panel was a queer one in all the wonderful senses of that word. At trainings with lower court judges on sexual violence laws in the Saket District Courts in Delhi, the five of us would find ourselves next to each other every few months. On a dais surrounded by that distinctly sarkari flower arrangement, first sat Suzette, a survivor of a brutal rape in a moving car in Park Street in Kolkata. Then in line: a survivor of an acid attack; a representative of a sex workers union; a well-known hijra activist and I, speaking as a gay man.

We were usually on the third day, right after lunch, when we would face nearly a hundred slightly sleepy judges from the region. They had been updated on new sexual violence laws, gone through a case exercise on how to apply them, been given a CD, a folder, the requisite handouts. The boxes were ticked. Technically, they were up to date. Ours was a different job: to animate, if such a thing is possible, a sense of empathy in the judges, to shift even slightly the way they thought of the rainbow of dubious morality that we represented.

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