Monday, January 07, 2013

Are you on the side of the rapists?

This afternoon, finally, I want to cry. Not because of the gangrape-murder that caused such outrage. Not because such rape-murders are reported everyday. Not because I’m frightened about how I will live, with such violence all around. Today, I’m feeling defeated.

Some of us have been thinking about how to direct public outrage into constructive channels. Somebody organized ‘Take Back the Night’. I know of groups that held condolence meets where people talked about rape, harassment and the fear infecting women’s lives. Even this was new. Before, nobody wanted to talk about sexual violence. As if, it would go away if we ignored it.

What we need is a good hard look into the mirror. What is it about our culture, our morals, our public spaces, our infrastructure or lifestyles that enables rape? The rape not only of young, urban women but of babies? Why do we dismiss sexual harassment or even assault as ‘eve-teasing’?

I used to do my bit by campaigning against street sexual harassment or ‘molestation’ through a public participatory art project called Blank Noise. Mostly, it’s young people who get involved. But this time, we hoped all kinds of people would join us in looking inward, questioning our contribution to this climate of fear, taking responsibility for change.

Those of us who want to live in safe cities must think of how to help create them. So we decided to take pledges. A call was sent out – show up with a pledge. People gathered in a public space in many cities, and each one took responsibility for creating safer cities, one small step at a time. We tried asking other citizens if they’d do the same.

I stood on Carter Road with a piece of cardboard in my hand. An elderly woman walked past. She asked what this was about. I told her. She asked me not to mind, then proceeded to say that it was our own fault – “Aaj kal ki ladkiyaan”. The women of today. Our clothes. Our behavior.

The girl who died had been a medical professional. I wanted to remind this elderly woman that if she visited a hospital for back pain, the girl helping her heal would have been an ‘aaj kal ki ladki’. But before I could, the woman began to say things like: “If your fist is closed, nothing is lost. If you open your fist, you cannot hold on to anything.”

I reached out for her hand. I said, this isn’t about our generation – that things were bad for my mother’s generation too; that I was covered head to foot when I was stalked, groped, threatened; that village women get raped in sarees and in broad daylight.

But this elderly woman was parroting the same thing: “You girls, not you personally, but… How do you expect men to react?”

I said, I expect men to react with respect. She stared at me for a moment and started laughing. She asked: “Can anyone control men?” I felt the bile rise. I snapped: if they cannot be controlled, they need to be locked up.

She laughed again. She apologized again. Again, she said that it was mainly our fault.

I’ve been talking to other friends. Almost all of us have had recent conversations with fellow Indians who believe that women are to blame for being assaulted and murdered. Despite this girl whose “sacrifice” has supposedly awakened us!

So, all I want to do today is cry. And I want to tell those who blame women for this rampant sexual violence – YOU are our biggest problem. YOU aid and abet rapists.


ankita said...

But we, the 'aaj kal ki ladkiyan' are so 'dheeth' and 'ziddi' and 'besharm' and so 'haath se likli hui' that we are going to go there again and 'nag' the hell out of them. *Sigh*. Old habits.

SS said...

The bile that keeps pouring out of the politician's mouths - first I laughed, thinking how stupid they are.
Then it happened again, and again, and again.
And I realized - they really are catering to their vote banks. 90% of Indians agree with them completely. The 10% who don't, probably don't vote.
They ARE on the side the rapists - otherwise why would it be so prevalent?
Now it hurts too much to think about it any more.

Ahn said...

Safdar Hashmi was killed during the performance of his street play Halla Bol by workers of a political party; the next day his wife Moloyshree went back to the same spot and completed the play.....some causes are just too important to loose heart, no matter what the odds may be...and this is most definitely such a cause.....

Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

This was the most horrible case I ever heard in my whole life. Before this, at last, the girls are blamed or the case is not registered. But after this the Facebook generation came in front to prove that they also know that what they need to change around them. And may it would make some changes in our politics as well as surrounding. And girls could breathe with relief.

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