It's again that time of the year when rape news is doing the rounds. Earlier this year, NCRB's report showed that 93 women are raped everyday in India. And these are just the reported cases, mind you. (Read Times of India article) Like every time, arguments and discussions are taking place as to why rapes are happening and who is to be blamed. Currently Shenaz Treasurywala's open letter to our nation's superstars is in news. The letter deserves to be read by every sensible Indian.
Just like in media, discussions are happening around me too. Like most times a woman's attire is being blamed. One compared a woman to a lump of jaggery put in the open without a cover for flies to sit on, implying that women who were short dresses invite rape. Another said he didn't like that women blame the rapists' psyche for the crime and say
that no one should touch them even if they are wearing short dresses or
nothing; that Indian women are seeking freedom to wear skimpy
clothes. Such sentiments are just echoes of our so called cultured society. I remarked that most rape victims in our country are dressed in salwar-kameez and saarees. Also most rape cases take place in rural, so where is the question of wearing skimpy clothes. Even children and old women are raped. What do you say to that? In western country, women wear short and plunging dresses all the time, then why are they not getting raped! Don't you think then, something's wrong in our country.
Please watch the video below which was in circulation around a year back.
As I read Shenaz Treasurywala's open letter, I was reminded all of those accidental touches, stares and gropings I had faced since I was a teenager. Her experiences is almost every girl's experience in our country. When I was around 15-16 years of age, I was coming home in a large auto (8 seater) from a tuition class. I have grown up in a small town in upper Assam. It was winter and so it was already evening when I was travelling. There were only a few passengers. There was a man sitting on my right hand side. As I was nearing my stoppage (it was the last stoppage), I felt the man's left elbow touching my chest from the right side. I thought it was because of the vehicle's jerking and so shifted towards my left as there was space. But the man also moved and the elbow pushed again, this time a little harder. I was horrified as I realised what he was doing. It was winter and so you can imagine my dress. I was "fully clothed and covered" in several layers. I wanted to scream and slap the man, but I couldn't as my mother's words rang in my ears, "Don't mess with men/boys who misbehave with you. Don't be rude to boys who approach you with love proposals". She feared such men's reactions just like Shenaz's mother.
Another time when I was studying in Kolkata, I was in a public bus. I was wearing salwar-kameez and the dupatta was wrapped around me. Although the bus was crowded, I was seated. Suddenly I noticed a man standing opposite to me who was ogling at me and scanning me from head to toe. I smirked inwardly thinking what was he looking at, only my face was visible! Later when I was working in the same city, I took the same bus at the same time everyday. After a few months, I started noticing a man staring at me. Then I noticed him being at the stoppage everyday, taking the same bus, standing close to me and looking at me. In horror, I recalled incidents my girlfriends shared of men standing behind girls and rubbing their private parts against the girls. Once I told the bus conductor not to let the man come near where was standing. Well, the conductor was least bothered. Oh yes, I always wore salwar-kameez to work.
Even now when I travel in a public bus, I am very cautious as to how close the man is standing near my seat, specially how close his groin is to me. Many a times, I have thought of carrying safety pin in my hand in such a position that if the man comes tries to come any closure, he will get pricked.
I have a theory for eve-teasers and rapists in our country. In our country, girls/women are taught to be always covered from head to toe, so that no skin shows. So males also see covered ladies all the time. Hence whenever they see even the bare calves and arms of females, they go crazy (My sister once met a Czech woman on the train who narrated how Indian men gape at her bare legs). But it might not be possible for them to lay their dirty hands on those females, so they vent out their lust on other vulnerable females. Also such males need instant sexual gratification, but they might not have a wife or she might not be available at that place. Hence they force themselves on vulnerable "decently clothed" females. I wonder why such men don't go to prostitutes instead. They can save so much trouble.
Below is a video for ogling men.
From time immemorial, women have been treated as an object; a property which is owned just like land. Rape is just another way show and keep women at their place, that is below men. Marital rape and rapes in the family or in a particular community are evidences. Women are considered the honour of a family, yet this honour is violated by the men, who are supposed to protect her just to teach her a lesson. This is the country where goddesses are worshiped.
We teach our daughters to wear decent clothes, cover themselves from head to toe when they go out, not to go out after dark, not to talk to boys, not to go out alone and so on. But do we teach our sons to respect women, speak up when a girl is teased or abused in front of them, and not to tease them or touch them without their permission.
As a woman, I feel rape is the final assault. After the ogling and groping, raping a girl is the worst thing a man can do to her. But from where does these men get the courage to commit such heinous acts? The answer is simple. They know they are not going to be punished. There is no fear of punishment at all. Like a young brother-in-law of mine wisely said that rapists should be punished severely just like in other countries, such men should be scared to touch women. I advocate capital punishment and lifetime imprisonment for rapists. The bottom-line is that the laws of our land should be made stricter, stronger and more victim-friendly.
Everyday, I read some article or the other relating to eve-teasing and molestation. Sadly such news have become regular news like the weather reports. Ladies, I don't think mentality of Indian men or security conditions in our great country are going to change any time soon. A man can never understand what a woman goes through her entire life. So it's better that we help each other, be alert and carry some defense item like the pepper spray at all times.
|Something I saw on Facebook today|
Rabindranath Tagore dreamed of a nation where "the mind is without fear and the head high". Tragically in his dream country, hearts and minds of women like me are always in fear, and we are taught to walk with our heads and eyes cast down. I dream of a living in a nation where I don't have to feel the glaring eyes on me as I walk on the streets, where I don't have worry about my necklines and hemlines all the time, where I can work and travel at all times feeling safe, where I am not deemed to be open invitation to eve-teasing or molestation, , where I am not treated as an object of desire or property but as a human being with feelings. But today this seems like an impossible dream to materialize in this lifetime. For the time-being, I would like to just remember what Shenaz Treasurywala said, "It's not our shame, it is their shame".
This article has been also published on Women's Web on 27th January 2015.