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Returning from RubyConf 2013 my colleague (another female attendee) and I board the plane and are finally seated still discussing the talks. Cribbing about the boring ones, appreciating the awesome ones and of course about my running the Rubyconf 5k.
As fate would have it, it so happens that we get seats around a group of 15 ‘boys’ from Bata Rotors (name changed) again going to attend some conference in Delhi. One of them gets a seat with us cause we have 3×3 sitting. And suddenly this highly educated lot turns juvenile! Passing derived comments, making innuendos, and laughing loudly at their one guy who is seated with us ( two women ).
Well we try to ignore it and so do the men sitting in the other rows even when they’re getting disturbed. No one said a word. Cause of course, why should you interfere in anyone’s business. Half an hour of stupidity passes and still seems like there is capacity for more and it continues. My friend and I ignoring the nonsense till now that was making us uncomfortable and embarrassed because by now ppl in the front rows were turning around to see what in the world was happening in the last rows.
And then ” SNAP! “. No! I don’t slap the oldest ‘boy’ in the group. That’s the sound of me snapping. I turn around and burst out “Excuse me! Just because we are ignoring you guys doesn’t mean we are stupid. People from Bata Rotors should not be behaving this way. It leaves a very bad impression of your company! ” Aaaaaaannnddd scene!
Now my heart is thumping in my throat! It dawns upon me that we are two girls. . Two! And they are 15 ‘boys’ in their 30s and above! ! And we will be getting off together at Delhi airport at 2240 hrs! What did I just do! What if someone’s ego was hurt! What if they plan to teach us a lesson! Now I’m cursing myself for being aware of my own dignity! ! What is wrong with me!
In the middle of all that, I’m thanking God I’m working in a company where women are respected and male colleagues are way more responsible. But wouldn’t these men be too with their colleagues? What if it was one of the men’s wife or sister or daughter sitting where we were, would they have passed such remarks to the one guy sitting next to them and made the women feel uncomfortable and objectified? of course NO!. Cause their dignity is directly related to their women folk’s dignity but we were two women they couldn’t care two hoots about cause they don’t know us! Do we do the same knowingly or unknowingly? Did I overreact? One of the 40 something guy in the group explains to his friends loud enough that we can hear “See ‘boys’, we din’t do anything wrong to anyone, we were only laughing at our ‘bro’ but still if some people have felt bad then the gentlemanly thing to do would be to stay quiet”..
Huh!! Whaaaaat!! They suddenly became gentlemen from hooligans!! How did that happen! The tables are turned! Just like that!
Well then all that is left is again to ignore or trouble the stewardess to change our seats.
By the time I reach home I’m thinking….
Did our ignorance over the generations fuel the male ego so much that they couldn’t care that women folk are feeling embarrassed!
How is it that respect only needs to be given to women, a man knows. What about the rest…
Will ‘boys’ ever grow up to be men?
Did I overrect???
Something to think on I guess….
My story is over at my blog in a blog post called Walk. It’s about harassment faced in Delhi, fear in public spaces and my response to it. (http://nehawrites.wordpress.com/2013/02/15/walk/). Do let me know if would like to repost it.
Why am I not astonished! Apparently the Delhi Police says they do not use action as long as the protests are peaceful. I was there at India Gate today and this is what I saw. KEY FACTOR: There were NO Media or Cameras. A group of about 50 people were peacefully protesting and singing slogans. The police wouldn’t let them into the India Gate nor Jantar Mantar or Rail Bhawan. These Policemen did NOT have any nameplates. These policemen were acting like hooligans. They very strategically targeted the people among the crowd who were leading any slogans and then pounced on them WITH NO WHATSOEVER reason. It didn’t matter whether they were girls or elderly. They lathicharged and chased the innocent unarmed peaceful protesters and provoked them to react violently. It must be noted that these very nameless policemen were laughing and smiling about having done such a brave and outstanding job of terrorizing innocent and peaceful protesters. They had no remorse, no shame and absolute negative attitude. For them, it was a new game, a new form of entertainment, a round of lathicharge was their new form of “gilli danda”. My father was hit three lathi. A girl in the same group was hit so bad she couldn’t walk by herself. Now the Delhi Police will have you believe that the girl had attacked them by singing slogans of “WE WANT JUSTICE” cause of course that is a capital offence and Rape isn’t. Not only were they performing the orders from their shameless seniors but also enjoying every moment of it. I ask how these policemen can look their daughters, wives and mothers in the eye after such monstrosity? Are Delhi Police the new KASABs of India? Why are the Delhi Police not wearing any name tags? Is it justice or certified hooliganism? I repeat, this is the face of Delhi Police BEHIND the cameras whilst appearing peacekeepers BEFORE the cameras. This is worse than terrorism.
The outrage following the rape of a 23 yr old medical student in South Delhi has literally singed my television set.
I’d like to take comfort in this outrage, but it’s cold comfort. Most of the measures that are being adopted, be it sensitization of the police, deploying PCRs, installing CCTV cameras, impounding vehicles with tinted glasses, it all seems to aim at containing the woman who steps into the public sphere. Reassuring though this may seem (for the short term), why aren’t we going into the more convoluted territory of trying to monitor a society and a culture that is creating rapists? The woman, the victim, is in a way being treated as the aggressor that has been let loose in society and therefore must be subject to protection that resembles scrutiny, whereas only cursory remarks are being made about changing mind-sets. Articles that do deal with these issues receive far less attention (judging from the ‘likes’ or ‘shares’ on FB) simply because they seem less emphatic as a reaction than braying for a death sentence or for chemical castration.
This approach seems like sticking a band-aid where you need a tourniquet. We’re willing to monitor women, watch them, arm them with pepper sprays, guard them. We’re even hurtling towards structural reform. However, we seem oddly reluctant to discuss the socio-cultural overhaul that is necessary to fight this established and deeply ingrained rape-culture. We refuse to look into our own homes where misogyny is running wild in covert and well -disguised ways. We’re a society incapable of treating women with respect because she is most often seen either as an object or as property and therefore is subject to the whims and fancies of a patriarchal society (I must clarify that when I throw brickbats at patriarchal society, I hold women to be equally culpable as men since they too subscribe to the same ideas and propagate such ideas with equal zeal) wherein she has no rights or agency over her bod or her will. If she does enjoy either, she’s an anomaly, constantly locked in battle against societal distaste. It scares me to suggest that if anything needs policing, it’s the household, but that is not only unachievable, it is also undesirable. The initiative to change circumstances within the household therefore must come from within. Intervention (state or social) therefore should at least attempt to create and popularize such initiative wherein parents and family stop treating girls as second tier members of the family.
Rape is one form of misogyny (think dowry death and honour killing as equally horrifying crimes against women that enjoy social currency), and unless we treat the disease instead of merely treating the symptom, rape is going to reoccur. No amount of protest, or candle light vigil is going to change that reality.
We are all screaming for the blood of the perperators who have been accused in the recent gangrape case. Statuses abound advocating castration (yes, even my own) and harsh punishments for the animals who engaged in it. However, I personally believe that these will not serve. On their own, such measures have little effect and sound more like retribution than solutions. However idealistic it may sound, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth doesn’t really do anything.
To the advocates of violent repurcussion, I ask you: Will castrating the culprits bring her peace? Or will it remove the scars (mental and physical) from her life? Will it even prevent the next rape I wonder?
Since time immemorial, rape has been happening on a regular basis. Whenever a marauding army paid a visit to the local neighborhood, there was rape, murder, looting and arson. It was almost a way of life. But that was then. Then, when people believed that Kings had a divine right to rule, that the Gods inflicted disease as a punishment and that women existed only to bear children. In todays modern age, with the advent of knowledge and reason, humainism and the Reneissance, etc. we know that there are no kings and we know diseases are caused by everything BUT the Gods. Yet, at least in India, we still think that women exist only to bear children.
You of the cities, of the Delhis and Mumbais might raise your voices in indignant protest. You might even call me prejudiced and ignorant, yet you cannot deny that Delhi has a sex-ratio of 816:1000; that even today the rates of female infanticide and foeticide remain extremely high as evinced by the fact that the sex-ratios in the BIMARU states remain suspiciously low. The Government pumps billions of rupees in banner-campaigns advocating the Girl Child, special benefits to female scholars etc. BECAUSE women yet remain the weaker sex. How sad is it that the Government has to REMIND people NOT to kill their own child? It’s pathetic. It’s funny. It’s sad.
More than tackling the problem symptomatically, why don’t we look into the ROOT CAUSE of rape? Rape is just the most extreme expression of the feelings towards women in Indian society. Sadly, often it is women themselves who propagate this inequality (for reference just take the last mother-in-law who burnt/killed/maimed her daughter-in-law for dowry). That aside, why don’t we look into practices like dowry or honour-killing? Even today, girls are discouraged from praticing certain professions (the sex-ratio in Mechanical Engineering in my college was 120:1) and outrightly ridiculed for aspiring to others (“What? You want to be an airline pilot? That’s no place for women!”). Even today, the army combat corps doesn’t allow women. Sad as this is, most of the world has outgrown their medieval attitude towards women. But India? Land of the Mother Goddess. Land of ‘Vande Mataram’ and ‘Bharat Mataa’, women are respected only in the role of a Mother or a Sister, a Daughter or a Wife. All of these roles (as evinced in the shining jewel of Indian Culture called ‘Bollywood’) are legitimized only if there is a male member lending some gravity to it. But I digress, let’s come to the issue at hand.
When we want punishment for the rapists:
Why do we not think to punish the acid-tongued ‘auntyjis’ who make disparaging remarks on girls who return late from office?
Why doesn’t the ‘liberal youth’ think to oppose their parents demands for a same-caste marriage?
Why do we continue to encourage segregation and separation of the sexes in our society?
Can even a 21 year-old office going youth discuss sex and marriage with his/her parents?
What about the Khap Panchayats and their rulings? Have they been outlawed/disbanded/punished?
What about the ‘bastis’ right in the heart of Delhi, our capital, that have a strict curfew for girls in their village?
Has the government taken steps to discourage/warn the several colleges across India that have imposed strict dress-codes for female students?
Conservatism is not a particular set of beliefs. It is an ATTITUDE. When one refuses to question, when one refuse to reason and when we cannot debate or discuss; when one has ABSOLUTES and rigid adherences, that is when one becomes conservatives. Be it the VHP, the Khap Panchayats or the Taliban, they have NO RIGHT to force you to do anything as long as you abide by the law. Yet, they have more power than the legal guardians! Moral police trump the real police everytime! Our conservatives write our history books, they uphold our ‘national culture’ and they guard our ‘morals’. Why can’t they guard our women?
I can give numerous examples of this conservative attitude prevailing in India, please understand that I’m not targeting any religion per se, merely giving examples of human-rights violations and violations of Free Speech:
Death threats to the life of Salman Rushdie, one of India’s most eminent authors. Our government was powerless to protect him. It could not even guarantee the safety of an INTERNET BROADCAST!
When it became known that J.K Rowlings new novel, ‘The Casual Vacancy’ contained a Sikh character, the concerned (and self-appointed) representative body was quick to caution: “Beware, if it shows the character in a derogatory light, we shall have the book banned in India”. Isn’t this oppression? Do the Russians ban the old James Bond films? What of our national pride when Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was filmed? One of our most vaunted actors was feted and honoured by ‘Bollywood’ for acting in a Hollywood film, despite the fact that it portrayed the people of our country as cannibalistic tribals!
Why were two girls arrested and questioned for writing something against Bal Thackeray? Or why was that Professor who made a cartoon mocking Mamata Bannerjee beaten half to death? Where are THOSE culprits?
Why are we so afraid to QUESTION? Why must FORCE always prevail over REASON? Why is it “like that only”?
Why are item numbers allowed, yet tasteful scenes of sensuality cut from our films by the Censor Board?
Why do we even HAVE a Censor Board! :O In a democracy!
The problem is, we cannot MAKE the change. We can only BE the change. Promoting conservative value-systems in the name of ‘Indian culture’ and stigmatizing sex and sexuality, we are contributing to the rot. And it’s not just rape, conservatism extends to everything, even ideas, Personally, I’ve met few people who were truly liberal. Most people do not even brook discussion on some things. It is this close-minded eye-shut-ear-shut attitude that has caused this decay.
I’ve said this before and will say this again, until we can weed out the root cause, we can never hope to eradicate rape. Measures such as punishment, vigilance and so on will only serve to control or prevent rape. What we need to castrate is our ATTITUDE.
We, as a society, don’t know how to react to rape. By using the pronoun ‘we’ I am holding our society to be at fault collectively, not a single man, woman or child spared. Through the last two days we’ve heard of outpourings of anger, of outrage, of demands for severe punishments, so much so that we’ve begun to bray for blood. Considering that usually rape is treated rather casually, we feel that change is right around the neighbourhood corner simply because there seems to be a lot of noise about change. However, this is like using band-aid where you need a tourniquet.
Look inward into home, India. Unless we’re able to reorient our thoughts in a manner that ingrains respect for women, not only will we continue living in a rape society, we’ll also breed rapists, molesters, eve-teasers in our own homes. Rape has now stopped being about sick people performing sick deeds, it’s a social malaise where men rape because they can. They can rape because they can get away with it. And they can get away with it because society will justify their rape by blaming the victim or the circumstance.
Following are a few links readers will find interesting:
Hollaback is all about making noise about what’s wrong. Making these ideas resonate is effective only in a manner of spreading awareness, but that awareness must lead to change. Laying siege on the Rashtrapati Bhawan is symbolic, it is touching, it is rousing. Demanding the death penalty may please some anguished corner of your heart which may balk at the idea of capital punishment, but may agree simply because you want to see punishment of the highest order, but most importantly, make some noise at home. Change the way we think, act responsibly.
We’ve got your back.
My house maid is facing a problem. She is working in a house where there are four bachelor guys are staying. The problem is that one of the guys, purposely is very skimpily dressed when she is around (mostly in his underwear). He also hase exposed himself to her as though it was accidental. She does not know how to handle this. Any suggestions pls..
My girlfriend is being called again and again from unknown numbers. She tried to block all numbers but the guy keeps calling from other new numbers. What should we do? The guy knows where she stays. So, I am quite worried about her as I stay far from her I cant do anything. Suggest something.