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Today, I was followed by an Innova that had an orange flag on it – the one with a lotus embossed on all that orange. Yup, that’s right – the one that’s recently all over the place.
My regular walk from the metro station to work – in broad daylight. They stopped the car right next to me while I was walking past one of the many hotel entrances in this area. I heard them talk among themselves and laugh about something and it seemed strange, but then I assumed they stopped to get down at the hotel and so I walked on, unsuspecting. As I walked ahead, the car appeared suddenly and slowly trailed by my side. I was on the phone – I looked towards them – maybe they needed directions to some place, yes? Nope. They checked me out from top to bottom and then said something to each other in a language I didn’t quite comprehend. (Hey! Stop thinking about what I was wearing – Its 9 degrees and I’m walking to work – OF COURSE I’m ‘appropriately dressed’ and of course I’m ‘covered’ from head to toe. Seriously, shame on anyone that even bothered to think about that at this (or any) point.)Then the guy at the passenger seat said something to me, again in a language I didn’t understand. But that’s the thing – you don’t need to understand the language because the tone and those disgusting eyes (AND the body language) are more than enough. He implied for me to get into the car while the guy driving continued staring at me. I glared at them and at once reached in my bag for my pepper spray- the pepper spray I’ve been warned to carry if I want to be safe, time and again. They murmured something more, looked me up and down, once again, and drove away. It didn’t end just right there – as they drove away, the same guy strained his neck as much as is humanly possible to continue looking at me. With my half efficient vision, I tried to memorize the car number. But I still can’t be sure. Can’t forget those eyes, though. And the stares that came with them.
No, this isn’t any different from the regular street harassment we face on a daily basis. In fact, maybe, I “got lucky”. It “could’ve been worse”. This is what so many women face everyday, everyhwere. Most women have it worse than I do – so no, it isn’t that different and it isn’t an extraordinary incident. I should, maybe, “deal with it”. Except, to me, it is extraordinary. To me, it matters. And for me, this incident was slightly different from the rest of the times I’ve been harassed on the streets – in my eyes, these were state approved goons. That orange flag swayed, in all its glory, as the car drove away while I stood there defeated, once again, in more ways than one. ·
‘Why would this girl lie? After all she is taking the blame on herself’, said the police officer to the criminal infront of me.
SPEAK UP DELHI
It was a Saturday afternoon I had lunch with a friend in Gurgaon before I decided to head home. The metro for those who do not take it or belong to Delhi can get crowded and air tight to an extend that the Tupperware guys could take inspiration. I luckily managed to find a seat till Rajiv Chowk metro station (Connaught Place) where I had to change my train. The doors opened… Btw I was in a regular and not the women’s only coach – why is this little detail important for this post? Well the answer lies ahead.
So where were we? Yes, the doors opened and people began to flood in. I tried to push and nudge my way out but no luck. With a huge sigh I decided to get off at the next station – New Delhi. As I positioned myself close to the exit door I felt a sense of unease run through my body, like someone has pierced their gaze on me or someone is watching me. Suddenly I felt something touch me from behind. With half my mind on trying to get off at the next station I turned thinking it was someone’s bag or hand touching me repeatedly. I turned to see a man in a white kurta (long shirt) staring right at me and he had no baggage with him. In fact both his hands were clenching the railing next to him. But if both his hands were up there what was it that… I got my answer as soon as I lowered my sight. There beneath that long shirt I could clearly see that this man was UNZIPPED. I felt the blood rush to my head, boiling and fuming and fury ran through every nerve in my body.
Within that fraction of a second every single eve teasing incident, every darn face of those guys who had the guts to molest someone I know flashed in my mind. Before I knew my voice escaped my lungs and there I was screaming at the man who dared to mess with me.
‘KYA problem hai?’ (What is your problem?)
‘Kya samjh rakha hai saale?’ (What the hell do you think?)
‘Himmat kaise huyi teri?’ (How dare you?)
These were some of the things I uttered looking right into his eyes. He was startled and started blabbering that he is sorry and insisted that it was his hand that touched me by mistake. Your ‘HAND’ that comes out from your pants? How the hell was your zip open? I was screaming in a coach full of men and women. Did anyone come forward to help or even displayed basic courtesy to ask me what was wrong? The answer was a big unsurprising NO. I turned and spotted two men in fact smirking at me. Their silence tried my patience and ALL HELL BROKE LOOSE.
I held that (namesake) man’s collar and dragged him out of the train. He was on a loop mode ‘It was my hand, it was a crowded train’. The moment we set foot at the platform he managed to escape. I ran, with all the strength and courage in me, I ran after him making as much noise as I could. A few saw (the tamasha), the others gasped while one man in the uniform began to chase him. I went towards the other side and we managed to get hold of him. I yelled again How dare you? How did you dare to touch me? People like you make Delhi a nightmare for girls? You make us question every time before we step a foot outside. HOW DARE YOU?
People watched the guards dragging a man to the control room and a girl screaming at him. They only watched.
As we took him to the control room he told the police that I am mistaken, it was his hand that touched me by mistake and it could happen to anyone because it was a crowded train. “Ask her… it was my hand”, he said. 15 guards, all men turned towards me as he tried to shame me. But if he had the guts to do it I had the spine to say it. You see anger brings out the strength you never thought you had in you but in my case anger brought out a language I never thought I could use. I was outright and I had all the right to be – “Lift up that kurta and you will know exactly what touched me”. There. I said it out loud and clear. The guards felt outraged and charged at him. Within seconds he begged for an apology and suddenly the hand in question transformed into a part of his body he wished he never had. “Why would this girl lie? After all she is taking the blame on herself”, said the police officer to the criminal infront of me. He committed the crime, I raised my voice and yet somehow the shame was on me. That statement reflected the thought process of our society, in fact it said much more. I argued with the officer and told the man in question that I have lost NOTHING in this entire episode and in fact I will make him pay for this. He immediately begged for an apology and I instead, insisted to file an FIR. After a few calls, 5 friends of mine reached the station to back me up and how? They were equally angered and showed no mercy.
We moved to Kashmere Gate police station and I slapped a sexual molestation case against him. He was arrested and put behind bars immediately. I decided to not let this one go and appeared at the court on Monday to record my statement in front of the magistrate. Meanwhile this man has been moved to Tihar jail and will spend his time behind the bars until he gets bail.
You see there are several measures being taken to make our public spots and transport safe. Someone asked me as to why I did not take the women’s only coach? But honestly that’s not a solution. These reservations in fact paint the idea that it is not ok or safe for women to be in public spaces. It’s debatable, I know but are reservations really improving the situation? Then what would?
I think the answer lies within us. Unless women put forward that is not OKAY for someone to touch and get away with it, nothing will change.
I could just bite the bullet and accept that I was eve teased or molested. Or I can raise my voice and instil the fear in the criminal instead of victimising myself. If this man has the guts to unzip in a metro full of people, he probably started off by doing something less offensive to another girl. Her silence was his encouragement. Remember every time you choose to ignore or walk away, you put someone else in danger.
So I urge women to respect their body and know that it’s okay for you to say that someone touched you without your consent and you have to muster the courage to reach out to the police. I insist please for the sake of womanhood – SPEAK UP!
Felt vulnerable being a woman for the first time today in Gurgaon! As I took an auto for work this morning, the auto driver increased the music and wouldn’t turn it down. Soon enough an SUV slowed down next to the auto with three guys in the car looking me up to down and communicating with the auto guy through sign language. When I finally warned the auto guy of calling the police and dialled the number, did he speed up! Shame is all I can say! Pity that because of a few bastards around women in India can’t live in their own country peacefully knowing that they will be safe the next moment
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.