Slut Walk Delhi!

Image taken from www.youthkiawaaz.com

The Slut Walk was first held this year in Toronto. It was born as an outraged reaction to the comment made by a police officer that, “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.”

The mass response and support that has been exhibit for the Slut Walk worldwide has been stupendous and now, Umang Sabherwal has brought Slut Walk to Delhi.

No girl in Delhi is a stranger to comments such as the one quoted above. In fact, our very own Chief Minister, Ms. Sheila Dixit has been known to make rather demeaning comments about women’s conduct determining their safety in the city. The most repulsive remark came after the murder of journalist Soumya Vishwanath when the CM said, ‘one should not be adventurous.’

Harassment is a daily feature in Delhi, so common in fact that it becomes second nature to ignore such misconduct simply because of its frequency. Due to the ‘rape culture’ that persists in India, safety has become a privilege and is no longer an inherent right.

In a country where the other half doesn’t even have basic rights, education, amenities etc, the Slut Walk comes as a primarily urban social movement, but it comes as harbinger of change and as a reflection of the readiness for change that some spaces in Indian cities seem to be showing. In the course of the Slut Walks women all over the world have taken to the streets wearing skimpy clothing to drive home the point that a way a woman dresses or behaves is not an invitation for molestation or rape.

If one takes a step back and looks at the bigger picture, Slut Walks reflect the assertion of a woman’s right to her body. It is a protest against the objectification of the woman’s body, of using ‘promiscuity’ on the part of a woman as an excuse for low-lives who impose themselves on others. It deals with the society’s apathetic view towards a woman’s right to live in the way she sees fit and the culpability of the society in allowing such social malaise to flourish!

The only criticism that can be levelled against Slut Walk has faced is the name of the walk. Indeed it is problematic because the term ‘slut’ itself is a repository of discriminatory ideas about a woman’s sexual activities. The word ‘slut’ is not ideal, especially when used as a term of self reference by women world over fighting for recognition of the fact that sexual liberation is a right, it is normal and it has no relation to an individual’s integrity. Popularizing the term slut would mean normalizing a word that reflects centuries of prejudice against a woman’s right to do with her body as she pleases, in any manner that she pleases.

In the case of Delhi, the walk has now been named Besharmi Morcha. But as in the case of Slut Walk, such terminology falls into the societal trap of labelling certain behaviour patterns as ‘slutty’ or ‘besharm’ and then seeks to normalize it. Hollaback Delhi hopes that the heartening reaction and popular support for the movement shows that a widespread engagement with events and concepts such as Slut Walks will encourage people to investigate the meanings and dimensions of such gendered and discriminatory terms that colour our perspectives. The first step to liberation should be the knowledge that words such as ‘slut’, ‘whore’, ‘slag’ etc should be made obsolete, because the more they fall into popular usage, the more damaging they are.

Delhi needed a wake up call to street harassment and in response the Slut Walk has arrived. We at Delhi Hollaback, wholeheartedly support the purpose of this endeavour that a woman’s clothing or behaviour does not excuse sexual misconduct by men and encourages participants and observers to pursue the issue of nomenclature and definition that have the ability to demean one entire half of the world’s population due to the patriarchal nature of society.

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