Why Can’t I Walk Alone?

Stigma thy name is woman

By Poonam I Kaushish

What is moral? And what constitutes morality? Do one’s morals end where another’s nose begins? Sizzling questions which have stripped India of all open-mindedness, equilibrium and tolerance to expose the Ugly Inhuman Indian Male.
Else, how could we allow women to be stalked, pawed and molested by a few drunk men at a street party on Bengaluru famous MG Road on New Year’s Eve. Why? For “violating traditional Indian norms”. But this is not the end of their ordeal. Nobody tried to stop the inebriated men who chased the women, some of them breaking down on camera.
More followed. In another incident the same night two men brutally attacked a woman going home and tried to grope her breasts. The cause? She was walking alone. Sic. Worse, a group of people watching this refused to intervene. Ditto, a case in the national Capital.
The anger and indignation coursing through the streets of India is palpable but their plaintive cries for justice boomerang as our netas ensconced in their fortified houses care only for themselves. And as far as the law is concerned: who cares?
Shockingly, instead of being apologetic and ensuring that cities are safe for the fairer sex, Karnataka’s Home Minister blamed “western culture” averring “these things do happen”. Really? Added another, “The more skin women show it is like if there’s gasoline, there will be fire. If there’s spilt sugar, ants will gravitate towards it for sure.” Disgusting, to say the least.
Raising a moot point: Is walking alone on the streets a crime? Can men act as the guardians of a woman’s morality? What makes them think that they have the right to define Indian culture or to determine what is morally right or wrong? Are women inferior and why can’t they go to a pub and drink?
Shouldn’t our leaders stop preaching: “Girls should not wear jeans and exposing clothes, it is against our desi sabhyata. They have no business to be driving around at 2 am in the morning.” What about strengthening our policing laws and ensuring criminals will not be spared? Justice which would deter men to think thousand times before they commit a beastly crime? But first they have to acknowledge that the country is unsafe.
In an era when political image is branded like detergents, our netas completely disregard the fact that they have failed miserably in making our cities safe for its people. Crimes against women have more than doubled over the past ten years, according to the National Crime Records Bureau’s latest data.
As many as 2.24 million crimes against women were reported over the past decade: 26 crimes every hour or one complaint every two minutes. There were over 470,556 molestation cases, 315,074 kidnappings followed by rape 243,051, insult to modesty 104,151, dowry death 80,833 and 66% women experienced sexual harassment between two and five times during 2015.
Alas, three years after the infamous Nirbhaya case where a 23-year-old medical intern was brutally gang raped by five men and left naked on a Delhi street nothing has changed. Women are stalked, teased and grabbed from behind as men are getting more violent. And when a man sees a courageous girl he gets more aggressive to show he is macho and has ‘power’. Think. Four rapes occur every minute.
Turn to any mohalla, city, or State the story is the same. Women and girls continue to be sold as chattels, married off as young as 10, burned alive as a result of dowry-related disputes and exploited and abused as domestic slaves. From molestation, rape and bride burning. All trapped with bullet-proof precision. A jungle raj. And we call ourselves a civilised society!
Sadly, such is the state of affairs we are immune to women being snatched off the streets and gang raped in moving cars. In a survey conducted by a London firm of 150 safe cities, New Delhi and Mumbai are ranked 139 and 126 at the bottom of the heap.
Last year’s police records show rape registered a 9.2% rise over 2014 of which more than half (54.7%) of the victims were aged between 18 and 30 and Delhi accounted for over 17% of the total number of rape cases. Abductions of were up 19.4%, torture by 5.4%, molestation by 5.8% and trafficking by an alarming 122%.
Add to this, the police too are rooted in the same moribund mindset. Remember how Southern star Khushboo was hounded and faced lawsuits over her remarks on pre-marital sex. Wherein she said no educated man should expect his bride to be a virgin and young people who had premarital sex should use condoms. She was labeled an ‘anti-social’ and her remarks interpreted as an attack on the integrity of all Tamil women.
This is not all. Female foetuses are aborted and baby girls killed after birth, leading to an appallingly skewed sex ratio. Many of those who survive face discrimination, prejudice, violence and neglect all their lives, as single or married women. Over two million girls go missing in a given year and are sold to the highest brothel bidder .
More scandalous, mum was the word when three teenage girls were found hanging from a tree in a village in Madhya Pradesh after they were raped. In UP’s Baghpat, women were banned from carrying mobile phones, choosing their own husbands, leaving the house unaccompanied or with their heads uncovered. A repetitive story courses through the length and breadth of India of disintegrating public governance when it comes to women.
One of the greatest tragedies is that women are on their own vis-a-vis their safety. There is currently no special law against sexual assault or harassment and only vaginal penetration counts as rape. Those who molest a woman would be booked for “insulting or outraging the modesty of a woman” or “intruding upon her privacy”. The maximum punishment is a year’s imprisonment, or a fine, or both.
Ironically, all this in a country which has many distinguished women. Starting with Prime Minister Indira Gandhi who earned the acronym ‘the only man in the Cabinet!’ President Pratibha Patel, tennis star Sania Mirza, badminton topper Saina Nehwal, wrestler Geeta Phogat, dancer Sonal Mansingh, Yamini Krishnamurthy etc
What next? If our netagan are keen to improve the lot of women there are any number of issues they could address. They could start with fighting female foeticide, dowry death, rape, domestic violence, kidnapping of girls for forced prostitution etc.
Our education system needs to emphasise the importance of gender equality and eradicate the sick male mindset. A girl’s dress, time and place should not determine her safety. We need to change our approach to sexual harassment. Another option is radical feminism to make a social impact.
Tough times call for tough action. A revolutionary change is needed. The Constitution has given equal rights to women. Merely mouthing platitudes of freedom will no longer work. By remaining silent spectators we are only encouraging rowdyism and its practioners to get away.
The strength of democracy and the quality of life enjoyed by the fairer sex is largely determined by the ability of the police to discharge its duties honourably and independently. Will women continue to constitute the weaker gender? Continue to rot at the hands of lecherous drunk men? A time to introspect — Apradhikaran akhir kab tak? —– INFA

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