Another Day In Paradise?

It was yet another ordinary Friday night in rainy Mangalore when my best friends and I decided to de-stress with a girl’s night out at a nearby restaurant. As expected, we had a great time over awesome food, and soon, it was time to go back. We had gone at a decent time in the evening to come back before 9pm, just to be on the safer side. While on our way back, just near our hostel, we met a strange man, seemingly in a hurry, coming from the opposite direction towards us. We had noticed that the man had followed us all the way from the restaurant to this place and it was not difficult to make out that he was up to something. But before we could even make sense of the situation or defend ourselves, this man went past us and managed to grope my friends and escape. Right on the main street of a city, with a supposedly high number of educated people, three of us were sexually harassed by some unknown creep.

But you come across such stories daily, don’t you? Some of you might have experienced it too. But we have become so numb-maybe because it shames us to talk openly about it or the fear of being shamed by our elders in most cases, who convince us that it might have been our own fault to “invite” such trouble. As though, I, a woman, take a stroll in the city, with an “ASSAULT ME” sign around my neck.

Now I know a lot has been said, written and argued on this topic. Nor am I trying to push the blame on anyone. But hear me out.

Recently, there was a huge incident on the social media which became international when an American tourist who was visiting Mumbai, posted a video of a stranger who masturbated at her in the public. While I laud her effort at speaking about this incident openly and taking the culprit to task by disgracing him publicly for his misbehaviour (best kind of punishment actually), it also brings great shame to us as Indian citizens that such behaviour gets our country labelled as that of “sexual deviants”. Now it’s not like such incidents don’t take place abroad. But what is it in our country which is causing an increase in these crimes by the day? Most of us are raised by our elders under the same tent of values which demand of us to treat every person with dignity. So where are we going wrong?

You may say that with the advent of social media and advancements in mass media as such, people are now more aware about the situation than before. More and more people are slowly getting the courage to step forward and speak about this issue openly through these channels. And I thank and urge everybody involved in this process. But is that it?

Our government has passed  several laws for protection of people, specifically women from such harassment and assault. But legislation alone can’t solve a problem which is sitting right in our homes. In his Independence Day speech last year, when the PM urged every Indian parent to not to tell their daughters what all they shouldn’t do, but to teach their sons how to treat women with dignity, he wasn’t wrong. He subtly pointed out that the problem lies within.

But then again, we have bombastic politicians, aggressive elders and others with their own supposed “patriarchal” ideas about this issue which I would like to argue on –

1) “Women invite troubles on themselves by wearing “provocative” clothes” Provocative clothesFirstly, I would like to tell you, that every time I have faced such incidents, I was properly clothed with no unnecessary exposure which I anyways detest. In fact, our traditional garment which is sari by the way and NOT salwar kameez, exposes more than we ask for. So the notion that a pair of jeans which is totally covering me, can “invite” someone to pounce on me is, ridiculous.

Secondly, we should remember that even girls as young as 3 years of age get brutally assaulted and are left permanently scarred for the rest of their lives. How can you justify this logic to such cases?

Thirdly, men strut around in whatever clothes they like, whichever way they want to wear it (even if it seems indecent) all the time. In times when we are now speaking of equal rights and feminism, shouldn’t we women as well start doing the same to such “provocative” men, if only for humours’ sake?

2) “Women should not go out during night”- women at nightIn that case, I would like to know, what is the ideal time for a woman to go out? Because no matter what hour of the day it is, if I unluckily encounter a pervert and I am unable to dodge him for some reason, I become a victim anyways. And which law in the world prevents woman from going out?

3) “Women who hang out with boys late in night are “loose” and easy prey for such assault”girls lose nightIt is funny when men go out all night for drinking it is called “cool” and “partying” but when women decide to do the same, they become characterless. Now, I am not asking that women should be allowed to do such things- it’s an individual’s personal choice on what they want to do. But at the same time, it is unfair to label such women as “loose” and then take advantage of them. If everyone remembers the Nirbhaya rape case, one of the assaulters actually had the nerve to say that women like her who hang out with men (who was her fiancée by the way and her parents knew where and with whom she was), deserve to be treated in that macabre manner. It’s funny and sad how in our country people choose to ignore or laugh over such statements, and such people and then make a fuss over consensual sex and PDA in the name of violation of “bhartiya Sanskriti”.

4) “Porn stimulates such indecent behaviour and incidents and hence, should be banned”– This statement stems from a very recent controversy when the Indian government had banned (and then revoked) all porn sites for several days after a PIL in the SC apparently by a person who had taken it upon himself to protect the people of this country from the “evils” of pornography and save our culture. I find it really funny because I believe that normal movies influence behaviour more easily than porn. Having been a victim of such assault several times now, I can attest that- YES- pornography influences sexual behaviour (and frankly, it is the (wrong) source of sex “education” to so many youngsters from conservative homes in our country) YES- some of the content is really indecent and unnecessary and can be restricted without encroaching on anyone’s privacy, but NO- porn does NOT stimulate such incidents. It is but a work of perverted minds and wrong upbringing.

5) “Because we are men, we can do it”– This is the lamest excuse I have heard in my entire life. I have been very lucky to have men in the form of family, friends and even teachers, who have inspired me and are not only chivalrous but also, treat me and other women with dignity and as their equal. So it only makes me sad how sometimes, because of the perverted minds, these other men are tainted as well. I am sure even when our society became patriarchal, it was with the thought that the men of the household, who were considered to be physically and mentally strong, would not only protect the young and the vulnerable members but also help in their advancement in the society. But instead, in most households, we see an overtly aggressive son taught to keep his woman under his thumb and a daughter who is married off with a dowry and taught to blindly obey what her husband says. Even in the most literate sections, we have come a long way in teaching our daughters to be independent but we are yet to teach our sons how to treat women with dignity. It only makes me thank my family more and more for treating both me and my brother as equal and teaching us to respect others and each other as individuals.

In conclusion, all I can say is that I hope every Indian patriarch learns that every woman is a human being having same needs and demands as a man, the most basic being dignity and respect in the society. It is not funny when a woman cries every time she is sexually harassed/abused by a man for his “fun”. And I hope every woman learns to speak up about such issues. Don’t hide behind the corner with the fear of getting humiliated. Let justice be delivered.

(The inspiration for this article’s title is Phil Collins’ song, “Another Day In Paradise”)

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