Women feel unsafe: Of petitions, activism and perceptions- March 19, 2012
The atmosphere of festive bonhomie at India Gate yesterday morning could have fooled some, but there was real anger simmering inside for a lot of us who chose to show our support by walking from India Gate to the President’s home Rashtrapati Bhawan to hand over a petition asking for measures to enhance safety for women.’We want women safe’ was what the event called itself….
The most unlikely people have spoken to me these past few days about feeling unsafe in Gurgaon. A girl who works at the beaut parlor across the road left her job after the latest rape that has triggered the spate of protests. Her friend recounted her personal experiences of being teased, heckled, harassed, a male friend who was dropping her home being beaten up, etc. My maid spoke about not being able to take up work on winter evenings as it wasn’t safe to walk or cycle back to her basti; she spoke of relatives being groped, pushed over from their cycles, people in passing cars trying to pull one young girl in…. Amid the outpouring is a scary sense of helplessness…there must be some way to change attitudes!
On Sunday morning, we saw a group of enthusiastic cyclists (some had come in from as far as Noida and civil lines), many walkers and a show of support from the Harley Davidson club; plus kids on skates, a street play, drummers….the works. I wouldn’t say there were a lot of emotional moments, but everyone felt strongly for the cause and proud of being able to do something, release the frustration and angst that was festering inside. Nupur and me clicked some pictures that document the protest march.
Gurgaon rape: To bring change, we need sustained effort beyond immediate anger and protests- March 14, 2012
I try and not rant against the system on this blog, but when you read about rape everyday and then it happens in your backyard, it’s just too much provocation! I took a taxi back from the airport close to midnight yesterday and I was glad for the paternal polite sardarji who was my cabbie, while still wondering about whether appearances can be deceptive. I am not a paranoid person, but when brutal incidents happen everyday, it twists your mind, doesn’t it?
And then, to top it all, the police response is to stop women from working in pubs after eight in the evening. Sure, they caught some of the rapists, but I’m not willing to forgive an attitude that resorts to curtailing the freedom of citizens rather than taking measures to increase the safety of our city.
My first reaction, of course, is how easy it is for society (the authorities are reflecting a larger social attitude) to ask women to behave ‘within limits’. Just like recent incidents in which airline staff asked people with disabilities to deplane, the attitude reeks of a mindset in which women are considered weak, disadvantaged and mostly a problem.
Why can’t we do something to promote (among men and potential rapists and everyone) understanding and tolerance, perhaps by creating common platforms to bring people from diverse backgrounds together? Culture and sports, community building activities like planting trees, cleanliness drives…I don’t know. There must be something we can do to stop the ‘us’ and ‘them’ thinking. Urban vs rural, rich vs poor, modern vs traditional, boys vs girls……as a society, we seem to be losing our balance and lashing out against something. And I am, perhaps naively, convinced that rape, brawls and bad driving are symptoms of a problem, while also being problems in themselves and therefore we need to take a larger view and address the issue at many levels.
Of course, there is a disregard for the law and authority, which needs to be addressed by harsher punishments and better policing. But I cannot believe a rapist thinks he is right or isn’t shit scared when the police actually catch him. Then what makes him do it? What makes him not stop? Its insensitivity, the prioritization of his pleasure over anything else, the importance of ‘I’ and our own and the absence of an inclusive sense of community. If I were to actually know a girl who worked in a bar and see her as a normal person trying to earn a living, would I be less likely to rape her? (For that matter, I don’t happen to know a rapist, so its hard to profile one!)
I don’t know how to think all this through. But I do know that citizens have a right to expect governments to act. The action, however, must be long-term and two-pronged and a diverse range of citizen groups must be involved. Protests should convert to some sort of sustained communication, building of trust and spreading the message that crime against anyone is a crime against yourself, your community, your family, your women……..yourself…..