Walking down the streets of Delhi, I am aware of the stares of people. It is not even dark outside, but I am still in a hurry to reach the safety of my home. I happen to look up, and even though I am wearing a full-sleeved kurti, I can see the man standing on the road side undressing me with his eyes. I shudder and walk faster.
I keep asking only one thing to myself all the time.
Is being a woman, crime, in this country?
Why do I not feel safe anywhere, or at any time? Is it because I am a woman? Does being a woman eternally damn me to being stared at, eve teased, or even raped? Yes, I am raped. Every single day, by someone or the other. No, not physically. But through the eyes of those people who think just because I am a woman and I am walking on the street, it gives them the right to stare at me in such a disgusting way that it shakes my very soul.
I know rape is not a light issue. Women who undergo the ordeal have suffered the most damning blow to their sense of self. But being raped physically is not the only thing that does so. We, as women of India, take a blow every single day to our self-respect; to our soul. The stereotypes which show that women should be taken lightly, that we are mere sex objects, abound. From the portrayal of scantily dressed women seducing men in the media to the seemingly harmless advice of a mother who warns her daughter not to go out with men, we face the inevitable truth of our society.
It is ALWAYS us who are warned to watch ourselves. It is ALWAYS us who have to not go out of the house.
It is ALWAYS us who have to cover ourselves up; otherwise we would be “asking for it”.
If this is so, then I have a question for this society of ours.
Was the 6 year old girl who was locked in a room in her school and raped, dressed provocatively?
Was the 2 year old girl sexually assaulted by a member of her own family “asking for it”? Was the sari-clad old woman doing anything to provoke a man to rape her?
How, then, do you explain these?
My dear people, you CANNOT explain away the rapes taking place every day by saying “it was the fault of the girl”, anymore. You CANNOT blindly keep asking the victim what she wore when she was being raped. You CANNOT hide the decadence plaguing our society and our mental set-up by pinning all the blame on the fairer (or, let me say, un-fairer) sex anymore.
We, as a society, have degraded to such abhorrent levels, it disgusts me even to talk about it. Now, not just adult women, but even young children and old ladies are not safe.
When people have to stage protests to tell that it is not okay to rape and mutilate a woman, then we must realise that we have failed as a society.
We have failed to teach our men that women are not just sex objects, but people too. We have failed to keep our promise to “equalise” and “uplift” their plight. We have failed to protect our women.
I am not pointing a finger at only the men of our society. I am accusing the women too. Those women, who sneer behind the back of another girl wearing a sleeveless top and say that if she gets raped today, it was because of her clothes. And those, too, who think they should not let their daughters or sisters mingle with men lest they should appear wanton, but let the male members of their family socialise with the opposite sex and even talk about it affectionately (ladkiya marti hain mere bhai pe)!!!
THIS is what is wrong. Our mental set up. Years of prejudices and stereotypes have hardwired our brains to be more favourable to the male section of our society (we are a patriarchal society, after all. Barring a few states, that is).
It is high time that we rip out that particular wiring. Instead, we need to cultivate the notion of women as human beings; women are people too, and they crave respect and good treatment just like everyone else. We DESERVE to be respected. Not just by men, but by our fellow women too. We need to be respected for our choices, our lifestyle, our profession and even for just being who we are. We need to stop our women from getting raped every day in various forms.
We cannot deal with rapes until and unless we ourselves change as a society. No amount of patrol cars, laws and restrictions will save our women from the predatory nature of a rapist unless we stop making rapists.
We have reached that point where either all of us need to take a stand for what is right, or do nothing and let our world burn.