Growing up as a woman in a middle-class family in the suburban regions of the country is never an easy ride. I find myself dejected as I look upon my male counterparts getting to enjoy the simple joys of life which are snatched away from me because of my ‘female’ anatomy. I have always wondered how it would be to sit in the moist sand on the beach watching the gigantic waves hitting the rocks under the full moon sky. I want to roam around the streets enjoying the variegated moods of dusk or perhaps walk back home after a dinner or a late night show without worrying about the needles of the clock. I want to wear the clothes of my choice and walk down the road without those bloodshot eyes scrutinising my skin. I want to be among the crowd like we have during the great Pooram without worrying about my body. My female body is but a liability to my secret dreams and I confess at times I wish I was born a man. The wishes may seem to be the wanton desires of a woman for some and I can only let out a sigh.
My greatest wish is to pass each day without being a prey to sexual perverts as I commute to and fro. It is a prayer more than a wish for me and for many women who travel thus. Even the sacred sanctuaries to which we belong prove to be insecure for women regardless of their age. Out in the streets, a woman passes through the scrutinising gaze of those men screening through our outfits. In public transport, she tries to squeeze towards the safest corner away from groping hands and tumescent pants. Out in the streets, she walks away from lascivious comments pretending to have not heard them. She cannot choose the easiest subways if she doesn’t wish to make an encounter with the ‘show-men’. Nothing is more agonising than the censure made against women for being the ‘victim’. She is found downright culpable for her dress, for travelling at ‘that’ time at ‘that’ place or with ‘that’ person. She may be further charged for her past and present behaviour and the real culprit is not only saved but is justified. It doesn’t matter who the girl is, no man possesses the right to touch her without her consent. Her background simply does not give anyone license to molest her.
Kochi became witness to mass protests for the right to kiss in public while the moralists clamoured against the loss of values. I do not wish to take any sides but I wonder whether we don’t have other burning issues at stake? Besides, the so-called moralists who would dissent making a hue and cry if they come across someone in the act of love-making might also ironically be those people who do not make any move if a woman is abused in public. Such is the hypocrisy of the modern day moralists. Some months back I was travelling in a private bus in the city. I faced this unfortunate incident wherein I was harassed by a man. I gathered some courage and slapped him but he skedaddled and jumped out of the bus. What felt worse to me was the excruciating silence in the bus as this drama went on. Not even the elderly women or men said a word; neither did the driver nor the conductor.
Harassment in public has become a matter of daily occurrence and is much tolerated as if the only resolution for a woman is to be on the vigil and be her own protector because the society sees the woman as both the ‘victim’ and the causative agent. Of course, a great deal of news of unfortunate rape events finds space in print and television media and it gets followed up by garrulous discussions and debates proceeding to protests, candle light marches, angry posts on social media and then it all dies out until we find the next prey.
Has anything changed? What should be done? Shouldn’t it begin right in the families? Do we teach our children it is rude to stare? Do we teach them how to treat and respect women? Education in the schools is not just about making a batch with complete A+ holders; they should envisage the upbringing of citizens who have civic sense, who are polite and respectful to fellow beings. Let them teach boys to respect women than merely teaching young girls dos and don’ts. They should know what is consensual and what is not. Furthermore, had there been strict rules, immediate trials and punishments, even out of fear the crime rates could have been curbed. Still, money and political lineage favours a criminal and women endure a double stabbing. Not to mention that there are Indians who support anti-female infanticide.
I can only say that if the nation cannot protect its daughters, it does not make much sense. I can only console myself that I fare better than many women who are denied their fundamental rights and are treated as mere slaves and pleasure toys for men in many parts of the country and in quite a few countries. Even the blood stains are considered impure enough to deny her the right to worship. Menstrual blood is a sign of fertility; she bleeds for the whole of humankind. Men and women are made to complement each other and never to suppress one another for no slave has ever loved his master. Even if this article finds space in the public domain, I am agitated as I realise that it may be part of tomorrow’s forgotten history. All I can hope and pray for is that when tomorrow falls, I shall not be the prey.
Featured image for representation only. Credit: Horia Varlan/Flickr.