Why do I feel unsafe in my own city? Why do they refer to it as ‘the rape capital’? Why am I always asked to be cautious, alert and aware? I too have been called names on the street. I too have been touched inappropriately in public settings. I too have, just like numerous other women, been prey to sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is bullying or coercion of a sexual nature which can be both, of a physical or a verbal nature. The infamous Nirbhaya gang rape broke out back in 2012 when I was in 12th grade.
Naturally, I had to attend tuitions which sometimes involved me coming back late. Every day, for the next ten days that followed, I felt a certain sense of anxiety and panic within myself. I couldn’t wait to rush home, to be back under the safety of my roof. The names Priyadarshini Mattu, Bhanwari Devi and Aruna Shanbaug still give me goosebumps.
Why should I feel unsafe and why is ‘women safety’ treated as special? Why doesn’t it fall under safety in general? Ideally, if things go as they should, shouldn’t women’s rights align with human rights in general?
The patriarchal construct within our society is perhaps the biggest demon behind this inherent misogyny which stems from the creation of gender-based inequalities which BOTH men and women help propagate.
The need of the hour is to make the world a safer place for women. This has two approaches to it. The first approach seems more ‘practical’.On the face of it, women must be alert at all times. They can learn to defend themselves physically by either learning self-defense or carrying articles that can be used as weapons, such as a pepper spray if need be. The government can take measures to aid women who have faced abuse along with tightening security. Various apps and forums have been introduced which enable women to share their personal experiences. Other apps include device tracking and SOS, which can prove to be beneficial.
The other approach is a time-consuming and long-term one. Society must be cleansed from within by gender sensitisation. A feminist way of life must be adopted in the sense that everyone must be treated equally. Feminism is often confused with misandry, which is not what its essence is all about. Men should be taught to respect women – and women, to stand up for themselves. Instead of asking your girls not to step out, ask your boys not to rape. Awareness and self-reliance can come only through education, in which the parents must invest. For that to happen, we need to realise that girls are as much an asset to the family as boys are. Once we do overcome this menace, there would be no one attacking a girl walking alone on the street. No one would ask her how much she charges for a night. No one would hurl acid at her face if she refused their advances. No one would light her on fire for insufficient dowry. No one would ask her to deal with it and ‘take things as they are’.