An all-girls seminar, it began with two female PSI officers mentioning the varied IPC sections concerned with gender-based violence, specifically eve teasing and rape. Seemingly uncomfortable to this new role of lecturing, they tried hard to explain with case scenarios as to how and where the mentioned section can be used. As soon as they came towards Section 376 of rape, their approach disturbed me.
One of the officers said, “Girls need to be careful as to who they go out with and talk to. Your actions shouldn’t be such which gives the guy positive signs. When guys ask you to meet, girls agree. They go out for coffee with them, go on long drives sitting in their cars without informing the parents. One never knows what a man has in mind. You should not give them a chance (to rape).”
The other officer added, “Sometimes girls are also ready to do everything with their boyfriends but when their parents find out, they blame it all on the guys. Rape doesn’t happen by random strangers you see, nobody picks you up and rapes you. You, yourself agree to go out with them in the first place. If girls take precaution, why would such a thing happen to them?”
“What nonsense!” I said to a friend beside me who was equally appalled and disgusted. I couldn’t help but raise my hand to speak. “I think there is a logical flaw in here,” I said. “How would I know that the guy who is in my college asking me out for a coffee, will rape me someday? People go out on long drives with friends, how am I supposed to know these are the same people who will rape me? And how is that anyway my fault?” I said with all my anxiety stuttering.
“We didn’t say it’s your fault but there are certain precautions which girls need to take to keep themselves safe. Gang rapes happen by people who are your acquaintances. Isn’t it better to be safe?” replied the officer. Absolutely disgusted by now, my friend stood up and questioned, “Why do girls need to take precaution? Why aren’t boys counselled on not to abuse us? Why aren’t our parents counselled to have a relationship with us where we don’t need to lie to them to go out with a boy.”
Trying to calm down the atmosphere they agreed to the men and parents seminar part. Even so, the entire seminar continued to have the ‘be careful’ approach. Another speaker in her presentation explained how modern fashion is a cause of eve teasing. “Eve teasing happens no matter what your clothes are. But if you wear indecent clothes, you are more prone to it. So it is better to wear decent clothes,” she said.
Acknowledging our concerns she added, “You know we live in a society controlled by patriarchy. We have to ensure our own safety. It is better to be safe than sorry.Women are precious. And people only come behind precious things. We keep precious things safe, don’t we? Also, we cannot change the person in front of us but we can change ourselves. I hope that we take precautions well enough that we never face a situation to use these laws,” concluded the organiser who happens to be a principal.
First things first, rape and eve teasing are forms of sexual violence. They are violation of human rights. It is not a ‘chance’ that I give to somebody. Absolutely zero benefit of doubt! My acceptance to go on a long drive with you is not a consent for sexual advancement, neither is my feeble no a yes, nor is my short dress an invitation for lewd remarks. These are not chances, but my choices.
The problem with this ‘be careful’ attitude is instead of support and care we end up further victimising the girl or the victim. When we should be focusing on how the guy alone is responsible for rape, we justify his act giving these silly causes. And instead of making men understand and recognize rape or sexual abuse, we end up portraying them as the villains in these ‘precaution of rape’ seminars. So of course girls need to stay away from men. We can’t change them right? Because duh patriarchy, and I have no clue about feminism. Pcch. We are already sub-ordinate, oops, I mean precious. What’s wrong in another golden cage? It’s anyway for our safety.
Like mentioned above, it’s not an argument against individuals. It is against the mindset. This approach is harmful because it doesn’t encourage women to cry out rape or eve teasing because one it instills the fear of being judged for the clothes and what time she was out and with whom at that. Two, someone might actually believe that this violence is their fault.
It also leaves men out, not recognizing the possibility that they too can be raped. That’s why we need feminism because it gives the right approach. It is inclusive of men and women and fights to break down the entire structure of patriarchy and gender roles which are the reasons behind all gender-based violence. It also makes it clear why in most cases, women are the victims and men, the abusers. And as to why sexist rules are superficial and not solution but a justification of rape.
Lastly, I feel this entire lecturing of being safe, taking precaution somewhere highlights that rape is the end of life. And I, in every way possible, have to keep myself away from it. This is utter nonsense. It is not my fault, and is surely is not the end of my life. Such approach of eve-teasing seminars is also insensitive to rape survivors and is not encouraging and appreciating of their journeys. My honour is not in my vagina. Stop making it look like that!