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What Reactions To Zaira Wasim’s Molestation Charges Tell Us About Our Society

More from Tina Sequeira

Firstly, I am not  going to make any judgments about this particular case as I am waiting for more facts to surface. Secondly, in this particular case, the facts don’t matter to me as much as the backlash that the actress has been receiving ever since she was allegedly molested on a flight. 

Why is it that we (as a society), are so quick to point our fingers at women, first?

We should be pointing fingers towards the accused and not indulge in victim-blaming. 

Instead, we conclude things like:

“Oh, she is an actress who’s pulling a fast one for garnering publicity!”

“I’ve seen her interviews…She can’t be innocent.”


But we, as a society, bestow the crown of innocence and naivety upon the middle aged man. After all, the innocent man was so tired that he needed a foot rest to sleep and let it wander magically on its own all over his front passenger’s neck and back.

We are not ignorant of how our actresses are looked upon in our society. There are numerous instances of actresses being sexually abused by random men who would otherwise pass off as respectable in the eyes of society. Sub-consciously, we have painted the actress Zaira Wasim as a ‘not-so-innocent’ 17-year-old actress, and the accused as an innocent family man.

Again, I am not pronouncing any judgment in this particular case. All I am doing is highlighting the prejudice that women face and how difficult it is to come out in the open and admit in public, that they were molested or faced some kind of sexual abuse.

Why didn’t anyone ask the man if he had Zaira’s consent to put his feet up on her seat’s arm-rest? Why is everyone only questioning Zaira and not the man?

The accused is a senior executive at an entertainment company. Surely, he should have had some sense before putting up his feet like that. Why are people not questioning his education and credentials and only pronouncing character judgments on the actress alone?

When women speak up either at home, at a work space or anywhere else, we have to answer a barrage of questions:

What were you wearing?

What time was it and what were you doing there at that time?

Why did you go out alone?

Why did you wait for so long to admit that this molestation happened?

Are you sure that it´s not your hallucination?

Are these false charges to defame or garner publicity?

Before questioning Zaira Wasim on so many issues regarding the case, why is the man not subjected to the same interrogation by the public?

Does a mere sorry vindicate him for making a fellow passenger’s flight experience horrendous and miserable?

In Zaira’s case, its her prerogative when she chooses to report the incident. So many women report issues of molestation much later after it has happened. In some cases, many years later. Maybe she simply said an okay that she didn’t mean at that moment of apology. And the apology didn’t help her feel any better later. Maybe she wasn’t convinced of his innocence on an after thought. We don’t know for sure. But, why are we putting her under a microscope and examining her true intentions, and letting the man off the hook without such similar character screening?

The backlash that the actress is facing is a classic example of why women don’t report such seemingly trivial cases of harassment in day-to-day lives. Because sadly, it has become commonplace in our society and something that we as women, are expected to simply smile and bear.

There is no point of having online #MeToo campaigns, when we don’t show our support in action. Let the courts make the final decision. Meanwhile, please let women speak up fearlessly about how they truly feel. Let them claim their rightful place in society. Just show her some respect, will you? Not in mere lip or foot service, but in action. 

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  1. tenjit dev Sharma

    I do agree with your view point, we should not make any judgements till the time more facts surface. Every incident should not be seen only with one perspective, but keeping all perspectives in mind. Like people reacted to Zaira Wasim, that she did it for publicity is just a possibility but may not be the truth, likewise media / celebrities / prominent personalities has already called him proven him guilty. WHAT IF, the accusations are false, how would the media, or the people who called him guilty compensate for public humiliation, and ordeal he went through. Always better to look at the same from all perspective, and yes I outrightly disapprove of any backlash being done on Zaira. What we need is justice to be served, whoever is guilty.

  2. scoop_marketer

    Ms Tina, why are you only concerned about the actress? Doesn’t the accused (a man) have a life? WHEN YOU SHAME/ACCUSE someone (even inadvertently, by just trying to put forward your case) without enough proof to corroborate your statement, YOU’ll BE TROLLED. That’s what is happening to Zaira Wasim. Our law gives the right to woman to claim anything under the Sun & it’s left on the accused to use all his might to fight the case, all the way bearing the public burnt, the burnt of media houses & women organisations, even though he’s not found guilty bcoz everyone right from the Bollywood stars (including male stars) to media houses to some tea wala who has nothing else to talk, starts calling him a rapist, uncouth, womanizer. Some even go to the extent of saying that he should be hung or castrated ALL JUST BASED ON THE WORD OF A WOMAN! Putting a foot as such is bad manners (most of us have some bad manners) & definitely not sexual harassment, let alone molestation & that is the only thing that actress has proof of. And, so he should be seen an someone with bad manners & that’s all for now until proven guilty of anything else. But, that doesn’t happen. Once his name, photo & other details are out, he’ll be shamed like anything all over the Internet. He will lose his friends, job, may be even wife. His whole family faces shame, someone may attempt suicide (esp. if they are from village cuz they take dignity very seriously), all this just bcoz a WOMAN said something? Have you even watched the statements made by so-called feminists & woman organisations? They have all jumped the gun too quickly & moved to her side & started calling him names. (I support feminism to the extent that it espouses equality, not when it talks about priority & superiority – Kareena Kapoor said woman are superior! Really!)

    To sum it up, NO LIFE COUNTS FOR LESS. Think as if this has happened to your brother/father/husband & he’s being named by media, Bollywood & public just bcoz some woman said (only said, has no other proof) something, will you still write such posts? And, when women don’t stand up for men in such cases that don’t have enough weight (cuz there’s no proof & probably false cases), they will be very soon losing men who fight for women’s issues.

  3. scoop_marketer

    WHEN YOU SHAME/ACCUSE someone (even inadvertently, by just trying to put forward your case) without enough proof to corroborate your statement, YOU’ll BE TROLLED. That’s what is happening to Zaira Wasim.

    NO LIFE COUNTS FOR LESS. Naming, shaming men is fine & justiciable & when women are trolled, it speaks out the mindset of Indian men, isn’t it? It’s inhuman! Speaks of double standards.

    I dare you not to remove this comment (as you removed my earlier comment) if you’ve got your point right.

  4. scoop_marketer

    WHEN YOU SHAME/ACCUSE someone (even inadvertently, by just trying to put forward your case) without enough proof to corroborate your statement, YOU’ll BE TROLLED. That’s what is happening to Zaira Wasim.

    NO LIFE COUNTS FOR LESS. Naming, shaming men is fine & justiciable & when women are trolled, it speaks out the mindset of Indian men, isn’t it? It’s inhuman! Speaks of double standards.

    I dare you not to remove this comment (as you removed my earlier comment) if you’ve got your point right.

    1. Tina S

      Hi Scoop Marketer! You don´t have to dare me to do anything. This is the only comment that I received from you and I don´t fear criticism. Please get that straight. The article is not just about Zaira Wasim or this man alone. Broaden your focus area …this article talk about how women who face harrassment are trolled and ridiculed. About Zaira Vs the accused, I have no fears and full faith in the Court. The Law will take its own course. Thanks for reading and sharing your views.

  5. Joy Banerjee

    I really want to write a comment so I logged in for the first time in this particular site. I don’t understand patriarchy or feminism. Imagine if a guy was sitting in the place of Zaira Wasim, still the man would have put up his feet there. Surely the man lacks manners, but that is the end of it. If we want an equal society so I am very sorry, a man and a woman have to be treated equally. So yes, Zaira Wasim is playing victim and she is doing a publicity stunt.

    1. Tina S

      Hi Joy! I completely understand your stance..believe me! Lacking manner is one aspect and that is the least that he can be accused of. But what Zaira is clearly stating is that his feet intentionally rubbed her neck and back…that´s the issue here. I am not taking any sides but all I can say is that women get pinched, squeezed and groped in crowded public places..buses, trains, roads. And if they choose to speak up, its hard for them to bear up a witness in their favour. Because the molesters know how to get away unnoticed. The wife´s version and one witness account cannot mean that Zaira is lying for sure. Yes, she should have reacted immediately but how many women actually do…women who are older too. We forget she is 17 years old…and is still immature. She could have handled the issue better…but that comes with age. Again, my focus is not just Zaira Wasim but women not speaking up enough…and on time. And when they do, its not easy at all. Anyway, I hope justice is served irrespective of the gender and may the innocent win. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts. I appreciate that!

    2. malexxavier

      Why should the witness lie???

  6. Anupam Gupta

    Touching a girl unintentionally is not molestation.This girl has ruined the life of a man. And yet there is no law in India by which that man would be able to do a counter case on this b1tch. Such girls should be slapped for throwing tantrums and ruining life of others at their whims.

    1. Tina S

      Hi Anupam! If you go with the wife´s version..yes what you are saying is true. What Zaira clearly stated is intentional touching. I will not take sides and reserve my judgment later. The name calling..whore, bitch, randi, publicity monger is exactly is the focus of my article. What if she is not lying? Women get pinched, squeezed and groped in public places and yet there will not be a single witness because the molester knows how to get away unnoticed and pretend to be ignorant. Again, not all men are bad and not all women are good. I get that…but the least we can to respect women especially if they raise their voice. Because if we start slut shaming before the courts decision, it reflects poorly on us. Could the incident have been handled better…yes…shes 17 year old and there is a sense of maturity lacking that comes with age. But, I cannot deem the man innocent just as yet. That´s my personal take and I respect yours. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  7. Pradeep Singh

    I agree there are a number of prejudice happen in India, but that’s mostly limited to rural areas with uneducated folks. It seems you have certain frustration against men. What if such cases have been put against your dad or brother who is nt given a single chance to prove himself innocent a simply put behind bars..The Zaira case is total fake just a publicity stunt by a highly arrogant rogue actress, who just screwed life of a man just to make more name in Industry.. leave alone business class even in economy class such things doesnt happen that too by a man who had just come from a funeral of his dear one. The guy was frequent traveller n a business executive and definitely he must have been better aware of consequences if such acts.. alsobusiness class seats are quite broad and have good height how can someone touch the front passenger back or neck ? You can’t do this even in economy seats going unnoticed by copassenger.

    1. Pradeep Singh

      This was a simple case where the guy put his leg on the armrest of the lady and she was so furious that her arrogance had plotted to teach him good lesson and she did all this. These filmy women n men do not have good records to get quick fame..

    2. Tina S

      Hi Pradeep! Its a complete myth that women face prejudice only in rural belts and among uneducated folks. I have no frustrations against any men..in fact quite the opposite. Because I was raised in a progressive home where I was free to raise my voice, I speak up. My brothers are feminists and so is my father who raised me with all the freedom in the world. Thanks to my upbringing, I raise my voice where I see injustice. At the end of the day, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. You feel a certain way about this case..thats your take that its completely fake and a publicity stunt. I am not convinced fully of the man´s innocence. Molesters get away unnoticed with their acts of groping even in public places. I have written this article from a female perspective without taking sides, mind you! I clearly stated let the Law take its own course and I trust that justice will be served. All I said is that till the truth comes out, let women speak up especially when there is sexual harassment involved. I will give Zaira the benefit of doubt. That´s my take. Thanks for reading and sharing your opinion.

    3. Monalisa Dey Sarkar

      So now you are the court??? You are examining (?) the evidence, giving verdict, all on your own. Save your judgments and show some respect for the Justice system of India. I’m sure the co-passengers did see whatever had happened there. Now, I have never seen men jumping up to protest when something like this goes on. They laugh and point, maybe take a few pictures. Then when things turn hairy, they turn their faces and go away.

  8. malexxavier

    The problem here is that on the mere words of a woman a man is jailed. Why… can’t or won’t a woman lie. Is this the first time we have seen woman lie? There should be a proper investigation and if the man is found guilty, then he can be punished, not before. Now, by jailing he has been punished. Now, after investigation if it is found that the girl was at fault, will she be punished??? Will she be put in jail??? And more importantly, will he and his family be given the respect and right to dignified life, they are entitled too. Can this Zaira or the state return to them that. When u write all this, there should atleast be a modicum of justice and humanity in your mind. Unfortunately what you and people like you have is a head full of misandry and evil feminism. With writes like this, feminism is getting completely exposed.

    1. Tina S

      Hi Xavier! I completely understand your stance. That is on the presumption that the man is innocent. How the man has been dealt with is something that you need to question with the authorities? On what grounds did they take such an action? Maybe their actions are justified and maybe its not if innocent. Feminism exists because there is a societal imbalance and injustice which you and I cannot deny. Please tell me where did you find me promoting misandry. I strongly suggest that you read my previous 2 articles on YKA and then make a judgement that I am promoting misandry or fake feminism. Please understand the context of this article…its not about Zaira vs the alleged molester. Its about letting women speak up especially if there is sexual harassment involved. Now, if what Zaira is proven to be lying or found guilty, then what …is your question? Who will compensate for the humiliation for the man? I think then the public outlash on Zaira Wasim will be justified not now. The man will continue to find strong public support and empathy. Believe me! I am sure that Court will make a fair judgement irrespective of the gender. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts.

  9. malexxavier

    This girl is afraid of adverse comments. She had deleted a post I had given yesterday. He he. So much for feminism.

    1. Tina S

      Hi Xavier! This is a technical issue, trust me and I have just reported the same to YKA. Hopefully, it should get resolved at the earliest. Okay, I have been receiving a lot of comments on this article just like my previous articles here on YKA and I try to respond to each and every one of them. I don´t fear adverse comments…please note that. Thanks!

    2. Monalisa Dey Sarkar

      Whether the girl will be put to jail or not is upto the current law. Not you and your ‘ideas’. Something that you’re conveniently forgetting. All that’s getting exposed here is the paranoia in your mind. ‘Evil feminism’? What shit are you talking about? What did the feminists ever do to you? Huh? Did you ever protest this strongly when you saw a woman getting beaten up by her husband? You must have, it’s quite the common practice in India. What did you and your big, erect sense of ‘equality’ do then? Like everybody else, you averted your eyes and pretended to be deaf. I dare you tell me that I’m wrong. Go ahead, tell me that you protested that domestic violence so much. Go on.

    3. scoop_marketer

      Yeah, seems so. My comments are also being removed!

  10. scoop_marketer

    WHEN YOU SHAME/ACCUSE someone (even inadvertently, by just trying to put forward your case) without enough proof to corroborate your statement, YOU’ll BE TROLLED. Though sad, that’s how ‘mob justice’ would be & that’s what you get on social media.

    If you haven’t noticed, when she first put up her selfie video on Instagram & complained of her ‘harassment’, almost everyone (including men) sided with her without even thinking for a while that the accused may be innocent. And, they started passing on judgements on SM that he should be hanged, castrated, shamed in public, pelted by stones & what not! Even some Bollywood stars, chairperson of National Commission for women, Mehbooba Mufti, & other prominent figures reacted without knowing the full facts by saying statements that sided with her, hailed her for being brave & some general statements that they are appaled, & how pervasive these things are.

    So, if you see, it’s not that she alone that’s being shamed. Firstly, just based on some accusation, the accused was shamed like anything. And, now that a few facts have surfaced, she is being trolled. It’s just a shift in public opinion & doesn’t speak of society.

    In fact, the real nature of our society is – as & when a woman accuses someone, it’s perceived by this society that the accusation is real & that the woman is the victim. Not just the public, even, people of fame like Akshay Kumar, Virat Kohli, all feminists & so many more, think so & start passing judgements/ reactions. The same happened in Bangalore New year eve incident. What exactly happened was that the boys were trying to help the drunken girl stand up & carry her home. That’s perceived as molestation & everyone started reacting. Some even released videos of their judgements.

    NO LIFE COUNTS FOR LESS. Naming, shaming men is also happening, it’s not fine & justiciable. (Men too have dignity & love to live in a highly respectable fashion.) Only when women are trolled, it speaks out the mindset of society, isn’t it? It’s inhuman!

    Feminism, when it speaks of equality, is very much acceptable. When it ignores the vulnerability of men, wants everyone to believe that the women are the only ones being victimized & starts some sort of vigilantism, it’s not acceptable.

    I support women in their fight for equality, wherever that’s not being offered. And, I expect women to fight for men in getting gender-neutral laws. About 49 laws in IPC are in favour of women. Some women can play havoc with that!

    1. Tina S

      Hi Scoop Marketer! Thanks for reading and sharing your valid views. Sharing this public message sent by the Mumbai Police specifically for naysayers like you. http://www.storypick.com/mumbai-police-sexual-assault-of-minor/. It echoes the sentiments and views of my article to the T. While your concerns are valid, please let women speak up, let Law take its own course and let justice be served irrespective of the genders. Peace!

  11. Ankit Tripathy

    1- A wandering foot over a normally sitting person’s neck and back in an airplane. To do that, he would have to sit on top of the girl’s head. Also, i believe people sit with their backs on the backrest of the seat. Was she leaning forward with the man sitting on her headrest?
    2- Let’s assume that Zaira was facing the aisle and sitting with her body turned to one side. It is possible for him to get his foot on her back, but he would have to stretch his middle-aged hamstrings over his head, as if doing a half split, to get to her neck.
    3- Let’s assume he did all that. Did she just sit there with a foot rubbing up and down her back? Even visualizing that is funny! Why did she not turn her back to the backrest of the seat or do what normal women do- ask him to take his foot off?
    4- Do i need a fourth?

    Instagram wouldn’t take action. The authorities would. Why hasn’t she lodged a complaint yet?
    She is not a twelve year old kid anymore. She is almost an adult in the ‘film industry’, where people without guts don’t exist. And when did women start being afraid of speaking up? I have seen my female friends rip apart dudes for catcalling them. We boys were just the backups, the girls did everything on their own, letting us to just watch and enjoy!

    1. Amit Khare

      Agreed

  12. Vishal Shenoy

    The court decisions are delayed for a reason. The judges wait for all the facts to come to light, process them thoroughly before making a judgement. Ideally all of us should do the same. Our reactions however are always upfront and raw. With every new piece of evidence our judgement of the people and the scenario changes. It only says that people in their rush to voice their opinions and judgement fail to assess the entire situation.
    Yes questions can be raised on both persons. But the point being this kind of scrutiny should be done for both, and it should happen before making any judgement.
    The problem is the unhindered access to everything we have, everyone is trying to grab eyeballs (especially trolls). They often don’t have a genuine opinion of their own or views they stand by. They try to be the first ones to air their views and be discussed by anyone who is seeing.
    Society is not a singularity, its a group of various views, ideologies, people from different backgrounds. The bad comments from a few trolls cannot represent such a huge group.
    They are guilty, not of treating women or victims differently but of declaring a victim even before the entire situation is understood.
    This exact thing happened to me a few years ago. I was walking on a crowded dadar platform, I had gone there only to help a blind person to the appropriate compartment. I was feeling quite proud of myself and walking on. Suddenly the person ahead of me stopped in their tracks, turned around and slapped me. It turned out to be a lady dressed in formal attire who thought I was groping her, all the while I didn’t even realize it was a woman because I was lost and my arm brushed against her back. At that moment I couldn’t even understand what was happening. For the next whole week I was disturbed by this incident.
    Today I feel sadly for her and fortunately for me, no one else came to help her. But she did stand up for herself and that was the only positive I could see out of this. I hope more women stand up for themselves immediately and not wait for others to make a judgement call without being in it.

  13. arshdeep singh

    First of all, PLEASE it is a request to all women, IF A MAN BY MISTAKE TOUCHES YOU, IT DOESN’T MEAN ALWAYS THAT HE IS A MOLESTOR ITS JUST YOUR PERCEPTION ABOUT MEN IN GENERAL WHERE PEOPLE(MEN INCLUDED) FIRST ACCUSE THE GUY INVOLVED WITHOUT CHECKING FACTS.

    Secondly, you wrote “Firstly, I am not going to make any judgments about this particular case as I am waiting for more facts to surface.” BUT YOUR WHOLE ARTICLE IS FACT LESS AND JUDGEMENTAL, GET THIS ARTICLE CHECKED BY A KID AND ASK HIM “AM I ACCUSING THE MAN” AND CHECK HIS/HER ANSWER.

    Third, Now I NOT BEING JUDGEMENTAL, just say one thing facts are out now, check those. Its just that society has been cruel to women and even women have been cruel to other women. I acknowledge that. But just want to let you know FACTS ARE NOT EQUAL TO PERCEPTION. Do not point fingers at accused just because the victim is a girl. Reasoning is in the hands of law.

    And I understand the pain of women, I have been working for education of girls in an NGO and educating young boys about equal rights directly from childhood. It creates the necessary impact in society. Accusistions dont.

    Regards
    Arshdeep
    Psychologist

    PS: Perceptions precede facts when you are too emotional about a subject.
    Had to write this as you are presenting this to a wider audience who are influenced by articles on famous fb pages/websites.

    1. Amit Khare

      Totally agree with you, sir

  14. Amit Khare

    You are pronouncing repeated judgement while repeatedly saying that you are not pronouncing a judgement.

    You have asumed that person is guilty.
    Do you know how worse an innocent person will suffer and go through hell by asumed justice by you and police and court which can destroy his life for ever. Be careful baby.

  15. Lionel Alva

    Your article is advocating a prima facie bias against men. ‘ The burden of proof’ under normal circumstances is when there is sufficient evidence against the accused. In this case, like all others, the girl’s word is used as ‘evidence’, to implicate and incriminate someone for life.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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