“When were you scared the most in your life?” I asked.
“My JEE results!” He answered.
It was my turn to answer the question, “I am scared every time I step onto a dark road with no streetlights, every time I pass by an abandoned building, every time a bike passes me by when I am walking on the road, every time I am in an auto and my phone’s battery is dead, every time my Uber takes a turn into an isolated area. I think I have been scared for the most part of my life.”
He was silent.
As women, we have an amazing capacity to endure bullshit. And as sensible as we are, we take every precaution to not take the wrong step and invite trouble to our doorstep. Our dresses, our make-up, our walk – everything has to be non-inviting. In every other species, females or males are allowed to groom themselves for better options. We, as humans, don’t get that right. In the same world, men can shamelessly scratch their crotch while we have to drape ourselves in so much clothing that nothing is visible.
We are not safe in our homes, we are not safe on the roads and I don’t even want to talk about the workplace harassment that women go through. How is it that half of humanity is busy in crushing the spirits of its other half?
Men can’t protect us. They can’t help us. They can’t empower us.
In India, we have the “Mahabharata” where Draupadi was molested in front of her husbands. Mythology has its own way of teaching us lessons. In this case, it wanted us to know that men can at times put their ego, their pride, their word or even their anger before a woman’s honour. Something similar happened when Rama left his pregnant wife in the forest to appease his subjects. Helen of Troy wanted a life with a man she had chosen and the Trojan war was fought to get her back. Padmavati had to burn herself because her husband, the king, thought that his honour was more precious than his wife.
Women have been treated like spoils of war, as accessories to war and as mere objects when religion and not democracy was running the planet. Even after democracy arrived, we had to put up a fight for voting rights because men thought they should choose our ruler on our behalf. For such a long time, we have asked, pleaded, requested and demanded our rights, our security and our rightful position in this world.
The responsibility that none of our kids will ever have to hear these stories about rapes and assaults on fellow women and girls falls on parents. It is upon parents to teach their kids to treat women better. Remember, all these crimes have been committed by the members of our society, by men who had parents who could have reported them the moment they saw the first signs of a regressive mindset and violence.
I refuse to believe that such heinous crimes occur once in a lifetime, and then the criminals don’t feel like doing any more harm. We have to understand that bringing better human beings into this world is a job and it has to be done better. Report against domestic abuse, physical assaults, harassment – about anything that violates your dignity as a woman. Report, so that they can be taught a lesson the first time they dare to hurt women. Educate yourself on women’s rights and right parenting. Unlike the current tradition where every man gets a wife, just because he is a man, do not marry such delinquents. We have a shortage of women in this country anyway, let’s choose the father of our child more carefully.
I understand these thoughts might seem a bit too much. But in a country where examples of violating women include the rape and murder of an eight-year-old, I believe extreme measures should be taken to safeguard our future generations and build a better society. These crimes signal a broken and failing society and it’s time women do something about it.