When I came across the news that India had been ranked the most dangerous country for women by a Thomson Reuters survey, why was I not filled with shock? Why was I not angry? In fact, I didn’t feel anything. I wasn’t disappointed or confused. It just goes to show how let-down one is with the state of things. After seeing so much regarding women’s rights and safety on every screen and newspaper, I am numb to the fact that things don’t look better over the horizon. As an Indian woman, I know I have to depend on myself for protection – and that has been drilled into me since I was a child.
Women in India grow up, very aware of their position – inside the home and outside it. Even if a few of us are given some freedom within the household (if we’re lucky), we are immediately told that our agency is a privilege – something not many Indian women or girls are given. An Indian woman is still a woman, but in my opinion, what changes when you step outside India is the level of respect and the legal aids you’re given in other countries. That’s what sets a woman in India apart from the women in other countries. Our handicap is the apathy of our laws and the people who make them.
I have never felt completely safe in my country, which is supposed to be my home and my ‘mother’, apparently. This is not an issue solely for the current government to solve. It afflicted the previous governments and I am certain it’ll stupefy the governments to come. While every party is keen to include women in their agendas, they are not going beneath the surface. There are so many unresolved issues within the sphere of gender in India. You have regions, castes, classes, and so many more divisions. Women from these various backgrounds face problems unique to the nature of their existence. For the government, women’s rights is a game; after all, women constitute an important vote-bank.
We’re still teaching parents that girls need to be educated, that they too can work and that they are equally (if not more) capable than men. We often like to think these problems exist in the rural areas of the country, that the rural mindset is the problem. But, the urban setup is a monster of a different sort. For every Kathua and Unnao case, there’s a Nirbhaya to go with it. While I see efforts being made to make society a safer place for women, I don’t see the results. Why is ‘rape’ such a common word? We still feel that rape is complicated, and that consent is ambiguous? The law is just as apprehensive about dealing with rape.
Rape is not an issue that pertains to a single gender, and eradicating it is only part of the solution. Safety also means being able to walk on the streets or in any space, private or public, and showing respect to them. No woman wants to be masturbated at, no woman or girl appreciates a stalker or wants you to send them explicit content over text (or through any medium for that matter) when they haven’t asked for it. This toxic culture is so deep-rooted – and when films go back to item numbers and the like, you really wonder what one is promoting. Films portray these songs because that is the reality of our country. And as long as people listen to these songs and accept them, the makers will produce them.
I am not really thinking about the other countries on the list, because I don’t live in those countries and I don’t call them my home. I was brought up and was told to be proud of my country. I grew up hearing tales of women as powerful goddesses. But, what I witnessed as I came of age was entirely different. My own experiences have built in me a fear of Indian society. It’s so brutal that women often become oppressors of other women. I have long since given up my faith in the government. The only way the situation can get better is if the parents of today raise their children right. They need to tell the girls that the strength is theirs to have too. They should also tell the boys that strength lies in being able to show your weakness – being empathetic and respectful will not make them lesser men.
Featured image used for representative purposes only.