“Are, itne baje iske sath kyu thi?” ( Why were you with that person at this hour of the day?)
“Kapde kya pehne the?” (What were you wearing?)
“Ladkiyan aise invite krengi toh yahi to hoga na!” ( This is what happens when girls invite.)
“Ghar ki izzat mitti me Mila di tune!” ( You’ve dishonoured the entire the family.)
All these taunts aren’t unusual. It’s from these statements that victim-shaming stems out. From a woman’s attire to her timing of being out, and from the person she was with to her character, society always scrutinises women.
Even during the ongoing #MeToo movement, where women are calling out their harassers, society is questioning women of their intentions, years (or probably decades) of silence, among many other things. But, before questioning these women people must ask themselves that did the society gave these women enough space to speak up? Did we provide them with a safe environment where they would feel free and unafraid to speak up about the wrong that has been done to them? The answer is, No.
We fail to provide women with the environment where she can voice her concerns and be herself. We burden the women with the responsibility of safeguarding the honour (izzat) of the family. Even when she thinks of speaking up, she is discouraged fearing that it’ll tarnish the social image and reputation of her family. She is made to feel that it’s her fault because she wore something, or was out of the house at the time when she “shouldn’t have been as a girl”. Nowhere in this, the assaulter is at fault.
About the police, we all are well aware of how sensitive they are when dealing with the survivors of sexual harassment or abuse. Moreover, it’s not always possible to “prove” every kind of sexual abuse, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.
Lastly, men should understand the plight of such women when they think of speaking about the harassment they went through. They fear to lose their jobs. The fear that if you speak up against someone powerful you will be silenced and not supported. You may even be attacked. It is not easy for women to speak up.
The #metoo movement is important because it has given space for the women, who have suffered in the past, to speak up now. It also encourages women to come out and speak about the harassment they might be facing currently or (god forbid) may face in the future. It is giving them an assurance that they’ll be heard and supported.
As a society, it’s our fault that the women kept suffering in silence for so many years. For decades we failed to assure them that they’ll be heard and believed.
As men, the least you can do is to listen when a woman or a girl says she has been harassed in any form. They must try to believe and to not shame survivors. To stand up against the men who do wrong.
It is not against men; it is not for publicity, it is for something that is fundamental to a human being. The right to dignity.
It is never too late for a good change.