Trigger Warning: Sexual Harassment
A 17-year-old boy, Divesh Goyal, of Don Bosco Park Circus, Kolkata has been walking around with a placard in Girish Park and Vivekananda Road crossing in shorts that says “I wasn’t touched or followed shorts aren’t the problem” and uses the hashtag #WhatIfItsYourBrother.
He was accompanied by one of his friends, well because he was scared that anything can piss off Indian public but luckily, people were understanding. Many of you might be wondering what inspired him to take such an initiative when his own family did not understand the need for such walks, or what is it about?
Let’s get into the details upon asking Divesh about the same, he narrated a short story which is quite common in a girl’s life. “An extremely close friend of mine was followed and threatened by a dude at South City Mall, asking for her number and address and when she denied he said “Ebaar dekh tor songe ki hobe” (Now you see what will happen with you).
I would like everyone to take a minute and think if they know any girl, who has been harassed or followed, what was it like for her? It definitely wasn’t fascinating; it was horror, to further elaborate on it, was a lifetime trauma.
Moving on with the story, she told us what happened and how when she approached her father, he told her, “You were wearing shorts, isn’t it?”
I was stuck on the words father and shorts. Think about it, you go to your parents and tell them about this incident hoping to hear something which will make you feel better, anything but blame, on your choice of fashion. This adds on the incident, Divesh further continues saying, “I saw how normalised it had become which wasn’t fair because it’s a scary issue and the victim’s choice of fashion has nothing to do with the malicious intent of another person”.
Earlier, I mentioned that this incident is quite common in a girl’s life. Why? Because every time a girl is harassed and every time a girl is followed, she’s asked to carry pepper spray and be careful, her clothes are questioned putting forth a question. Dear reader, have you seen clothes come with labels like ‘shorts attract followers or predators?’.
But nobody is interested to step out and take the first step towards stopping such predators.
When I asked Divesh why was he using this hashtag, his answer was, “Personally I’ve heard time and again from people who protest against these things screaming that what if it’s your sister or mother tomorrow The sad part is they’ve all already gone through it, maybe even more than once. So, we need to start attacking in a manner where there will be cause for introspection. It basically asks everyone if your brother or father does something like this, scars a young girl’s life, will you be proud?”
To conclude, by now, we have blamed everyone. Our favourite target was the government and authorities who haven’t been able to eradicate or take up measures to ensure women safety, the news channels for not covering such important issues, and the girl who was followed or harassed. Who is silent about the fact that these issues are not addressed with the proper importance and guidance?
It’s not a random political party or your next-door neighbour. It is us, people like you and me. Surprisingly, a large proportion of ordinary citizens will not indulge in discussing these topics and the most common dialogue used is “Humko kya karna hai? Yeh desh barbaad hai”. (What do we have to do with this? This country is spoilt and rotten anyway).
It is obviously your choice to stay silent and indulge in gossips like where does your neighbour get the money to renovate his house, or how’s the new guest Mr Sharma brought home but when people like Divesh come out to take the first step, they are slammed with comments like “You’re doing it for attention or fame”.
There are many accounts on Instagram and Facebook which post the brutal videos of victims of sexual violence. Sometimes, these accounts strive to make a change in the society, but sometimes, these users take advantages of such sensitive misfortune situations and gain followers What does this tell us about the citizens of our country or at least the ones who follow the news channels and go on social media?
It tells us that a large section of the society believes in a stratagem theory of how such social issues work, how they have normalised harassment and given up the hope of change. How will things change if you continue to blame the victim and not the predator?