The country is in the throes of an inexplicable regression. Cover up or get raped is the message that is getting steadily strident and sinister. Stay safe with traditional clothes. Dispense with jeans and shorts if you want to preserve your modesty. Watch what you wear and how!
The sneaky, judgemental voices emanate from everywhere. A collective tongue clucking emanates from homes, legislative cabins, streets, TV studios, peepal panchayats, school corridors and police stations; “why will women not listen and stick to the Indian mores while picking their clothes? ” More and more, in this pluralistic, populous, progressive, democratic home of the Indus Valley Civilization, half the citizens are being told to bundle the other half under layers of shame and fear. There is a siege within; a social deceit being upheld for the “greater good” of women.
The diktats are not new. What is scary is the deliberate denial of the collaborative nature of correction needed. There is a vengeful focus solely on the molested. No one will talk of what the molesters ought to do. It is presumed that a molester can’t help his testosterone throwing him into epileptic spasms of salivation at the sight of female flesh. Legs, arms, midriff, silhouette, even eyes at times, he is not fussy; it can all set him off like a pack of crackers.
So you have these loathsome creatures rubbing their prized maleness against you in buses; elbowing into your chest pretending to look elsewhere as the young girls wince with pain and shame; snaking out of the crowd to grab a handful. Fairly dutiful around their women, they then step out into the streets, these roving masses of testosterone, stripping other women with their eyes and sometimes with their hands.
Cavemen? Neanderthals? The women have evolved but quite clearly the baby boy book has not been updated because it blames victims of rape rather than the rapists. On the one hand, item numbers extol ‘jawani’ and ‘badnaami’, on the other there is this all pervasive moral din over culture and tradition. The rules are different. A guy in body hugging jeans is celebrating his masculine frame but a woman sporting a low neckline is begging to be violated. Biceps on a man state power; a trim waist on a woman spells invitation. The horrific sanction extends to men in positions of trust and responsibility. They will be quick to tell you how men will be men and how even boys are not spared. They do not want to see that it is not about the right to expose but about the right to exist without shame, fear and guilt.
I have two daughters and I am scared witless. How do I have them balance their education with conformity? Having brought them up to breathe progressive notions, how do I sell oppression to them guised under the cowl of tradition? What good really is the visible progress made by the successive generations of women in their family if the end goal is the go back into hiding? Do they need to, for their own survival, acknowledge that no one really cares for the autonomy, dignity and authenticity of women? That just a scratch below the skin of modern civilization is the molten, pre-historic “burn the witch” hatred? That the men in their lives may view their independent thinking as an attack on their masculinity, deserving to be mocked and put down? Sexual harassment is not about sex. The deal is about power, control and domination.
It has been said over and over and deserves to be repeated. As much as the violations grow so must the protests amplify. Rape is violent. Rapes are mostly committed by men who need no excuse to rape. Rape has nothing to do with the dress of the victim. Rape targets the weak and the timid, kids included.
What you and I can do right away is to: Stop laughing at rape jokes. Boycott movies that glorify rape. Speak out when the victim is blamed, Engage men in addressing this criminal attack on those who hold up half the sky. The axe forgets but the tree remembers. In remembering, we can give this daily, horrific occurrence a language that will snatch it out if its “unspeakable” yellow, ticker tape of silence. And put it to shame.
The author is a Resource Center-in-charge at the Junior Wing of Air Force Bal Bharati School. A teacher with a background and training in media, she has worked in advertising, public relations, documentary film making and feature journalism. Her interest lies in the role of motivation, an all-round exposure and multiculturalism in education. A regular contributor to the ‘Teacher Plus” magazine and a blogger with a keen interest in the evolving social dynamics and their influence on young people, she maintains a blog at http://confessionsofanambitiousmother.blogspot.in/