Let there be change.

          Every morning, when I skim through the newspaper, my eyes  search for a particular piece of news, which I actually dread reading: a sexual assault here, a gruesome rape there, the lenient laws of our country which fail to offer hope to the victims, and the accusations that fly thick and fast, landing blows on the victims in the worst periods of their life.  Careless statements like, “it surely must be the woman’s fault”, or, “she must have been dressed inappropriately”, or even, “she behaved in such a way, she asked for it”, get thrown around so casually by the heartless public, it embarrasses me no end.  Seriously, do we ask for it?!
As much as I remember, I did NOT ask for it when I was just 14 years old, decently dressed in a salwar kameez, holding my mother’s hand, trying  to enter a crowded ladies compartment of a train, when a male hand, with long, sharp fingernails  groped me, pinched me and disappeared into the crowd, leaving me badly hurt and shaken. I also  did NOT ask for it, when I got spanked  in a crowded street  by a  boy, who was out to have fun with his rowdy friends, leaving me thunderstruck.  And, I certainly did NOT ask for it, when, as an 8 year old, I was violated by my tutor –  the teenaged son of our family friends, whom I looked up to  like an elder brother.
Each and every ‘incident’ (and some more)  happened  years ago, but I remember it so vividly, as if it were  yesterday! The disgust, the shame and the guilt attached to it came without an expiry date. Even now, it leaves me feeling nauseated. So, when I think about those unfortunate souls, who have been harassed and tortured in worse ways, I shudder to think, how long, before they breathe freely, sleep peacefully?
Such incidents rarely, if ever, get erased from our memory. The fear, the trauma that stays behind, breeds a  wariness of people, that refuses to die with time.  Each time I hear about little girls being tutored by   a male teacher, I pray the teacher doesn’t have a devil hidden somewhere within him. Every time I see young girls, lost in thoughts, or listening music on  their iPods while walking through a busy street, I pray for their safety. Not all are capable of fighting back. I wasn’t. I was too young and terrified when it happened.
I know, after reading about my experiences, people might wonder why I speak about such embarrassing incidents. There will also be others, who might say,”Such things keep happening. Why didn’t she slap the guy?”  Well, first of all, it wasn’t I, who  committed the sin. Therefore, I don’t feel ashamed speaking about it. In fact, I think we must voice our experiences, so that we know we aren’t alone. And, secondly, does ‘such things being quite common’  give permission to men to behave lecherously, and treat women as  objects meant to be pawed at?
However, the worst part of it is, when the victims get blamed for such crimes. I agree, that not every place is a safe haven for women to roam freely, dressed as per their likes. But, not every sexual assault takes place in a dark and dingy lane, where women are found loitering around in the skimpiest of outfits! These crimes take place in broad daylight, in the busiest of places, among known people, and with women covered from head to toe in traditional  outfits. Correct me if I am wrong.
It’s  time we pointed fingers at the culprit, instead of  finding faults in the victims of sexual harassment.  Let’s not forget there are daughters in every home.  Heaven forbid, if someday, some of those little girls fall prey to  such evil, won’t you hunt down those beasts for their blood?  Or, will you ask your girls, why they weren’t dressed appropriately, or reproach them for having asked for it? Or, ask them why they simply stood there, instead of retaliating?
Victims of sexual harassment deserve a sympathetic understanding of their ordeals, and not those  accusing fingers pointing at their ‘flawed characters’.  Just peep into those hearts, which thudded with horror, when their bodies were being attacked in such brutal ways; just feel those  wounds, which were inflicted on those innocent souls, and which are still raw and hurting. You will feel the pain they experience when inundated by scornful statements, which get sprinkled liberally at the first instance of an attack on their modesty.
Today, we strive to make our society a safer place for women. But, will we really be able to achieve it unless we  punish – and banish – the devil that resides in every mind? Shouldn’t we be making the laws stricter for the perpetrators, than ordering a decent dress code? Shouldn’t we be shaming the culprits, and bringing them out in the open, to be skinned alive in order to teach the rest of them a lesson?
A little change in our attitude, a lot of change in our laws, will definitely work towards ensuring  a safer world for every human being. Is that a lot to ask?

17 Replies to “Let there be change.”

  1. Dear Shilpa,

    I am sorry you went through that and you're right, it's wrong to blame the victim when the perpetrator goes scot free. With time and more raised voices, if we can do away with this repugnant practice of men treating women as objects, we can walk with our heads held high. One day. I still hope that I will see that day before I leave this earth.

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  2. Agree and you are right in writing and spreading awareness when so many idiots blame the girl. Let there be change and we can be the change, creating awareness. Our laws have not been able to bring change, sadly so.

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  3. It's never going to happen in our society. And, in a way, women ARE to blame for this. Be it mothers or wives, if they are Indian, they will put up with any amount of crap from their sons/spouse. They are always making excuses for their sons' or hubby's rude/crass behavior. And by doing so, they keep reiterating this idea in their already egoistic male minds that men are Gods, that they can do anything and get away with it. And I'm not talking about the lower class uneducated section of society. I am talking about females I grew up with, females who are on social media, educated, working females even. Indian women are the first ones to point fingers at a victimized woman. This country will never change.

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  4. Shailaja, I think majority of us go through such disturbing incidents in our lives, isn't it? And, I, too, hope the day comes when things will be better and the world will be a better place for our children.

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  5. You are right, Chicky. In a way, we are to be blamed for making excuses for men's behaviour, which actually deserves to be pointed out, spoken about and punished. Wonder when we will wake up to this fact. Guess till then, things will be the way they have been.

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  6. I am not sure what to say, Shilpa.
    I want to apologise on behalf of my 'kind'. But then again, the ones who do commit such heinous acts are not really my kind. Rather, I'm not their kind.
    It's high time things change. I'm sorry you had to experience that. However, I live in the hope, together, we can and will make a difference.

    Stay strong. And let's kick the butts of those patriarchal a*holes!

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  7. Oh you know how angry this attitude makes me…I don't know how to change this…But what is even more sad is that some women to end up blaming women…That's wrong on so many different levels!

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  8. My thought's echo Shailaja's. I choose to live in hope that things will change. However, I believe stricter laws and a strong legal system to re-inforce those laws are vital for this change.

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  9. I remember many of those groping incidents myself with so much anger and hurt. A mindset change is needed and needed swiftly. Hopefully with time, we can get ride of this crazy notion that we asked for it or that somehow we are to blame.

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