A day before the Times of India published a report about the documentary made about safety of women in India, I was going out to meet a friend, when my ever-so-liberal parents told me that I must come back home before 9. With Holi right around the corner, they were worried about hoodlums and ruffians passing lewd comments or molesting me. I tried to brush away their fears by telling them that I had grown up in this neighbourhood, and that I knew the place like the back of my hand. What harm could possible befall me here?!
My father grimly said, “Nirbhaya probably thought the same thing. No one plans on getting molested or raped. Be back home on time!”
The idea that restrictions should be based on my movement because of the sick perverted minds of certain men, rankled me, but I couldn’t argue. My parents had my best interests at heart and were their fears really unfounded?
The next day I read the report about one of the accused in the Delhi rape case blaming the female victim for her rape and death. It made my blood boil. The Nirbhaya rape case was a crime so heinous and barbaric that it united an entire country in shock and outrage. It brought about legal reforms. It (and this part I am only assuming) led to more awareness being spread about the violence against women and it led to more crimes being reported. A few questions, as is the norm, were raised against the character of the girl, but the outraged cries silenced them. And suddenly we have in the public sphere the opinions of an unrepentant murderer about how the girl deserved what she got!
At first let me tell you, I haven’t seen the documentary. I have only read about it in the newspapers and heard snippets on television channels. Being a media student and an aspiring writer, I am a strong proponent of the freedom to speech and expression. Since then I have also read accounts online on how the documentary is actually passing a very strong message about women safety, and for all I know it might be. All I am concerned with is the effect the rapist’s statement will have on the lives of young girls like me, all around the country!
I am also a woman, and probably among the more fortunate ones born in India. I wasn’t killed at birth; nor was I sexually assaulted as a child. My parents sent me to school, and they haven’t married me off to a stranger yet. I have received many of the blessings denied to many other daughters born in this country. Yet even my free-thinking, modern parents cannot ignore the dangers posed to women in India nowadays.
A few years ago, I got into a debate in school with my Hindi teacher, when she stated that for their own safety girls should return home before dark. I vehemently protested against her statement in class. But she, like my parents and like numerous other Indian parents, are only concerned about their daughters’ safety from lunatics. When I express concern over the documentary, I am simply expressing concern over how the accused’s statement would affect my life and the lives of my peers.
In the 2012 rape incident that took place at Park Street in Kolkata, there were accusations levied against the woman’s character. “No decent woman, wife or mother would be out at a pub after midnight”, they said. Then happened the Nirbhaya rape case in Delhi at 9pm, and much too soon the gang-rape at Shakti Mills in Mumbai of a young photojournalist in between 5pm to 7pm. It is still early twilight in Mumbai at that time; it’s not even dark outside.
Am I the only one who seems to notice how the ‘correct time’ for a woman to be outside her house seem to be decreasing day by day? I read somewhere that constitutionally India is the safest country for women, but in reality we do not seem to have progressed much since Lakshman first drew a Lakshman-rekha for Sita.
“For her safety” the girl must still not leave her house at certain times or in certain company.
‘The correct place’, ‘the correct time’, ‘the correct dress’, ‘the correct company’ — I am tired of society and people who don’t know me setting these rules for me. Restrictions that bind me and suffocate me, but which I must obey if I want to remain a ‘good girl’; because a bad girl is anyone’s for taking.
When a child cries for a toy do you close-down the toy store because it is tempting the child, or do you teach the child to have better control on his whims and fancies? Instead of teaching the women to restrict their movement shouldn’t we be teaching the men to restrain their desires?