I have seen this outrage for women’s rights only recently, precisely since Dec 16,2012, and there is a sense of shock amongst the masses. More disturbingly, amongst women. I’m surprised all these surprised women have only heard about such horrible incidences recently. Do you really think it is only happening recently? where have you been? or are you just lucky to not have experienced anything disturbing ever living in this neighborhood, OR may be you are too naive to even comprehend what was happening around you. I could believe that last one. I’ve been surrounded by such ignorant women all around me.
Rapes, as we know it, in India were a taboo to be spoken off until recently the media took it as another acceptable news piece amongst the masses, hence almost every day one rape news-line comes in your view from different parts of the country. Only recently, this crowd of ignorant people started to acknowledge it as a bad thing that needs to be prevented. These women, only recently thought it is worth coming out of their homes and talking about it. They dare would not discuss it with fellow friends just a couple months back.
Rape as only some of us may know, is not the only way women in India are harassed. There are multiple stereotype activities that Indian men use to make a woman feel uncomfortable to the point where it is mentally and emotionally fatal.
I came across this post by a foreigner and her experiences in India (http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-1023053), and though I can understand her shock to such harassment as she comes from a better environment, it was annoying that there were more gasps from Indian girls I knew – they thought the men ogling at your body, masturbating at you in public is so weird and unheard of. I mean, now it is weird? you mean you didn’t know of indian men to be pervert headed? or you were too naive to catch gestures often made by men in public ever since? Right, like I said, most of women here are way too ignorant to even comprehend acts of shame by men. And they have taken advantage of it at every single point. Had the women always made a fuss about it, at every pervert act by men, these men would know what is not allowed. Now they are just more confident.
May be it is also about bad luck. I as a woman, have been conditioned to shameful acts by men ever since being a kid. Don’t know how, I didn’t have boobs back then, or was tall as an adult, but I have been through bad behavior in public spaces. A lot of it. Whether you are with your mom, or your dad, these men do not hesitate to rub against you or touch while they pass you. By the time I turned 11, I had been through groping incidents almost daily. And if you happen to be unlucky enough to have a slightly more prominent bosom, you’d probably never go un-noticed by these pervert men. It was rather safe for a child down in Maharashtra where we lived. I remember being terrified to be asked by mom or dad to go somewhere on my own, because if I did, and I was alone, I would have so many men hounding and surrounding me, and I could be groped any moment. On protesting to my parents to not send me alone, they would hand me my little brother “take him with you”. As a child I could not convey to elders in words what exactly happened, but they didn’t seem to think it was a big deal anyway. I never felt protected even with so many of my family members around. A girl is just not safe in this country.
Once while traveling in train, a guy beside our seat, pretending to be asleep, was constantly grabbing me while everyone was asleep. I was in deep sleep beside my mom when I realized he was doing it way too often. I woke up, and stayed awake to wait for him to reach me next time, and there it was.. I held a very heavy school bag I had with me and banged it hard on this guy’s palm- kept stabbing it with my bag for about 5 mins, hoping my cutter or a scissor at the bottom may just wound him, I wish I had the courage to actually take them out of my bag and stab that bastard. I knew he was awake but he kept pretending to be asleep. He stopped reaching me after that. But I stayed awake. Next morning, I gave hime daring angry stares through out the travel, until he got down at some station. It didn’t seem to bother him much, but as a 12 year old, that is all I could do to vent out my anger for a stranger. As telling my parents did not seem to make them scold the guy or drive him away.
I was always scared to venture into crowded place when in U.P., it was a sure way to get groped. By the time I turned 14, even any place in Maharashtra was the same for me. There were men stalking you for days, giving you long stares till you feel disgusted and leave. I remember me and my girl-friends joking about the appearance of those stalkers, as all of us had atleast one. But in our minds, we all were terrified by the thought of those stalkers actually being around in some place secluded. Most of us would not dare be out after 7 p.m. One day I had one chase me till home, finding my dad at the gates I was relieved and immediately told him about that guy behind me on a bike. My dad looked over my shoulder, and simply turned away as if something else was more important to be done that time. I never tried again to share my inhibitions with parents, but decided to take care as much I can from there on.
Once due to a late tuition class, I was heading home after 8 p.m. a guy was stalking me since the whole day, I had noticed him somewhere, and realized he had been chasing me around the town. It was a small town though. Thats my bad luck to be there. Anyhow, since it was late, this guy finally had the courage to go beyond his cheapness of stalking and drove right beside me, looking at me and attempting to talk. I had gone through such situations in my head a multiple times and did exactly as I thought may help – I drove faster to reach a place on road that was well-lit with some more people standing near by. I reached there and stopped. The guy was a bit confused but he stopped too. He finally spoke to me – what’s your name? I without panicking, calmly and un-caringly answered – why do you want to know? he then asked – which class do you study in? I lied with a confused-disgusted look on my face ..I study in Std 10th? why do you care? this time I shouted on top of my voice and said “Stop chasing me, or I can right away report you to police”. Some people standing near by turned to look what was going on. The guy hastily drove off – to my relief. But this was temporary. I drove for another 5 mins, and he was again beside me on an over bridge road. I mustered all my courage and showed a calm face, again not-caringly questioned him – “tumhe samajh mein nahi aata ek baar mein? mere papa police mein hain idhar, abhi le chalun kya chowki ..saamne hi hai” (Don’t you get it? My dad is a police officer here and that is why I can easily take you to the police station just around the corner), which was true, I knew the area. I was lucky too, the guy was panting and not much of doer anyway, so he drove off again. To make sure, he isn’t following again, I actually took the route passing the police station, which led me through police colony as well. I took longer route home. Ofcourse didn’t want anyone to find my real house. That day passed. I was 16 then. One thing was clear, no one here is going to protect you, only you will have to take charge, try and if you are lucky, you may be saved a terrible incident. Just don’t fear it before anything even happens.
After that I have come across multiple incidents of misbehaving men. In a local bus, when a man sitting beside you, presses his body hard on you, as if the seat isn’t enough for his space. Even after asking him to sit properly, he wouldn’t stop. In such situations, if you are a teenager, and alone in a bus, you can’t really expect anyone to be on your side. I knew no one there was going to take my side, if I asked for help, because the guy didn’t really actually do anything. Such pervert ways to advancing are still not recognized in India. In a train, if you are alone, even in an AC coach, there will always be some uncle-age of a man who can’t stop staring at you. To such people I just give a stare back, if they don’t budge, I speak up in a loud voice – “Uncle, aapko koi takleef hai kya? kyun ghoor rahe ho?” (do you have a problem uncle? why are you staring?). Everyone has your attention and he is embarrased to do it again. I mean train is the safest place to stand up for yourself. Well most of the lucky times.
Oh and this one is my favorite incident, that happened in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh. Me and my cousin sister were to reach a place to meet our parents who were waiting for us for a movie. It was 7 p.m., traditionally way too late for girls to be out in a city like Kanpur. We were on a two-wheeler, my sister driving. Suddenly on a very main road, with so many vehicles around you, a motorcyclist drove close and the pillion rider grabbed my back as if I was his self-assinged property. I was disgusted and immediately grabbed his hand and flung it away, yelling at the top of my voice – “Saale, kutte bhenchod! baap ka maal samjha hai kya?” (Bastard, sis/motherfucker! you think I’m your dad’s property?). The guy gave back an extremely astonished look, and me not losing the anger on my face as if I will right away kill him, he instructed his rider to drive off faster. They sped ahead. Later we were laughing and telling the story to our parents, who as usual weren’t bothered.
It is wrong notion that having a male accompaniment will help you escape situations. I have had gestures by men even in a place like Bangalore and Pune, those they do using their mouth or eye-brow raising ones, even though I have had a guy right beside me. Indian male has guts, he knows there is no way to prove his mis-behavior. I was riding behind my husband on the bike, and the traffic police guy staring at us, and he suddenly gave me the eye-gesture, smiling dirtily. It was quite unexpected. I thought he was staring at us for a out-of-State number plate. Actually funny, and very very sad at the same time. Even with your husband, these lecherous men do not seem to deter. But you Woman, you always have to stand up for yourself, and don’t fear them at all. Because you know, most of them have no spine or guts to do anything to you – they just want to see your scared face.
It requires a metamorphosis of genetic nature for women, of being shy or timid, to build a mental strength to stare back at a man who just winked at you or made another pervert gesture. When girls in the metros are repeatedly getting bold, why can’t everyone else? it is not like these girls face more harassment on a daily basis than any others in smaller towns. Man up and face them without fear, stop hiding. Actually Woman up!