I can’t get her out of my head. The TV, the internet, and the newspapers are constantly updating her status, and bit by bit releasing more and more details of her violent gang rape so that each day the picture in my head gets a little more gruesome. Maybe it’s because I’m living here in Delhi at the moment, and have myself been experiencing difficulty getting around at night alone, using cabs and autos, feeling that unnerving gaze as I wait on the road or walk to the corner shop, feeling like prey to an animal about to pounce. Maybe it’s because of the increasing injustices against women I’m reading about in the papers, the Guwahati molestation case, the rape and murder of Pallavi Purkhayastha, the girls who got arrested for their facebook status, and now, the Delhi outrage. Maybe it’s because most of the women I know do not depend on their husbands, boyfriends or relatives to chaperone them wherever they go, most of the women I know don’t have their own chauffeur driven cars, and most of the women I know are young, independent and attractive. Maybe it’s because somewhere I know the scary truth that this could have happened to a friend, to a relative or to me. Whatever the reason, since I read about this Sunday’s gang rape horror, I haven’t been able to get her out of my head.
What do I do? What do any of us do? Apart from be outraged, talk about it, and write about it like I’m doing? What else can I do? I’ve been wracking my brain about what to do. Protesting on the streets, but who are we protesting against? Our government? The government we voted for? Our nation? The ‘democratic’ nation which each of us is a part of? Don’t get me wrong. We must complain. We must make loud protests, we must put immense pressure on the authorities to take immediate action. Safety is not a priveledge for those who have drivers, those who stay in gated communities, those who don’t venture out at night or don’t take public transport. Safety concerns all of us. It is a basic human right. It has to change now, this minute. The streets should be safer at night, from tonight. If we have enough police to make sure our seatbelts are fastened and we don’t cross red lights during the day, then we have enough police to be patrolling the roads at night. We need the laws to be tightened now, we need police to act faster, and catch the culprits more often so that the law can be taken seriously right now.
But there is something else we can do, which can change the nation’s attitude towards women, if each of us takes part in it. Each one of us individually needs to review how we treat each other and respect one another as equal human beings, no matter what our gender.
We must in every cultural, social and political way, prepare the way for the modern Indian woman because she is not the woman that most Indian men grew up with at home. Mothers pamper, mothers cook great food, mothers stay inside. The woman of today’s generation, may not know how to cook, may want to earn her own living and may choose who she wants to marry (if she wants to marry at all). Of course I’m generalizing, but you have only to look at how the youth behave in front of their parents and how they behave with their peers to realize that there is a huge generation gap that makes for people to hide their true selves and change frivolously to suit the company in which they find themselves. So until we stop hiding under our social guises, the reform starts at home, with parents treating children equally and accepting their differences, and their choices. It continues to apply to schools and education, boys and girls should be treated equally, should be encouraged to work together on school projects. Boys should not see the girl as a strange, mysterious ‘other’ species only to be stared at and not talked to, wondered about, shown in small spurts almost teasingly, locked away most of the time and eventually conquered by the patriarchal system of marriage or simply by pure physical dominance. Then, of course, there’s our entertainment, our television and our films, which often portray the ideal woman just like our mothers, perfect cooks and virginal beauties. And for sexual relief we are served the ‘item’ girl, shown as property bought to entertain and satisfy men’s sexual urges. Where are our real, present day women portrayed on screen? Where is the woman who goes to work, shares a place with her boyfriend, takes public transport and goes for a drink or a movie on the weekend? In our on screen fictions the ‘modern’ girl is rich enough to have a chauffeur driven car and the ‘conservative’ girl is so poor and pious that she doesn’t need anything but a man as answers to her prayers. Where are our women vegetable vendors, cab drivers, construction workers, writers, artists, students or porn downloading youth? How often are they represented on our screens?
So yes, we blame the government and the authorities, yes we put pressure so this girl gets some justice, so the arrests are made, so the attackers are severely punished. But what next? How to we prevent this from happening again and again and again? We have a lot of work to do. Countrywide, we have rape cases that are going on, girls as young as our own daughters, women as old as our mothers, raped by somebody’s brothers, fathers and sons. We have an epidemic that has spread across the nation and cannot be controlled by law and order alone, but also by it’s people. By each and every one of us.
Bosses be sensitive to women employees and their complaints, take action.
Colleagues stand up for the woman who’s being objectified at work, take action.
Teachers, encourage your students to mingle and mature together, take action.
Mothers and fathers, don’t give special treatment to your sons (or your daughters), take action.
Writers and directors, make your stories relevant to today’s men and women, take action.
Actors, be brave enough to portray characters that speak their own minds and are not necessarily conventional, take action.
Media, don’t let us forget injustices quickly, take action.
Politicians, be quiet and take action.
Men, respect women who are not like your mothers, take action.
Women, don’t let slide even the smallest eveteasing, take action.
Neighbours, don’t ignore a cry for help, take action.
Bystanders, for God’s sake, take action.
People, let’s not live in our bubbles until the injustice affects us directly.