Siya Girisaballa brings to you an opinionated editorial on women’s safety in India.
4,05,861. That’s the number of ‘registered’ rape cases in India. 16. That’s the number of girls that get raped in a minute. 3,710,295,643. That’s the number of women in the world. And today, regrettably, I can guarantee that each of these 3,710,295,643 women will feel or have felt weak because of their gender.
For me, it was going somewhere public alone. For many of my friends it was either being eve-teased or being held back from opportunities and so much more. As for Priyanka Reddy, it was her existence. For the girl we all so proudly called “Nirbhaya” it was her survival. And for a young Dalit girl in Hathras, Bihar it was her life. In the course of the next five minutes that you take to read this article, it will have been 80, EIGHTY, women who would’ve been in the same place that the above mentioned women have. Except for the fact that either they have to die to be noticed, set aside among the 4,05,861 cases or forced to live in secrecy with the fact that they went through the most painful experience, both physically and mentally, that could’ve happened in their lives.
What is interesting about all that has been said in the previous paragraph is that this information is open to everyone and is known by most educated people. We know about the Nirbhaya case and the proceeding four years of court trials. We know about the Hyderabad gang rape that lead to a police encounter! We know about the recent uproar of the Hathras case. We know. We understand. We listen. We NEVER do anything about it. Solutions? There aren’t any solutions. Of course there aren’t. We listen, we process, we speak, we forget. That’s the circle of life. It took four years to give a raped and murdered girl justice. It took four months to create an uproar on the social media. It took four days of lengthy conversations. And you know what’s unfortunate? It took us four minutes to act like we cared.
I was in the third grade when my mother first told me about ‘good touch bad touch’. It was the same year that the Nirbhaya case happened. It wasn’t until fifth grade however, that the girls in my school were suddenly summoned to the auditorium for a presentation about the same. This is where the first problem lies. Girls are educated about how they aren’t safe in this world but boys aren’t educated on how to keep girls safe! How is that in any way helping society? Bring the boys in and explain the same to them. Explain to them how they can become monsters if not brought up the right way. Explain to them that they can be the reason for someone’s life if they don’t take the right path. Explain to them that they aren’t any more privileged or powerful. You want to talk to girls about covering themselves in public? Talk to boys about how she’s not asking for it even if she doesn’t cover herself. Make sex education a mandatory subject in each and every school, and more importantly, make it mandatory for all students regardless of their gender. The moment you treat them differently, they think differently. It comes down to just that.
The next problem lies in separating the two genders during their preteens and making it a taboo for a girl to hang out with boys and vice-versa. Adults, especially the older ones should stop assuming the worst when they see a girl and a boy talking to each other in public. The unusual thing about teenagers is that they are rebels without causes. If something is wrong, they will explore all the different reasons it is wrong, to understand. It is right to be concerned but is completely incorrect and misguided to repress and restrain children to avoid something from happening. More often than not, the more you hold something back, the faster it comes to haunt you. Warn them, make them realize that somethings are unacceptable but do not stop them from making friends with boys or being around boys because in my experience as a teenager, that’s when the lines are crossed.
And the world wonders why women don’t talk about their experiences.
It’s heartbreaking that when a girl drinks she gets raped, but when a boy does, he’s having the time of his life. It’s agonizing to think that for once when a girl feels safe doing the same things that her male counterparts are doing, she ends up having her life ruined. It’s torturous to think that one day, if something as devastating as this happens to me, the world will view it as my fault. I am not saying that women shouldn’t control themselves, I’m saying that men should too.
My mother has always told me that she never believed in feminism, she believed in gender equality. Today, this is me saying that as a woman I do not in any manner feel equally safe, or free as men to do what I like. As a woman, I look at my gender as a liability. As a woman I am apprehensive of the men around me. As a woman I don’t feel comfortable being in a room filled with men. As a woman I look at my behavior as an obligation to my gender. As a woman I wish that I was a man.
Many women have done atrocious things to men, no doubt, but because of the mistakes of a few, those who have genuinely been wronged should not be ignored. As long as there as a misguided opinion in society that it was her fault, there will always be an imbalance on the gender scale. As long as it takes four years, to solve the rape case of a woman, there will be a feminist movement on the social media. As long as there are 80 women being raped in the duration of your read, there will be people like me writing articles. And as long as there are monsters out there in the form of rapists, women will not feel safe.
No man is born a rapist. No hater is born a hater. They’re made that way, shaped during the course of their life to think that they can get away with doing the most inhumane things to another person. Start with educating them when they’re young and maybe then it would make a difference in society. Punish those who commit these heinous crimes and maybe then it will be a lesson to all those who think that they can do the same. Most importantly, stop treating the two sexes as separate entities. Treat them the same, as humans are supposed to be treated. Ultimately we’re not going to be remembered as men or women, we’re going to be remembered as people and that my dear friends, is what matters.