Social Matter 5 – Sexual Abuse and Rape
On the eve of the New Year, we labeled some more women as “India’s Daughters”. It was apparently the only way we could bring the heinous events of the mass molestation to light and maybe the only way we could get the misogynists in our country to respect the women who were on the “streets”, dressed in “western clothes” in the wake of the “night”.
I don’t know how to express the anger and disgust I feel that these things keep happening. It happens everywhere – on streets, in restaurants, in supermarkets, in buses, at airports, in hospitals, in police stations, and in our very homes. Is there any place that is safe at all? And the cherry on top of the cake is that we justify these incidents with statements like, “Men will be men” “Where there’ll be sugar, there will be ants”, and “If you show, they will touch.”
The girls who got molested are scared, a few of us are infuriated, the molesters are probably giving each other high-fives, the nationalist pundits are busy getting offended by people who don’t stand for national anthems in theatres, and our Government is busy making laws that make it compulsory for everyone to hoist an Indian flag in their homes. The law and order of the country is mute even though women in the country are being treated as a remedy of a man’s uncontrollable penis. Why don’t we speak out against these criminals or the ministers who indirectly support them? We don’t leave an opportunity to judge a woman who wears a skirt and walks hand-in-hand with a guy, then why do we turn our backs on the rodents who openly put their hands on a woman’s chest and pinch her ass?
Sarees or Skirts, They’ll Always Find a Way to Think Through Their Penises
Just when you think it can’t get any worse, our ministers step up to make this a totally different issue. Some of the statements made by these ministers don’t just expose the misogynist nature of the law and politics in India, but also the “don’t care” attitude of our leaders. G. Parameshwara, the Home Minister of Karnataka said, “Youngsters are almost like Westerners. They try to copy not only the Western mindset, but also the dressing. So there was some disturbance, some girls were harassed. You know these kinds of things do happen.” The kinds of things do happen, over and over again, because no one does anything about it. So what if the youngsters dress like westerners? Does that mean any westerner who comes to our country can be touched without consent by these molesters, who, according to the minister’s statement, are self-appointed guardians of the culture of our country?
Mr. Parameshwara also said that when there is a crowd, police can’t always act with vigilance. When they can’t be the one thing they need to be then why deploy police at all? Are cops deployed only to shoo people away when the clock strikes 1?
Then there’s one Mr. Abu Azmi, a cheerful MLA boosting the confidence of the molesters out there by labelling the way women dress “blot on our Indian culture”. He also comes out on twitter and says that the media is twisting his words and tweeted this.
These women are definitely a blot on our culture, if our culture is to grope, touch, assault, and rape, which few of our men religiously follow.
You know it’s not just a matter of what was said by two political leaders, it’s what they represent and who they lead. One is the Home Minister of a state, another the president of the Samajwadi Party. If we can’t allow Kanhaiya to be the president of the student union within a University, how do we allow such ministers to hold their titles and mislead the people?
#Notallmen are molesters, but Almost All Women Are Groped
Instead of taking a stand and showing unified support against the events in Bangalore, some people have taken on twitter with a new hashtag “#notallmen”. Inspired by this, some people have made this an issue of “the natural behavior of an unruly mob”. An issue of sexual abuse and gender inequality has suddenly become the platform to tell women that you are wrong to play the victim here. Someone out there is telling you that “You can choose to be safe, so Don’t blame the mob”. You, Woman, it’s all your fault. You can read this absurd article published on The Quint.
How did this become a matter of accusing all men of molestation or calling all of them disrespectful of women? It’s a case where a group of people openly molested women amongst a crowd – who helplessly watched or worse participated. It is a case of politicians waving this off as a “chalta hain, hota hain” event. It is a case of people who find themselves paralyzed when it comes to helping someone – man or woman.
Can The Law Help?
We want a clean India, we want a digital India, we want a skilled India, but do we really want a safe India or is that just for marketing collaterals? I wanted to file a petition similar to what is filed with the White House to get the President’s or an authoritative committee’s attention on this matter. After some research I found out that Rajya Sabha accepts such petitions from the public. But turns out you can file petition for “Any matter of general public interest relating to Government of India (excepting matters which are sub judice or for which remedy is available under Laws, Rules, Regulations or Bye-laws made by or under the authority of the Central Government).”
There are laws in the matters of molestation, assault, and rape, but they are not even remotely harsh. More often than not, the culprits walk out of jail with as less as Rs. 5000 fine and no imprisonment. These 4 sections of the Indian Penal Code to punish assaulters or molesters are as follows –
Under Sec.294 an obscene act must cause annoyance. The annoyance should be done in a public place and cause mental harassment. (If it happens in a private place, then you are at the mercy of calling your molester “bhaiya”)
Section.509 of IPC, comes into effect when there is an intention to insult the modesty of any woman by the offender by uttering any word, making any sound or gesture or by exhibiting any object, with the intention that such word or such sound be heard, or that such gesture or object be seen by such a woman, or by intruding upon the privacy of such a woman. Punishment -simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both. (The word “modesty” is vague and has let many assaulters and molesters walk free out of the courts)
Section 354 of the IPC considers the assault or criminal force to woman with the intention to outrage her modesty. This offense is considered less serious than Rape. Punishment: Up to two years imprisonment or a fine or both. (I don’t think rape is considered serious at all, not as serious as expressing your liberal opinions at least)
Section 323 punishes anyone causing voluntarily hurt(non cognizable. Punishment: Up to one year or Rs. 1000 or both. (Does the fact “men will be men” make it involuntary?)Source
So there are laws, good! But are these laws exercised? Are any of the molesters being arrested and exercised? No one has filed a case against the mass molestation yet. Most pictures that have surfaced are vague and don’t really say much. They can’t possibly act as valid evidence. If so many women were molested, why aren’t they coming out and sharing their stories? I don’t know if all happened as the media described it, but we know the problem is real, it happens everyday, in broad daylight and in the darkness of the night.
Speak Up, Share Your Story
I have been groped, touched, stared, and commented on several times. I have felt helpless, I have cried, I have screamed. Most of the times, people around just stared and asked me to not scream; not make it a big deal and embarrass myself; looked at me like it was my fault, because a sliver of my chest was on display. But, I’ve never let go of the rascals who touch me without my consent, not without a good fight at least. I always scream, I always confront, even if every single person around me thinks I am making a fool out of myself.
I’ve had friends who’ve told me to let it go, to not create a scene. But, they don’t understand that this is what happens when you don’t create a scene. Just the other day I was in Kolkata and some middle-aged man at the New Market took advantage of the crowd and groped my ass. I turned around caught his hand and asked him why he did that. He looked at my guy friend and asked him If I was crazy? Then he looked at me in the eye and said that he didn’t do anything and I was over reacting. He said that it wasn’t a big deal, everyone here is minding their own business and I should too. I cornered him and I screamed at him at the top of my lungs and threatened to drag him to the cops till he apologized. Maybe next time he’ll be afraid to do that for the fear of being called out in public. Maybe it’ll take a lot more to get him to learn what he did was wrong and that he has no right to touch someone obscenely without their consent.
Whatever you do to fight this, just don’t let them call you daughters, mothers, and then fucking touch you. You show them you’re not all these goddamn labels. You show them that you are not a damsel in distress, not a weakling, who can be tossed around at will. You show them that you’ll go wherever you want to go and do whatever the hell you think is right for you. If they touch you, break their fucking arms if you can. Scream, embarrass them, call them out, but don’t shut up. Tell other women it is okay to fight back, tell other men to not be afraid to help.
Here is where you can be if you’re in Bangalore and want to show solidarity against sexual abuse and gender inequality –
Source – Benjamin Erskin Moses
And to all the people who are still making the hashtag “notallmen” do the rounds of the internet, don’t make this your goddamn fight. It would be great if you could stand up for the right cause this time, instead of sharing your opinions for the sake of some activity on your timeline.