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Mumbai gang rape: 'I do not feel safe anywhere'

August 24, 2013 14:57 IST

Mumbai gang rape: 'I do not feel safe anywhere'

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Models at Lakme Fashion Week react to the horrific gang rape of a 23-year-old journalist in Mumbai.

Shaken and shocked. The perception of Mumbai being the safest city in the country now lies shattered. Among the women who are most prone to lewd remarks are young models who must travel from studio to studio for assignments and shoots.

As the issue of women's safety raises its head again, we speak to some of them who are walking the ramp at Lakme Fashion Week about whether they feel safe anymore.

We begin with the ever articulate Candice Pinto:

Are you shocked?

Yes I am and more so because it has happened at such an early hour in a city like Mumbai! It creates a sense of fear in women who work at odd hours.

I am not surprised at all because unless we have a law that dishes out very severe punishment to perpetrators of such crimes these incidences will happen.

Could you tell us what you mean by severe punishment?

We should have laws that give life imprisonment or (chemical) castration or capital punishment to people who rape women. Till that happens nothing is going to change. But in our country everything works on corruption and bribes.

I believe that (chemical) castration would be the best punishment to stop rape.

As of now there is no fear among people who engage in or intend to rape women. We need laws that would deter rapists from doing what they do.

Every year such incidents happen, people get enraged, come out in the streets, politicians promise stricter laws, but finally nothing much happens.

How safe do you feel in Mumbai?

I do not feel safe anywhere.

Have you faced any unpleasant incident anywhere in India?

As models we have such different hours of working that the fear of being assaulted always lurks in the back of our mind. It's unfortunate that such things happen every now and then and we must all come together to do something about it.

What safety measures do you take when you are travelling alone at night?

Things are very unpredictable. You don't know who is good and who can't be trusted. Yesterday's incident happened at (around) 6 pm and that too in a city like Mumbai.

I always inform my friends or parents about what I am doing, where I am going; I have a lot of emergency numbers… just in case.

Women should be aware of these things especially when they are travelling alone. They should lock their cars, keep a pepper spray, or cologne or something pointed that they think makes them feel safe while travelling.

Your advice to women who travel at odd hours?

Make sure if you are travelling at odd hours take your friends or family with you.

Always inform your friends and family about where you are going. Worst comes to worst at least they know where you are.

What do you have to tell people who blame it on women and their clothes as being responsible for such acts?

It is not the dressing of women but your mentality that matters.


Image: Candice Pinto
Photographs: Rajesh Karkera/Rediff.com

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'We used to think these things happen only in Delhi'

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Mumbai model Malvika Raj strongly believes that current laws against rape act as no deterrent for rapists. Raj has been walking the Lakme Fashion Week ramp for two years now and has been living in Mumbai. Like many of her fellow citizens, she is absolutely shocked that such an incident should have happened.

She believes that Mumbai's image as one of the safest cities for women to work at any time has taken a severe beating after yesterday's incident.

How shocked are you?

Earlier we used to think these things happen only in Delhi. After hearing about this (Mumbai gang rape) I feel very insecure about the safety of women in Mumbai.

While women need to have their freedom and feel free to do whatever they want, I think that it is safer for a girl always to step out with someone who she trusts: No matter where she is -- in Mumbai, Delhi or wherever.

Even so, yesterday's incident happened despite the girl being accompanied by a male colleague who was overpowered by these five rapists...

Such men should be castrated.

Have you faced any untoward incident in Mumbai?

Mercifully not.

What measures do you take to protect yourself while travelling alone?

I think it is always safe to carry a pepper spray no matter whatever happens or not. People with evil intentions will always find lonely women vulnerable.

Personally, I have done my training in kick-boxing, people don't usually scare me.

What do you have to say to people who blame women for such incidents?

Blaming women is silly. We live in the 21st century and women can wear what they want. Women now demand respect and work on par with women. Why have such a gender bias. Such people should mind their own business.

Having said that women also need to cover them properly when they travel alone in an auto or taxi. You can't be so careless to wear a short backless dress and travel alone at night in an auto or taxi. People will misinterpret you as something else.

So, women also have to be sensible in such ways.

But why can't women be free to wear whatever they want without fearing for their safety?

I believe women can do what they want but there is a certain place to wear clothes that you want and be yourself. Like when you are in fashion week, you can wear what you want without any fear of getting untoward attention.

But if I have to travel alone at night I'd always wear a jeans and proper T-shirt.

Though India is getting literate, we are still a male-dominated society and a lot of people don't look very kindly towards women who dress skimpily.

One must know that people with such mentality do exist in India and they will always blame the woman for whatever wrong happens to her.

What do you think will help stop this menace in India?

We have to enact stricter laws. (Chemical) castration is one such punishment that must be enacted. If we set such examples, people who did what they did yesterday would think a hundred times before trying to rape women.


Image: Malvika Raj
Photographs: Prasanna Zore/Rediff.com

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'It is sad and it is sick'

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Former Miss India Kanishtha Dhankhar expresses her disgust at the Mumbai gang rape. She says rapists are psychopaths and we need laws that scare people from indulging in such crimes against women.

How shocked are you?

It is very unfortunate that such cases happen in a city like Mumbai. We are living in the 21st century. What is shocking also is that now I am hearing about rape cases more than ever before. This makes me feel that crimes have reached such proportions that people like these feel that they can get away with anything.

Why do you think criminals commit an act of crime and get away with it?

I don't know the answer to this. It could be very complex though. These are psychopaths. Perhaps this could be because we are a patriarchal family. Men have always felt powerful than women and thought that they were always right and do whatever they wanted.

What else can explain the fact that these rapists didn't think twice before following the girl and the boy, beat him up and rape her? Evidently, they did it because they felt they were superior.

Such thinking on the part of the men is sad and it is sick.

You have been in Mumbai for a long time. How safe do you think is the city?

I think each one of us have to take care of oneself. I always wear simple clothes when I get out of my house. I can't dress like I do when I am on the ramp. You don't show too much skin. I take this precaution.

Also, you should not find yourself at the wrong place at a wrong time. You have to always look out for yourself. This holds true not just for Mumbai but wherever you go or travel.

Have you ever faced any unpleasant incident?

No and I hope it does not happen with any woman, ever. My dad's in the Indian Navy and he has taught us not to take one's safety for granted. He taught us to be alert whenever we are on our own: Who is looking at you? Who is following you? Who is looking at you? Once on my own I am always conscious about these things.

And when you are growing up in such kind of environment (where you are hearing about rape cases every now and then) you have to be very conscious about what's happening around you.

Do you carry pepper spray with you or what steps do you follow to ensure safety?

No, I don't. But I always make sure not to be in a situation where there could be a risk to my safety. If you feel uncomfortable venturing out in a new place, don't go out alone. If you are going to a new, unknown place find out more about the people there. No one is going to do that for you.

But there are people who blame women for whatever wrong happens to them...

It is quite bizarre. I don't understand why and how these people have the guts to blame women for such cases.

How can we stop rape?

I think the government should enact stricter laws. These laws should scare rapists and molesters. The government's attitude has to change. They just can't let this happen regularly or for that matter happen even once.

There is no fear in the minds of the people. We need some kind of fear that will prevent rapists from acting like animals.

When such rapists read about it and realise that those who did it got away with it. Let us also do it, is what they think. They get emboldened. These people are not fearful of the laws. The laws have to deal firmly with such people.


Image: Kanishtha Dhankhar
Photographs: Rajesh Karkera/Rediff.com

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'Capital punishment is the only solution'

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Sony Kaur feels sad and empathises with the girl who was raped in Mumbai and strongly believes that hanging perpetrators of rape is the only solution that will put an end to such dastardly acts.

How shocked are you?

I don't know what to say. We keep hearing about such brutal rape cases: first it was in Delhi. And now this happened in Mumbai. I don't know what's wrong with people.

How safe do you feel in Mumbai?

I don't think I feel safe anywhere.

Have you ever faced any unpleasant incident?

No. But I always feel scared travelling alone, walking alone down the road, or if I am travelling in a cab in a new place. I feel unsafe when I am alone and I see a group of boys around at a new place.

How do you deal with such situations?

I try not to be in any situation that I perceive could jeopardise my safety and security. I know what is safe for me, which place is safe for me. I make decisions about what situations give me security and which don't.

Whenever I am alone travelling late night in a taxi or an auto I make sure I speak with somebody who I know on the phone and keep her or him telling about my location just to let the other person know that the person who I am speaking with knows where I am and if he creates any trouble it will be reported to the police.

Do you carry a pepper spray?

No. By the time your hand goes into your purse, you get the spray out the person who wants to harm you gets a lot of time and advantage. It is the men's mindset that has to change. They should always remember that it was a woman who gave them birth and trying to defile a woman is not the bravest thing to do.

What do you have to say to people who blame women for rape?

We are living in an independent country. We are free to wear short clothes or saris. The choice should be ours. Just because we wear short clothes does not mean we become their property.

What do you think can stop such acts?

I think those guilty should be hung. The girl who faces such a situation undergoes trauma. The incident stays with them for their lives.

Capital punishment is the only solution. Let the people understand that they will stand no chance to live their lives if ever they dare to rape women. That is the only solution.


Image: Sony Kaur
Photographs: Rediff Archives

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'I have never felt free or safe'

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Model and VJ Shenaz Treasuryvala has been groped on Mumbai's buses and trains. She fought back, slapped and shamed people who dared to do that.

The Mumbai gang rape, she says, has not shocked her but disheartened her. She wants to fight back. She wants to shame rapists, castrate them in public and then torture them till the die.

This anger, coming as it does after yesterday's Mumbai gang rape, is only understandable.

How shocked are you about the Mumbai gang rape case?

These incidents have been happening lot frequently and I am not shocked. I have grown up in India and I must say that I have never felt free or safe. And when people say India got independence I say oh, we are not free. At least the women in India are not free.

In India women face inequality from the time they are conceived. We abort the female foetuses. When time comes to educate them, we give preference to the boys in the family. If there isn't enough food in a family, the woman gets the leftovers. When they marry, we pay dowry…

These are just a few instances but there is a remarkable inequality that women have to suffer in this country.

There is so much power imbalance between men and women in our country... and you are asking me if I am shocked. I am not shocked because I don't feel safe, free and secure to go alone anywhere in India. I don't feel safe to say what I feel.

I mean what do acid attacks on women tell you about our society. What sort of country tolerates such terrible attacks on women?

One always felt that being with a guy assures you some sort of safety. That perception has been shattered. Women are not safe anywhere and with anyone.

Have you ever faced any unpleasant incident in Mumbai?

People who are sheltered, who travel using their own cars or vehicles to college or school may not have faced it. I didn't have that luxury. I always took the bus and train to go wherever I wanted to when I was growing up and I have faced lots of incidents where I have been groped… and this isn't just me. Even my sister and my mother have gone through this.

How did you deal with those situations? Would you fight back?

I have slapped a guy and he slapped me back. That was in college. I was asked to bring something from the ground floor during a college modelling event when a boy groped me. I slapped him and the horrible thing was instead of feeling ashamed of himself the guy slapped me back.

Apart from that I have chased men, shamed them on the street and fought with them whenever I faced such instances. You scream, you fight, you shout; sometime people around you help you, sometime they enjoy these fights and keep gawking at you.

What do you think can help stop rapes in India? Or at least deter people from doing it?

I think it is the way that men look at women (must be changed). They feel it is their right to look down upon women; that women are their personal fiefdoms. They look at women as being inferior to them; see them as sexual objects and not human beings.

We need to have serious punishment for men who rape women.

What sort of serious punishment?

If it were up to me I'd take those guys to a public square, castrate them and then hang them in full public glare. Like everybody should watch them dying. Torture till they die.

These people should be shamed. Somehow, these men feel superior and good about it.

What do you have to tell men who feel that women invite such acts when they wear skimpy clothes?

You can't blame the women who wear clothes that they like. Men have the freedom to wear whatever you want. Why can't we do the same?

If we want to wear fashionable clothes, hot things, something loose or celebrate our sexuality, what's wrong with that? If I am wearing sexy clothes it's because I want to be sexy. That is no invitation to you to come and rape me.


Image: Shenaz Treasuryvala
Photographs: Rajesh Karkera/Rediff.com

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'There are sick people in every city'

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Delhi model Amit Ranjan moved to Mumbai about a year ago. His opinion of the city being a safe haven for women now lies shattered.

How shocked are you after reading about the Mumbai gang rape case?

It is very shameful. We don't expect such incidents to happen in any part of India. But when it happens in a city like Mumbai, which is considered a very safe city for women, there is something wrong.

A lot of my women friends used to tell me that they felt safe in Mumbai even if they were working at odd hours or were out with friends. They said they could wear what they wanted to and not get stared at. So yes, this incident has shocked me.

Has this changed your impression about Mumbai as a city that is considered safe for women?

There are sick people in every city. Mumbai too has its share of such people. But to take precaution is always better than facing such incidents.

So, women now will have to be more careful when they go out with their friends at night or to any place in the city that might put them to harm.

Your advice to women who work odd hours on how they can protect themselves…

I think it must be made mandatory for women who work odd hours in call centres or hospitality industry or any other profession to get a pick-up and drop service from their workplace to their home.


Image: Amit Ranjan
Photographs: Rajesh Karkera/Rediff.com

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