Photographs: Adnan Abidi/Reuters
It is not just a whistle, a wink, molestation, rape, battery and brutal sexual assault any more. Nor it is isolated, says Paloma Sharma.
Let's go through the motions again.
Let's clog the streets, stop the traffic and try to get the attention of the people we chose to rule us, to care for us, to abide by us. Let's get pushed down on our faces by powerful jets from the water canons that guard the lair of those who are too busy to utilise the power that we gave them. Let's fall down on the asphalt, one by one, like a hundred million dominos that were touched by the softest of whispers. Let's all pretend that it will make a difference.
While we're at it, let's also have raging debates at the nine o'clock slot on national news channels with celebrity panelists who are benevolent enough to share their highly intellectual opinions about women's rights. Of course, the right to not be raped is still under discussion. You must understand, it is not so black and white after all.
Let's wait for our favourite politicians to tell women to stay 'within limits' and follow maryada, to dress 'decently', to not occupy the public space that they are entitled to as equal citizens of this country and most of all -- to not exist, so we can defend them by saying that they have been misquoted. Never should we forget to clap like wound-up toy monkeys when they raise the issue in Parliament, scream and shout and shed their glycerine-aided crocodile tears over it.
Let's pardon the pathetic excuses for human beings that masquerade as religious gurus -- the ones we revere oh, so much. Let's turn the other cheek when they're accused of sexually assaulting little girls and call it a conspiracy.
Let colleges and universities go into a fearful frenzy and police the dresses of girl students -- not because they're afraid that the girls might 'invite' rape but because if something does happen to them, it will soil the name of the institution.
Let's all patiently wait until the geniuses of this world are done telling women to be strong and brave and to know how to defend themselves while they appeal to indifferent men that "it could be your daughter too!", as we wait for them to realise that a woman's safety is not her responsibility and that a man does not need to have to think about his own female relatives to be sympathetic, all he needs to do is think of the victim (and womankind, by extension) as human.
Let's ask for the rapists to be hanged, to be castrated, to be tortured (which doesn't sound so bad, really) and never look for ways to make reporting sexual assault to the apathetic law enforcement easier; and never let us forget to add 'shame' when we speak of sexual assault because somewhere inside us we still cannot equate sexual assault with simple, brutal crime. It is always something else, something we do not speak of -- unless everyone speaks of it together.
Let's gasp self-righteously and be mortified that something like this could happen in Mumbai, a city we live in and assumed was safe; and wonder how, when and if at all it will ever end, as we conveniently ignore the several, several reports of gang rapes in different (read: non-metro) parts of India.
Let's tweet our outrage and then tweet a rape joke three days later because she was wearing a short skirt and she was at a party, with boys and she was drunk. She brought it upon herself. "She was so asking for it, dude!"
I could tell you that a 23-year-old female photojournalist was gang raped last evening, ie, on the 22nd of August near Shakti Mills, but I won't because the subject of the sentence is the victim. I'd rather we start by saying that five men gang raped a 23-year-old photojournalist. Of course, identifying the criminals by their gender and making them the subject will ruffle a few feathers here and there, feathers that would not be ruffled if the victim's gender is highlighted, because she is a woman and she was out in a dangerous place and "these things happen."
It is not just a whistle, a wink, molestation, rape, battery and brutal sexual assault any more. It is not isolated, it is terrorism now. It haunts a whole 49 per cent of the population.
If you happen to be unfortunate enough to have a vagina attached to you then you must know that it is no longer safe to travel alone (night or not), it is no longer safe to sit in an empty train compartment, to watch a movie on one's own, to go out and buy groceries, to go to the park, to drive a car, to go to school or work or step out of the house for any reason.
Even an illiterate woman can read the writing on the wall. It says "Your rights are null and void. Fear is your Lord."
Let's uphold our 'morals', our ideals, our gods, their teachings, the 'ways of the world' and not have to look beyond the tip of our own noses at the cost of 65 million women who are 'missing' from our population. Let's propagate violence against anyone who dares to speak out against our 'culture' because we worship goddesses (while drowning infant girls in milk to kill them).
Let our young female citizens pursue an education with a thousand dreams dancing in their hopeful eyes, yet let us not look at the pattern that seems to be forming -- young woman goes out of traditional domestic space to achieve non-traditional goals and disgruntled men use inhuman physical and sexual violence against her.
And when everything is said and done, when the outrage has taken our momentary self-reflection with it, let's all fall into an unshakeable silence, because anything is better than this hypocrisy.