'Look at the woman sitting next to you, or any of the women in your family, your friends, or ANY woman for that matter. I can guarantee you that she has been abused, molested or eve-teased at some time.'
It infuriates me!
The articles, conversations, Facebook protests, Tweets, blogs on the Internet... the reams of newsprint on the unfortunate medical student who was repeatedly raped in a moving bus in Delhi on Monday.
Today's headlines, and today's outrage (manufactured or otherwise), will be found in tomorrow's dustbin.
This is not the first time it has happened. It will not be the last!
It will happen again, and again, and again, multiple times in a day, across this great, goddess-worshipping nation called India.
It will happen because we, proud Indians that we are, do not understand any deterrent except SEVERE punishment.
Punishment that will embarrass us socially, punishment that will reduce us to penury, punishment that will see us spend years in jail, punishment that will result in physical harm to us.
But that doesn't really happen in India, does it?
Take a look around (I don't need to name names, but the answer is a big resounding NO!)
Rapes happen in India, because we are a callous nation.
Incest happens in India, because we are a callous nation.
Eve-teasing (believe me, this term doesn't even begin to encompass what this kind of behaviour does to the psyche of a girl or a woman) happens in India, because we are a callous nation.
Look at the woman sitting next to you, or any of the women in your family, your friends, or ANY woman for that matter. I can guarantee you that she has been abused, molested or eve-teased at some time. And has anyone come to her rescue?
Don't we all ignore it when we see it happen?
Are we either not in a hurry, or frightened, or whatever other stupid reason we give ourselves, to intervene?
To right, or at least lend our weight in correcting a situation that is so obviously wrong?
I gag each time I read a statement that the woman did not protest.
PROTEST for God's sake?
Women have protested since time immemorial, but is anyone listening?
Instead, and more often not, the most infantile excuses are made -- either a woman invited it, or she wanted it, or a man could not help himself, or this is how men are or...
And what exactly is a woman supposed to do? You let me know.
Here are some everyday incidents that occur to women regularly. And these incidents happen (all you morons who claim that women invite this kind of behaviour, PLEASE READ THIS CAREFULLY) not because of how a woman is dressed, how a woman looks or what her age is.
It happens because a man knows he can do it and get away with it.
Here's one example:
Someone looks at you from tip to toe. It is not a pleasant look, it is not an admiring look, it is a DOWNRIGHT SLEAZY look. No, you as a woman have not invited it.
And if you protest (of course, you have to protest loudly for the protest to register), the man will either look at you innocently and say, 'Behenji, aap ko galat fahimi ho gayi hai, maine kuch nahi kiya (Sister, you are mistaken; I have done no such thing)' or he will give you an injured look as if you are doing him a major wrong or he will look you up and down once more or he will say, 'So what? I looked. Dekhne ke liye paise lagte hai kya? (Does it cost to look?)'
What are you, a commodity being sold by a vendor who screams, 'Aao bhai, dekne ka paisa nahi lagta?'
And this, trust me, can happen not just on the road; it can happen in places where you least expect it; where you think you are safe.
Here's another scenario:
Someone you know drapes an arm around you or slides an arm around your waist or gives you a hug. There are times when this is innocent, and there are times when it is not! Trust me, a woman ALWAYS knows the difference.
Here's a third:
You are walking down a road. A man unnecessarily brushes past you, touching you. That, let me tell you, won't happen to a man.
Here's one more:
You are on a bus. If you are standing, a man will press into you. If you are sitting, he will lean onto you. You'll shift, move if possible. If not, most often, you'll endure it. If you protest, he will say 'It's a crowded bus, stop being paranoid.'
But you won't see him doing this to another man. This is one situation where, if you create a ruckus, the man will move away because he has to travel on the same bus. But he will tell his fellow passengers you are being unnecessarily nasty.
Or... you've got off a train and are walking towards the bridge to that connects you to the exit. You'll be pressed against, even if there is no need. Sometimes, men lean out of a moving train and pass lewd comments or touch you.
Or... you are travelling by train in the ladies compartment that adjoins the gents's compartment. God forbid if, instead of a wall, you have an open barrier; you'll be started at constantly till you get down. You'll be subject to comments, film songs, whistles. And if you say anything... of course, it's not directed at you; they were just talking and you are being paranoid.
So many women have to wait at a bus stop at night. It should be safe na? Ask them how many times has a car or bike stopped to size them up, to ask: Aati kya? (Are you coming with me?)
You chose to take a bus because you didn't want to go home with an unknown taxi or auto driver. Instead, your cautious behaviour makes you a prostitute in the eyes of the men passing by. Of course, if you are out late without a male escort, you can't be up to anything good...
And this, all of this, happens regularly to the women in your life -- your mother, your sister, your friend, your female relative.
And they deal with it. And they remain the wonderful, loving, human beings that they are.
Which is why it guts me, and enrages me, that the men who disrespect women do not pause for a second to think of the women in their lives.
Try telling an eve-teaser, Tumhare ghar mein maa-behen nahi hai kya? (Don't you have mothers and sisters?). Hai (Yes), you will get a smart alec answer, biwi nahi hai (but I don't have a wife)... Or they will burst forth with the vilest abuses.
These are -- as compared to rape -- small incidents, but they happen every second in India.
Every woman has experienced it. And, believe me, women DON'T ask for it. They feel cheapened and disgusted each time it happens.
And here's what I, as a woman would like:
Severe punishment (Castration? Life imprisonment with no parole ever?) for those who rape. Rape destroys a victim in more ways than you can imagine.
Severe punishment for incest.
Severe punishment for eve-teasing and sexual harassment.
The perpetrators of these heinous acts must feel the full weight of their crimes.
Unfortunately for women, this will never happen. India is filled with people (of both genders), who think there is nothing wrong in disrespecting or demeaning women.
Meanwhile, I pray for that young medical student fighting for her life.
I pray for the girl in Mumbai who was attacked on Monday by a man who mistook her for his wife.
I pray for all the women who are abused every day.
I pray that, one day, all the women in India protest in one voice against all the atrocities committed against them.
If you are a woman, and you have not been disrespected by a man ever, please post on the message board below. And we will celebrate a new dawn in India, and look forward to a land that venerates both goddesses, and women.
Signed, A Woman in Today's India