Wednesday, July 25, 2012


The country is in the throes of an inexplicable regression.

Cover up or get raped! This sentiment currently riding India’s public spaces gets steadily strident and sinister. Stay safe with traditional clothes. Dispense with jeans and shorts if you want to preserve your modesty. Cleavage is sure to invite dirt. So watch what you wear and how!

The sneaky, lying voices emanate from everywhere. A clicking of the tongue that originates from the inside of homes, extending to the legislative cabins, echoing on roads, TV studios, peepal panchayats, school corridors and police stations; why will women not listen and stick to the Indian mores while picking their clothes. More and more, in this pluralistic, populous, progressive, democratic home of the Indus Valley Civilization, half the citizens are being told to shore up against the other half under layers of clothes. There is a siege within; a social deceit in the avowed “good and safety” of women.

The diktats are not new. What is scary is the deliberate denial of the collaborative nature of correction needed. There is a vengeful focus solely on the molested. No one will talk of what the molesters ought to do. It is presumed that he can’t help his testosterone throwing him into epileptic spasms of salivation and penile erection at the sight of female flesh. He is XY, the most potent sample of a biped and beyond redemption as far as lust and lechery go. Legs, arms, midriff, silhouette, even eyes at times, he is not fussy; it can all set him off like a pack of crackers. Horrors of horrors, they would have you believe he is particularly turned on by a whimpering, resistant, petrified and unresponsive victim of sexual assault.

So you have these loathsome creatures rubbing their prized maleness against you in buses; the boob pokers who will elbow into your chest pretending to look elsewhere as the young, growing girls wince with pain and shame; ass grabbers, snaking out of the crowd to grab a handful. Fairly dutiful around their immediate family women, they then step out into the streets, these roving masses of testosterone, stripping women with their eyes, doing them right there in public, boring into them.

Lo and behold, the unchanged, continuous, purest descendants of the Neanderthals. A girl’s upbringing has metamorphosed but quite clearly the baby boy book has not been updated. As a matter of fact, their growth has been in the skill of double dealing. In the same breath that he uses the word “sexy” with intent to compliment, he blames victims of rape for having invited sexual assault with their “hotness”. On the one hand item numbers extol ‘jawani’ and ‘badnaami’, on the other there is this all pervasive moral din over culture and tradition. The rules are different. A guy sporting his tight butt in body hugging jeans is celebrating his masculine frame but a woman sporting a low neckline is begging to be violated. Biceps on a man state power; a trim waist on a woman spell invitation. The horrific sanction extends to men in positions of trust and responsibility. Try sharing the chiller with them and they will be quick to tell you how men will be men and how even boys are not spared. 
The numbskulls do not want to see that it is not about the right to expose but about the right to exist without shame, fear and guilt.

I have two daughters and I am scared witless. How do I have them balance their education with conformity? Having brought them up to breathe progressive notions, how do I sell oppression to them guised under the cowl of tradition? What good really is the visible progress made by the successive generations of women in their family if the end goal is the go back into hiding? Do they need, for their own survival, to acknowledge that no one really cares for the autonomy, dignity and authenticity of women? That just a scratch below the skin of modern civilization is the molten, pre-historic “burn the witch” hatred. That the men in their lives may view their independent thinking as an attack on their masculinity, deserving to be mocked and put down. And that the tool they will call in might be rape wherein lays the truth that sexual harassment is not about sex. The deal is about power, control and domination.

It has been said over and over and bears any amount of repeating. As much as the violations grow so must the protests amplify. To summarize therefore and reiterate and register again and yet again:
Rape is violent
Rapes are mostly committed by men women have little reason to suspect
Rape has nothing to do with the dress of the victim
Rape visits the weak and the timid, kids included

What you and I can do right away is to:
Stop laughing at rape jokes
Boycott movies that glorify rape
Speak out when the victim is blamed
Engage men in addressing this criminal attack on those who hold up half the sky

The ax forgets but the tree remembers. In remembering, we can give this daily, horrific occurrence a language that will snatch it out if its "unspeakable" yellow, ticker tape.

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