January 22, 2017

In response to 'What exactly happened on 2017 New Year's Eve in Bengaluru? What could be the causes of this?' on Quora

Trigger warning: Rape apologia, Misogyny
Content note: Long post

By now, it is old news that the ugly colors of gender inequality have shown themselves in the form of molestation on New Year's eve in Bengaluru (link).  What is worse now is, that the ugly colors of rape apologetic attitudes and regressive notions on how women should cover / lock themselves up to 'prevent' sexual harassment (and thereby implying that those women who did not do so were / are responsible for crimes against themselves) have remained unchanged. Four years after Nirbhaya (link), not much has changed. The proof of it can be seen in the Quora post (link) which I am responding to which asserts that women locking themselves up is a solution to prevent sexual assaults, and the number of people who have up-voted it, and the number of people who empathised with the author's views in their replies (some replies rightly criticise the author but many more support or agree with him). The fact that this post features as one of the top results in Google search when I search for "what happened in bengaluru on new year's eve", and the number of up-votes means that many people seem to be taking these arguments seriously, and I want to express my disagreement as strongly as I can here.

Quotes from the original post in black italics and my responses in bold red.

// Clash of cultures. Something similar to what happened on New Year Eve in Cologne and other German cities last year. Or something that the 16 December gangrapists had planned. FUN, as they call it. //

It is not not 'clash of cultures'. It is a conflict between a regressive mindset which asserts that women who violate unspecified rules, such as coming out at night, enjoying at parties, and so on deserve to be violated, and expression of right to freedom by the women who directly challenged these 'rules' by engaging in 'unacceptable' activities. It is a confrontation to existing power-domination equation. The rapists of 16 December, or the attackers on New Year eve violated women because they couldn't stand women disobeying their 'rules' and believed that those women deserve to be punished for it. They couldn't stand their power and control over women being challenged and they violated their victims' dignity by assaulting them in an attempt to subjugate them. More importantly, they were aware that they could get away with their actions, because they knew that society would blame the victims instead by questioning them for disobeying 'rules', thereby making these women vulnerable targets. 

"The rapists often don't see their actions as crimes, the police said, and don't expect the victims to report them" - link to post by IHM
// Before the IT revolution, before the assimilation of Western culture in our lives, Bengaluru was also like a typical Indian city. For those, who were teenagers in 90s, New Year meant watching some crappy special TV shows on 31st, sleeping as peacefully as any other day, getting up on Jan 1, wishing your family “Happy New Year” and resuming your daily schedule. It is now that the New Year eve celebrations have become as big for Indian youth as they are for the West. Just like thousands of people wildly celebrate at Times Square, similarly, we too have started following them and started celebrating at city centres like MG Road in Bengaluru (which is used to have a casual gathering in 90s) or Connaught Place in Delhi. //
Women have been raped and molested in India before the IT revolution as well (link). Gandhiji famously stated that India will be free when the women feel safe to walk in the streets of India India in midnight. He said so because he was disturbed by the state of sexual crimes and lack of women's safety in the country.
Besides, where does one draw the line to define 'Western culture'? There was a point in time when even education and financial independence of women was seen (is still seen by many) as against 'our culture'. There was a time when widow remarriages and prohibition of Sati were seen as intrusion of Western culture into our society. Despite being illegal, child marriages are rampant in India to this day due to widespread cultural and social support. Recently, Indian government has issued a statement to support marital rape by stating that criminalising marital rape would weaken the institution of marriage (link). Does all this mean that we should advocate conduction of child marriages till the time all parents are educated about the perils of the same? How then are we going to educate parents about why child marriages are wrong, if we continue to advocate that we conduct them till parents are educated?! Advocating that women must lock themselves up or obey unsaid set of rules to prevent themselves from being assaulted, till the criminals are educated that they will be held accountable for assaults, is the same thing, it's the same argument, a non-solution.

Cultural differences do not and should not give anyone the right to violate human rights of those who are different from them. They must never be used to attempt to justify such acts as well.

// This is not wrong on part of the independent youth who get another opportunity to take a break from their mundane lives, roam around with their friends and enjoy a bit. But in eyes of people with older mindset, for the slum dwellers; these things have a different meaning. For them, all the woman who are partying with their friends have a loose character and will most probably get laid with their male partners tonight. // 
They need to be told that women have the right to consent or dissent to participate in sexual activities with (m)any partner(s) any time. They need to be told by every channel that it is a crime to assault a woman without her consent, for which they will be held accountable and punished. And this message needs to be instilled through strict implementation of the law. More importantly, we as a society need to tell them that the character of the woman in question is not relevant by holding the assaulters, and the assaulters alone accountable for the crime. Asking women to lock themselves up and laying down suggestions rules for women to obey (such as avoiding parties) would only encourage these criminals, as they realise that they find social support when they assault women who disobey those 'rules'.

// New Year celebrations, unlike Diwali or Eid, dont have any religious element associated with them and hence the concept of sin is easily forgotten by such hypocrites. // 

Men molesting women is mainly a function of how easy it is for them to get away with their crime. Their restraint is not caused because of their personal beliefs, but because they sense that social support is less likely when they assault women who are adhering to unspecified rules (read participating in 'socially acceptable' activities like religious ceremonies). When we as a society condemn their crimes equally strongly for assaulting any woman under any circumstances (party or not, drinking or not), they would refrain from assaults.

Besides, women and children are molested at cultural / religious gatherings such as dandiya (link), ganesh chaturthi celebrations (link), diwali parties (link), apart from a whole lot public spaces, including bus-stops, colleges, schools and trains. And many women are raped by their own husbands in India by virtue of the power granted to the husband through the cultural institution of marriage.

// Open consumption of alcoholic beverages also sends a message to these petty goons, who consider it a signal from womenAlso, public gatherings at night like these give them a mask of anonymity to attempt molestation, which if they tried on any normal day would invite severe retribution from public. //

Sexual crimes aren't perpetrated by one single social class of men against one single class of women. 
"Studies find 98% of India rape victims knew their attacker" - Link to post by IHM
"Home most unsafe place for women : A unique court-ordered study by Delhi police revealed" - Link to post by IHM

Men who are accustomed to being in the company of women who drink also molest and rape them (link), at times in private gatherings or at their own homes (link). Child sexual abuse is rampant in India (link). Many tribal women are raped due to social oppression (link, link).

And to what extent can public gatherings be avoided? It is a complete myth that the problem of street sexual harassment is prevalent only at night times. Molestation and harassment are common in every public space one can think of, including trains (linklink), buses (link), colleges (link), streets, parties, parks, queues, temples (link) and so on. I can speak from personal experience that I have been molested in trains, in buses, in an amusement park, at a house-party, at my own home by a random stranger, even when I was a minor, and I have also witnessed many cat-calls in my college.

//Bengaluru police has still not registered cases of molestation. They need to take suo motto and hunt each and everyone of those involved, just like police in Germany did. Otherwise, it will only bolster these criminals and then there will be nothing stopping Bengaluru to go down Delhi’s path.//

Completely agree. This is most important.

// All civilized people, especially young women should avoid attending such gatherings which have a history of hooliganism. //

All civilised people should actually respect human rights and stop molesting, assaulting and violating women or anyone else. They should also stop encouraging such hooliganism by strongly advocating for strict punishments to criminals instead of giving out a handbook for women to obey so that they're not violated.

//  And for the same reason you avoid going to ISIS controlled Iraq. //

India is not an ISIS controlled Iraq. If we want to claim that we are a civilised society and a functional democracy which values human rights, we as a society and a nation need to behave responsibly and ensure human dignity is not violated. So instead of advocating women to compromise on right to freedom, it is better to ensure those rights are not violated by giving out message to men that they will be punished for doing so. Also, avoiding going to Iraq which is a far-far away land is not practically the same thing as 'avoiding public spaces' in the country where you live. Women's daily movements are restricted because of molestation and sexual assaults.

// Before, all the feminist guns start blazing at me, let me clarify that I too support freedom of women. //

Feminism is not a dirty word. It is the idea that all human beings should have equal social, economic and political rights. Supporting freedom of women means supporting the idea that women's movements should not be restricted by threats of violence against them when they engage in certain activities (like celebrating New Year's eve). Advocating that women should lock themselves up, and thereby placing the responsibility for crimes against them back on themselves, is the opposite of supporting freedom of women.

// I too support that men, especially these uncultured feudal ones should be educated. //

It shouldn't stop with educating them. Men who violate women need to be told that they have no right to do so and be strictly punished by the law. Otherwise, when they get away with one assault, they realise that it is easy to get away and commit more heinous crimes.

// I too support that women should walk without fear. But do we have the resources to ensure so? We dont have enough police to take care of severe murder cases, let alone molestation. //

Then we need to work on building the resources to do so. It is not just about lack of resources, it is about the attitude of police. Complaints are not lodged and swift action is rare. Low conviction rates further demotivate victims to report an already much under-reported crime in the country.

"So how does Delhi - NCR Police define rape" - Link to IHM's post 
"When they don't even understand crime, how are they ever going to begin controlling it? - Link to IHM's post

Gender sensitisation is required at an institutional level, so that police start taking these crimes seriously. Police reforms need to be implemented to ensure authorities enforce the law.

'Murder cases first', cannot be used a justification to make police devoid of the responsibility with which they are entrusted. In this case, police did not lodge complaints till several days after news has been circulated.

I blogged about why eve teasing
 sexual harassment on the streets should not be taken lightly and how letting it go unpunished encourages rape apologetic social attitudes and emboldens criminals to commit more heinous sexual crimes (link).

// Can all these hooligans be civilized within a week, or month or fortnight? It will take a generation. //
So should half the population pay the price by giving up on their own rights and dignity? And how much locking up is possible? Women are routinely groped, molested, cat-called and jeered at in buses, trains, bus-stops, metros, colleges, workplaces, queues, parks, on the way to their workplaces (link), when walking on the streets for carrying on their daily activities. Should we apply Taliban rules and stop educating women, and stop 'allowing' women to be financially independent, "for their own good"? But even in countries where women are required to be covered from head to toe and follow all these rules, women are not safe (link, link). 

Suggesting that women stay away from the criminals will place the burden of responsibility on the victims, and would further embolden those hooligans, when they learn that women will be questioned and blamed for being assaulted. How are they ever going to be civilised if we continue to keep advising women to avoid the very same activities which make them deserving of assault in the eyes of those hooligans? Wouldn't those hooligans find validation of their pervasive notions when we extend passive support by suggesting women to be restrained, instead of punishing the criminals?

// How many of the ladies can hire security guards just like the ranting feminists of TV studios?  //

If presence of security force helps protect women's rights, the solution is for the administrative system to tighten measures to increase women's security, and not locking women up by asking them to not party or gather at public spaces.

// The simple thing is unite, become a woman vote bank and make women security an election demand. // 

Women's security is not the only objective. We're seeking empowerment. Even when women's security is made as a serious election demand, politicians and officials with confused understanding of what comprises right to freedom and security, like this author, may advocate even legally banning women from public spaces or night parties to 'prevent' sexual assaults. Even now, both the major national political parties have supported decriminalising marital rape, despite Nirbhaya case protests and recommendations of Justice Verma committee. They have criminalised consensual sex between minors and decriminalised marital rape to 'prevent rape'.

Where Consensual Sex is Rape, and Forced Sex a legal right - Link to IHM's post

"Protection and empowerment are two different things, and perhaps don't always go together' - Link to IHM's post

Pubs in Andhra officially Reserved for Men? - Link to IHM's post

// Till then, avoid walking in such filthy traps. I know, it violates zillions of your constitutional rights mentioned in Class XII political science textbook but in our country, these rights are only on paper. We dont have the will or manpower for their implementation. This is not a permanent solution but a preventaive measure to buy time till solutions are implemented. Till a cure of AIDS is not found, it is better to compromise on your right of having unprotected sex . Prevention is better than cure. Stay safe. //

Being infected with AIDS because of consensual, unprotected sex based on personal judgement is not a violation of one's rights. Whereas being assaulted for celebrating New Year's is a gross violation of one's right to dignity and freedom.

We are not seeking 'prevention' at the expense of violation of human rights. Asking women to stay at home or face threats of assault is as gross a violation of human rights as assaulting women. We are seeking empowerment to be able to move freely and securely without having to face threats of assault and risk being blamed for it. Prevention is not even practical in this case. If I were to avoid all the spaces where I could potentially get assaulted, I would never leave my house where my husband has legal rights to rape me under the current Indian law.

Slavery could never have been banned if slaves were 'suggested' to adjust and continue serving their masters till masters are educated about the wrong aspects of slavery. Likewise, if women are 'suggested' to stay away from public spaces to 'avoid' assaults, assaulters will never learn that they are wrong in assaulting a woman irrespective of what they think of the woman's character.

Author has added this Edit after some replies criticised his stance: //It seems from the comments that advising (and not dictating) people to have situational awareness, asking them to analyze and foresee hazardous situations is itself a crime. //

Women have been 'advised' since centuries to follow umpteen number of rules by patriarchal societies, lest they be assaulted or punished for their disobedience and be blamed for crimes against themselves. At the risk of sounding politically incorrect, I think it would be better for confused people such as this author to refrain from passing on their 'suggestions' till they fully understand the importance of uncompromisingly upholding human rights.

Recommended reads:

1. A response to: Why we think women activists should change their attitude of "Wear what you think - Link to IHM's post

2. Watch Satyamev Jayate episode on Fighting rape to fully understand how rape culture works in our country - Link

Related posts:

1. If every we dealt with every act of sexual harassment this way .... - Link

January 05, 2017

Aahista chal zindagi - A new year treat

As a new year treat, I am sharing this beautiful poem written by an anonymous poet. I actually came across it on Whatsapp during last new year when it was being circulated. The forward says it's written by Gulzar but I couldn't trace any source to confirm this, and any original source to link this to, so I am just pasting it here - It doesn't matter who wrote it. It is as beautiful as it is touching:

Aahista chal zindagi, abhi kai karz chukana baaki hai
Kuch dard mitana baaki hai, kuch farz nibhana baaki hai
Raftaar mein tere chalne se kuchh rooth gaye, kuch chhoot gaye
Roothon ko manana baaki hai, roton ko hasana baki hai
Kuch hasraatein abhi adhuri hain, kuch kaam bhi aur zaruri hai
Kuch rishte ban kar toot gaye, kuch judte-judte chhoot gaye

Un toote-chhoote rishton ke zakhmon ko mitana baki hai
Tu aage chal main aata hoon, kya chhod tujhe ji paunga?
In saanson par haqq hai jinka, unko samjhaana baaki hai
Aahista chal zindagi, abhi kai karz chukana baki hai

So how does the new year feel? To me, it feels like one of my favorite songs which soothes the mind, stirs the soul and gives hope. Music defines a language of its own and speaks differently to everyone, and somehow, I never found Phir Le Aaya Dil to be a tragic romantic song. Rekha Bharadwaj's voice captivated me first and the lyrics made me fall in love with the song. The lines make me introspect, seek hope and calm myself. The music and Rekha Bharadwaj's voice sound at once both reflective and hopeful, as though one is trying to seek lost memories and fulfil the past.

Enjoy listening to it here - I particularly love Rekha Bharadwaj's rendering of this song: link

Sharing my favorite lines in the long penned by Sayeed Quadri:

Dil keh raha use maqammal kar bhi aao woh jo adhoori si baat baaki hai.. woh jo adhoori si yaad baaki hai....
Dil keh raha use mayassar kar bhi aao woh jo dabi si aas baaki hai.. woh jo dabi si aanch baaki hai....
Dil keh raha use musalsal kar bhi aao woh jo rooki si raah baaki hai.. woh jo rooki si chaah baaki hai....

The heart seeks me to fulfil that unfulfilled matter, that unfulfilled memory....
The heart seeks me to unveil that suppressed desire, that suppressed flame....
The heart seeks me to complete that unfinished path, that unfulfilled desire....

Note: If there is any authentic source which establishes the original source for the poem I shared, please notify me. I would be more than happy to link it here or take permission from the author.

Related posts:

1. Happy new year - Link

January 02, 2017

Happy new year

Happy new year everyone!!

And....I am back!

So you got it right - my new year resolution is: to write more. Whether it is on this blog or elsewhere, I want to spend more time doing this one thing which I love to do. So this isn't a 'fix the problem' resolution. It is more of a but this is more of a 'let myself free' resolution which I am taking to do what I truly want to do rather than what I am supposed to do.

First things first. I'm sorry for the long, mysterious disappearance. I have no explanation to offer other than that I lost track and things got in between and well, I didn't create time for this. To be fairly honest, it is hard to explain how much I really missed this space. Let me just say that I feel alive typing this now. So many times my hands have itched to rant here, and for too long, I kept myself locked away whenever my mind wandered and my thoughts swayed with these winds.

And finally, with the new year, I decided that there is going to be no more of shutting myself up. Sometimes, it is good to Let It Go (yup, I've seen Frozen and loved it) and indulge yourself without restraints. So, here I am again, all unleashed, and all renewed, with the promise to turn these sporadic rants into frequent ones.

And last but not the least, thank you for still sticking to my blog! I wish everyone of my readers and their loved ones a very happy new year. I would also love to know what your new year resolution(s) is(are). Please drop in a comment if you wish. Wish you all the best in acting on them!

Hope you'll enjoy my future posts. I'll make sure there are more of them coming.


Related posts:

1. Ahista Chal Zindagi - A new year treat - Link