“You think you can harass me just because I’m a woman?” – You tell him, girlfriend!
The news today is inundated with reports of women of all ages being raped and harassed. So when I came across a video of a young woman who confronted a fellow male passenger who had groped her on a plane, I saw it as a step forward, a victory (albeit, a small one) in the on-going, wearisome battle that women all over the planet wage in order to be accepted as equals, individuals who deserve to be treated with respect.
The video clip shows her berating the man for seeking opportune moments to touch her inappropriately. The man is seen trying to avoid being captured on camera but his feeble attempts to cover his face fail as the woman manages to give the viewer a clear view of his face. The man has since been identified as 62-year-old Ravin Jhunjhunwala, and scores of people across the country have viewed the clip rebuking him for his unwanted advances.
This courageous girl deserves to be applauded for standing up to the man in question, for in this country, many are too embarrassed and fearful of confronting men who molest them.
It is all too common to blame the woman for the harassment that she is forced to endure. Her attire, mannerisms, character and behaviour are all questioned. Let’s be very clear – nothing, absolutely nothing a woman does or says justifies rape or harassment. Her attire or behaviour is not an invitation to pounce on her unless she explicitly says, “I want to have sex with you. Come hither.”
Patriarchy and misogynistic attitudes are the root causes of harassment and rape. While the man manages to escape scot free without so much as a rap on the knuckles. He’s free to go scouting for his next victim, secure in the knowledge that there is little that society will do to put an end to his ‘adventures’.
Therefore, it’s heartening to see women who are willing to put up a fight when faced with such unfortunate circumstances that demean them. One can hope that such videos will give other women the strength to confront their tormentors when faced with similar situations. Women in India, and elsewhere, have been subjected to such indignity for far too long and it’s time to finally put things right.
What every society needs is women like this brave heart who decided to name and shame a man who expected her to hold her tongue and not speak out as so many have done for centuries. I am certain the girl’s spirited reaction has jolted him out of his reverie and has driven home the fact that he and others like him can no longer hope to molest women with impunity.
Jhunjhunwala has had to pay the price for a few moments of sexual gratification that he received by molesting a disinterested woman – an FIR was lodged and he was arrested but was later granted bail. The incident has been reported widely by newspapers all across the nation. This, coupled with the humiliation of being shamed in front of his family, which includes a young daughter, friends and colleagues, will go a long way in teaching him a lesson he needed to learn. He will hopefully think twice before embarking on such quests in the future. His public disgrace and the fact that he was lambasted by a much younger woman will hopefully be deeply imprinted in his mind and will prevent him from repeating this “mistake” (as he calls it) again.
The advent of mobile phones and cameras has ensured that every individual can turn into an activist with an agenda by capturing events as they happen in real time. It’s no longer her word against his. A video clip or a sound recording can make for damning evidence and the perpetrator can no longer hope to resort to lies to save his skin. One can cry himself hoarse proclaiming innocence but that would mean naught in the face of technological evidence.
The nagging thought in my mind, though, is one that has plagued me for a long time. While there are instances where a woman can reproach and shame her harassers and receive the unconditional support of the public, there are circumstances when she is forced to keep silent.
Sexual harassment at the workplace is commonplace and this seems to be a tricky situation which cannot be tackled as easily, irrespective of how strong the company’s anti-sexual harassment policies are. Some lucky women do win such cases but in some instances, the odds are stacked so heavily against a woman that she prefers to quit the job or suffer in silence rather than report it to a disciplinary committee.
This is where the real challenge lies – can we, as a society, ever sensitise ourselves enough to give women the courage and the confidence to approach authorities for help and justice if need be?
Will women find it easy to approach the HR department to report an influential superior, with a lot of clout, who has sexually harassed her and expect to receive justice? Will the ranks in a company hierarchy garner the moral courage and good sense to side with the victim no matter influential her harasser is?
Will women ever gain enough confidence to approach the police to report rape without fear of being judged, condemned or blamed for the crime that someone else has committed?
Will society ever begin to comprehend the difference between a victim and a perpetrator?
After this incident, I seem to be hopeful.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.