Dear men, a short skirt, bikini and even a naked female is not an invitation
India is in the news once again, and for all the wrong reasons yet again. An instance of mass molestation in Bangalore on New Year’s Eve has put the country under the radar. An estimated 60,000 people gathered on MG Road and Brigade road to join in the celebrations ushering in 2017. Reports state that members of the crowd turned unruly and a large number of women were harassed and groped.
And as has happened previously, ministers have been making asinine statements while trying to shift the blame from the perpetrators of the crime to the victims. Ministers have been known to blame western clothing and western culture for incidents of harassment and rape, while the prime reasons remain unaddressed. While victims are blamed and shamed, molesters are let off the hook.
As a woman who has been harassed multiple times, I can assure you that women are harassed irrespective of their attire. How else does one explain raping an 11-month-old baby in diapers for two hours? A woman clad in a sari is as vulnerable to an attack as a woman wearing a skirt. It’s not the attire that is to blame – it is the patriarchal and misogynistic mind-set that is responsible for the sorry plight of women in this country. The responsibility needs to be placed on the perpetrators and not the victims.
Taking it a step further, even social media patrons took to different platforms to express their disgust and disappointment towards the incident, and while all the women were up in arms about the shameful incident, some men took it upon themselves to state that all men are not rapists or molesters, making the hash tag #NotAllMen spread like wild fire.
Bangalore incident proved what I have always maintained. No city is safe for women in this country.
Indian Men, this is on you.#bangalore
— Lola Kuttiamma (@Priya_Menon) January 2, 2017
— Anil (@chityal_anil) January 2, 2017
#notallmen is a great example of male privilege. Women are subjected to sexual violence and the first thing men do is make it about them.
— Jayde Crimson (@Jaded_Culture) January 3, 2017
#NotAllMen is funny. Doesn't take a genius to figure all men don't molest. But most women in India have had to face it, & it's shameful
— Yeh Log ! (@yehlog) January 3, 2017
Saying #NotAllMen makes the conversation about men instead of the epidemic level of violence against women, and that's just wrong.
— Aditi Mathur Kumar (@adicrazy) January 2, 2017
We are all aware that all men don’t harass women, but such social media trends are distracting and take away from the issue at hand. The focus needs to be centred on the fact that instances of molestation are on the rise and that our cities are becoming increasingly unsafe for women. Their security should be the prime concern at this point in time. A man who protests his innocence and claims to have a good moral character at a time like this comes across as an apathetic individual unable to grasp the seriousness of the situation. What such men don’t realise is that they are speaking from a place of male privilege, a privilege that comes with an inherent set of benefits that make it difficult for men to comprehend and empathise with the lot of women. This unearned privilege is a part of the reason why women face violence and abuse and also the reason why men remain indifferent to the sorry plight of women.
A short skirt, bikini and even a naked female is not an invitation to men. A woman who enjoys having a drink is not asking for it. Bollywood might try to convince you otherwise, but no does indeed mean no. Unless a woman explicitly expresses her desire to have a sexual relationship with a man, it is safe to assume that she is not interested. Molesters ought to realise that they can’t control what women wear or how they behave and use that as an excuse to justify their actions and twisted mind-sets. Doing so only makes them come across as barbaric individuals with little to no self-control.
Indians (and I suspect most of world) are busy teaching their daughters ways to avoid getting molested when what they actually need to do is teach their sons not to rape. Lessons in consent need to start at an early age. Instead of teaching girls to dress appropriately, boys need to be taught that permission needs to be sought before they attempt to touch another individual and that consent can be withdrawn at any time. It doesn’t matter if the woman is a girlfriend, a friend or even the wife. A woman has the ultimate right over the body.
Karnataka home minister, G Parameshwara’s reaction to the Bangalore incident was disappointing to say the least. “These kinds of things do happen” was what he had to say by way of justification.
Sure, they do.
But should they?
Instead of brushing off incidents of this nature as inconsequential, authorities need to take the perpetrators to task and address such security concerns. Incidents of sexual violence are laughed off because they are perceived as instances of boys indulging in harmless fun. This widespread apathy towards victims of sexual assault only perpetuates the problem further as it normalises and trivialises sexual violence. Patriarchy is so deeply entrenched in society that our collective mind-sets have legitimised such treatment that is meted out to women.
A large chunk of the populace believes that women ought to dress, behave and live according to guidelines set by the male members of society and any deviations / transgressions from the standards set should result in punishment. It is appalling that subjugating women is still considered acceptable and is normalised by many around the globe. Newer generations will only imbibe the values we disseminate.
Unfortunately, the unsound and unreasonable voice tend to be the loudest.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.