Grope: (verb) to touch or handle (someone) for sexual pleasure. Molest: (v): to assault sexually. Rape: (n): Unlawful compelling of a person through physical force or duress to have sexual intercourse.
Know the words. Know the exact meanings. Because when you enter a police station, you will be asked again & again if you are sure, which among the above three happened. You will be asked for "clarity". You, and only you will be asked, if you provoked the "accused" in any way.
A 20-year-old girl has been stripped, raped and thrown off a bus in New Delhi! She was returning from a film at around 11 pm with a male friend. Her crime: Hitching a ride in a chartered bus?
About 10 days ago, a 32-year-old Manipuri girl was slapped by a traffic constable in Bangalore, after a group of men groped and humiliated her! She was left alone to pick the shreds of her dignity, only after another patrol vehicle arrived at the scene and the mob dispersed. Her crime: Turning to a traffic cop on the street for help?
In my city of Hyderabad, cases of young girls being attacked with knives or even worse, acid, by spurned lovers are not uncommon.
Several women reporters, including me, recollect with a shudder all those instances when one is groped and almost molested amidst large crowds while covering political yatras, a state funeral (surprise!), or even "holy" events like Ganesh visarjan. Faceless people who melt away in the crowd even as your angry scream drowns in the din! That feeling of despair when a mob approaches and you know you cannot count on the police is tragic, to say the least.
Delhi's latest victim lies in an ICU, fighting for her life, paying for someone else's sins. As I hear the police officer (usually a woman officer briefs the media in such cases, for a better "connect"?) requesting for public support to identify the perpetrators, the cynic in me smirks!
Public support? It's a myth! Haven't we proven that more than once? Stood like lamp posts when our women have been groped, molested, abused and stripped? Didn't we let two brave Mumbai youngsters Keenan and Reuben die when all they did was stand up for the dignity of the girls in their group?
Yes, I am angry. Because each time a girl, a woman is stripped off her clothes, her respect, her faith in a society... we rise to voice our opinions, we rise to condemn, we rise to express solidarity, but we never rise to ensure action! Under media glare, a few cases still remain on police's priority but isn't that very fact our collective failure?
Why should a family be scared to let their daughters travel alone in a city like Delhi? Why should a lady have to fear the night? Why should I not have the confidence in the man donning the khaki uniform? Why should the onus of proving someone else's guilt lie on my character certificate?
Even as I say a silent prayer for the victim, her injured friend and her family, I know what needs to change. Respect! I don't want to plead for it anymore. As a woman, I earn it and I demand it... inside office, inside my house, and damn well...on the streets!