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It was my first bus ride to college. Just as I entered the DTC bus, I noticed over fifty pairs of eyes (all male) staring intently at my legs. Perplexed, I looked down wondering whether I had scribbled some unsolved equations on my legs.
I learned my lesson on dressing appropriately the hard way. After that day, I never wore short skirts to college again.
Last week my daughter moved out of home and into college. The first thing I did was to shop for her wardrobe. Obviously she cannot be wearing skimpy outfits to college. So we went shopping for tees that hide and not reveal. She also got her first pair of salwar-kameez from Anokhi. As she twirled around in her all new ethnic avatar, I wiped silent tears for my baby ready to fly the coop.
Children grow up, mothers don't.
The feminist in me was feeling like a hypocrite. Wasn't it me outraging when Mamta Sharma cautioned women to be "careful" of how they dress because "such incidents (sexual assaults) are a result of blindly aping the West"? Don't we all know, what you wear is hardly a deterrent for a man with rape on his mind. A beast's mind knows no reason and follows no logic.
It is sad that women are unwittingly made custodians of Indian culture while their male counterparts strut around behaving like uncultured brutes! According to HT columnist Halarnkar "Men abuse women in every society, but few males do it with as much impunity, violence and regularity as the Indian male." Indian women not only have to deal with libidinous males but apathetic lawmakers who tend to blame the victim rather than the perpetrator. If she gets raped it must be her fault. If she's reporting it, she must a prostitute who didn't get paid. A society watches silently from the sidelines as a young girl gets molested by a group of men. If she's out at night, drinking and wearing shorts, she deserved it.
I'd hate to have my daughter deal with a sick mindset that worships female goddesses but heaps the worst atrocities on its women. If she rejects advances from her suitors, she's thrown off running trains, acid is splashed on her face or she's publicly humiliated. We've had a woman Prime Minister and a President, yet one of the greatest tragedies in our country is that women are on their own when it comes to their own safety. In the metamorphosis of Bharat to India, in her evolution from nari to babe, it's always her dignity that's at stake.
Sadly even the media portrays the modern sexy woman as a trophy rather than a woman with feelings.
As long as we have separate rules for men and women, things will not change. As long as women are looked as responsibilities, they will continue to get exploited. Protecting her does not mean you curtail her freedom and convince her, it's for her own good. A friend recounts her very first lecture by Dr Aruna Broota from her Delhi University days. She said, "When we have children, those of us who have sons should treat them the same way as their daughters. If there is an evening curfew for the girls, there should be one for the boys. Mothers who let their sons roam in herds at night to prey on women are the ones who should be held accountable for their son's actions". Make him aware that men and women are entitled to enjoy exactly the same kind of leisure activities. A socially conscientious mother will bring up a son who respects and cherishes women around him, instead of looking at them as mere playthings.
A strong woman is the foundation of strong values in a society.
Passing new laws against sexual crimes will help only if the police is willing to implement it. Right now the system does its utmost to either delay, deny or subvert justice. Even if half the crimes against women get exemplary punishment, it will be a deterrent.
The feminine body is God's most beautiful creation. It's a pity if we have to hide it. Wear what you want but for a civilised gathering, where men know how to appreciate your beauty. And if you want to assert your freedom to choose what you want to wear, you should stop caring about that gaze that lingers on your cleavage and if you do, have the guts to ask him to fuck off! Till our men learn to respect our choices, we have to learn to protect ourselves. Every shove, every brush, every pinch deserves a retort. Yell, create a scene, prick him with a safety pin do anything but tolerate it. Keep silent and rest assured there will be a second time.
The skirt may have become shorter, the dress tighter but we are still stuck with a mentality that prefers subjugating its women. The emancipation is up to us.
Till we evolve as a society, keep the Kali alive in you. Cover up if you have to but don't cower down.
More about Purba Ray
Purba Ray is an economics graduate who taught computers to high school students and finally found her calling in the written word. She is not a crusader, but someone who has opinions on anything and everything. She enjoys books, movies, music(not just any) and is an avid traveller.
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