An anonymous user's post on a social networking platform has gone viral. The user, who alleged that he was arrested for approaching a woman for a date, has set a debate going on the other side of the sexual harassment story that no one talks about. That it's enormously difficult to approach Indian women within the constraints of a conservative society for a romantic liaison that is not pre-approved by her parents.
The authenticity of the post is debatable. But the points raised, even by a fictitious male user, have been discussed in earnest among social networkers, especially males, as valid guidelines on how to go about asking out a woman for a date without risking, let's see, a police FIR.
"So I just got home after a GRUELLING day. I have some knee problems these days. I went to see a specialist. He saw my X-ray report and recommended a few exercises, along with meds and told me to come back in two weeks.
My mother was there with me, and she suffers from arthritis. She was getting her diagnosis, while I was already free.
I saw this doctor, she looked nice. I didn't approach her, for her colleagues and patients were all around her. We had a good eye contact a couple of times. My Mom told me that it'd take her a few more minutes, and I encouraged her to take her time.
In about 15 minutes, this doctor, this woman...she got out of her room and walked towards the stairs. I followed her, and basically asked her to stop.
Me: We should get together this weekend.
Me: We'll have fun. Maybe get a cup of coffee or something!
Her: Get lost...
I walked away and sat down on the sofa, waiting for my Mom to come back.
In a few minutes, the chief of security asked me to step into his office. I went there. The woman had apparently complained that I had harassed her. Her boss, the senior doctor (SD) was also there.
SD: What did you say to her?
Me: To who?
SD: To her... (pointing to her)
Me: What's it to you?
SD: I'll tell what it is to me you punk. I'll call the cops.
Me: I merely asked her out, she said no, and I walked away.
SD: (To his security staff) Don't let him go.
So I went back and sat on my chair. In a couple minutes, my Mom stepped into
the room, and signaled that she was ready to leave. We left, but since my knees were hurting, I didn't walk fast. In less than 30 seconds, almost 30 security people surrounded me, four or five jumped me, and forcefully dragged me back in.
What basically happened next was that he claimed he was arrested and booked for harassing a woman, granted bail, his reputation tarnished, his morale crushed and his family shattered.
The post's writer said "Women have too much power in the system. I don't know how much money and time I will end up losing in this court case. Pretty sure they will confiscate my passport for as long as the trial lasts. And trials in this country last decades. I am an outcast on so many levels. I am numb and I don't know what I did to deserve this."
In the lengthy post, the user concluded that "it is not what the most effective pick up line would be. Or what the smoothest approach would be. The question is that of legalities, and freedom of speech."
"I am allowed to talk to any random woman, and ask her out - sexually or in a platonic fashion - without harassing her. That I am allowed to do legally. Talking to someone and making an offer isn't illegal, according to the Indian constitution. Not even an offer that's sexual in nature. My offer to the doctor - have coffee with me - was as platonic as it gets. I have coffee with men, and
with women, and I am a coffee connoisseur of sorts.
What I am not allowed to do is to molest or harass a woman (or anyone, really.) As soon as that woman made it clear that my offer was unwanted, I went away. End of story.
No molestation happened there.
No harassment of any kind took place.
No groping, no stalking, and no pressure was applied.
While the points raised are valid here are some counterpoints:
- Assuming that dating is being discussed in the context of urban, independent, working women, the gaps in the personal security they are entitled to are too much to risk a casual encounter with a complete stranger.
- While overreaction is completely unwarranted, there are brutal crimes against women - in both cities and villages - being recorded every day. They have little or no access to police protection, calls of distress go unnoticed and mostly ignored and they face domestic violence.
- Most women have their guards up against any approach by a member of the opposite sex thinking perhaps that it's better to be safe than sorry.
- It will be sweeping generalization to assume that all women behave bizarrely when approached by men for a date. Or that you need to stay away from them because you never know what gesture of yours they will misinterpret as an attempt to 'outrage their modesty'.
- India is still largely a patriarchal society and the guiding hands in matters of romance are often of the parents. You cannot wish that away. But the situation is largely changing as women from small and far flung cities and towns migrate in search of work and live alone in big cities, and make independent choices.
- If this case is true then it may or may not be a one-off incident. Agreed that many women abuse dowry laws and influence the police in their favour, but for each one of those cases, there are at least 10 women being tortured and killed for dowry.