So, what can a woman do to be safe? Correction: what can an Indian woman do to be safe?
I mean, come one, nobody wants to be molested and killed and harassed and injured just like that. Not even Dawood Ibrahim. Not even fans of S&M.
But for women, it is not so easy. Safety of ‘just being’ is a precious precious commodity, you see. You could get unsafe if you just sneeze or have an upset stomach or read Dostoyevsky or do cartwheels. I don’t know. I have stopped counting reasons why one could get raped. Eating Panipuri after 8 pm? Saying you hate Chennai Express? Having diabetes? In India rape could happen for any ‘reason’ and it won’t surprise me.
Wow, how I thank my luck for not being raped. Ever. I mean WOW IN CAPITAL LETTERS. I am so lucky to have escaped with 20 years of just regular street harassment, a glass ceiling, a few dangerous encounters. I am so lucky to be allowed to be born, to be educated, not to be raped in marriage, not to be abused by people known to me, not to be raped by strangers, not to be physically harmed for being a woman, not to be killed brutally.
I am lucky.
So, from this very privileged position , I can’t help but rejoice that last night all the five accused for the gangrape of Mumbai photo journalists have been taken into custody.
This is great news. Law and order of the country taking women’s safety seriously and acting on it and being responsible for it- is an essential human right. Kudos to Mumbai Police for swift action and hoping for a quick resolution to the case.
Media of course, does play a big role in pressurizing the authorities. Media has played a crucial role on taking up issue of women’s safety, sexual harassment, sexual violence with a gusto since mass media came into picture.
In recent times, in mainstream media- we have seen an upsurge of coverage about crimes against women since the Nirbhaya case. This is not to say that there was no media stories before, but the scale and the lack of rape apologism ( i.e, highlighting facts about victim’s behaviour and suggesting that the rape happened because victim didn’t behave like a good girl) is fairly recent.
And it has shown results. Be it relentless investigative stories about unreported violence, follow ups on pending cases, eloquent condemning of rape apologists, uncovering apathy of police and judiciary, social media campaigns, highlighting stories of women survivors and articles covering serious aspects of gender inequality have gained prominence in recent times in mainstream media .
Which of course is what the role of media is. If media , the fourth column doesn’t care about justice and truth and right to information, then who will?
But looking at the Indian society, which rushes to lock its women rather than men at even a hint of danger, I wonder if this coverage would also have a side effect. That of making women/ their families more scared and ultimately, restricting their presence in public places.
This point was raised by theconjecturegirl commenting on my earlier post : women’s safety and media.
To quote theconjecturegirl:
“I have a problem with the over-emphasis on “women not safe in Delhi/Mumbai/India”. It seems to have driven many women away from the public space, in fear for their personal safety. In general, there is the “let’s be safe than sorry. The city isn’t too safe these days” – as if it was very safe before.”
I sort of agree with her after the reactions one reads/ hears, to so many high-profile cases highlighted in media. Since majority of coverage focuses on violence in public places, as theconjecturegirl rightly points our,’ I feel sad when I get told “are you mad? why do u want to risk your life for a late-night dinner?” and when they look at every car passing by with a fear that it might just sweep them off their feet to be gang-raped. ‘
Would the parents of young girls impose stricter curfews and working women of all classes would be nervous of odd hours? ‘If a journalist is raped, then what chance would less empowered women have?’
As it is, women have to start their struggle to gain freedom of movement right at home. Indian families raise daughters in ‘avoid it if you can’ school of thought. It is always women who are censored : be it their activities, dressing, profession, body language. It directly leads to women being fearful of asserting themselves in any sphere. Now, does this coverage end up enhancing this fear and reluctance?
While this might be a very valid point and a possible side effect, I do believe that people would continue to censor women no matter what. To give an example, so many people said that if Nirbhaya, the woman in Delhi Gang Rape had been submissive, she wouldn’t have lost her life. One doesn’t have to be an Asaram Bapu to see the common-sense argument in this logic.
If I curl on my bed in a high security tower in Amazonian jungle with a drip of nutritious food sustaining me , I will not get raped. But the fact of the matter is, I and millions of women don’t live/ don’t want to live/ shouldn’t have to live in that tower just so that they are safe, no?
This common sense argument doesn’t address marital rape, rape of children, rape of dalit women in rural areas and hundreds of crimes where the victim had no chance to protest. What about the fact that most rapes are perpetrated by people known to victim?
So, to some extent I do agree with theconjecturegirl that this kind of coverage which she calls sensational, might lead to further driving women from public places. Because it focuses so much on violence committed by strangers who belong to lower economic strata, in public places, in dark hours; it may reinforce the myths about rape.
So maybe, what media needs to highlight is the reality of sexual/ gender related violence permeating every corner of our society. Be it child abuse, marital rape, rape by people known to victim, rape of poor/ lower caste women by people who are in authority, rape of sex workers, rape of women by men in diverse economic strata. These also need to be highlighted in equal measure.
What do you think?