Doesn't living together mean you have to keep your marauding basic instincts under control? That this notion is meaningless to some men haunts many women, chewing away at their confidence.
Yesterday morning did not dawn well. At least, not since I switched on the tele. That’s about when that raw fear grasped my insides. It’s still lurking there, clawing at my intestines, eating into my head, gnawing at the confidence that was resting smugly there.
A young woman photo journalist doing her job, just that, taking pictures of some abandoned building was gang raped. Gang-rape, how easily that word rolls off our tongues these days, seeming it seem a less dastardly act than it actually was. A group of men had brutally raped the 22 year old intern, who was reportedly there with her colleague (male). And that was what galled me: repeatedly, in city, town and village, men seem to think they can violate women in the most ghastly manner, completely against her wishes?
Not that these incidents have not been happening in the past. I’ve covered incidents of rape and sexual abuse to women, girls, and worse, little babies; I’ve been pinched, prodded, accosted by exhibitionists, men who have not been able to keep their various body parts covered. It certainly is nothing new.
But every single time it happens, it astounds me and fills me with fury that a man assumes, believes, he can so violate the rights of a woman. What gives some men that confidence? What takes away that restraint that we, as adults living in a civilised society, have been acclimatised to?
Wait. Don’t blame biology or libido. That’s what living in society means. You have your base instincts, or basic, but to live together means you learn to keep those marauding instincts under control. You do not grope a woman’s breasts simply because they are within arm’s reach, you do not lift your lungi when a woman walks in a dimly-lit subway, you do not pinch a woman’s bottom because she’s standing in front of you in a crowded bus. However, tempting it might seem. No, you do not.
Because it is not okay to treat a random woman stranger as your personal sex toy. Well, it is also not okay to treat a woman you know as a sex toy, it matters whether she is interested. Really, it does. And whoever told you that all this was acceptable, well, they couldn’t be further from the truth: None of this is acceptable, not in the least.
The Mumbai journalist strikes too close home, because this is just the stuff we women do for a living. I speak for my colleagues: As journalists, we’re in the business of checking out abandoned buildings, striding the city at odd hours, speaking to cops and criminals, watching a brawl from the frontlines, witnessing as incidents unfold. It could have been any of us, just doing our job not quite considering an impending rape.
It doesn’t occur to a woman on her job that she is going to be raped, that is not how things work. We work, I do, and I know my colleagues do, without a thought about safety, most times. We work with the thought that we live in a safe city, not a war zone, or embattled state, that thought is constantly whirring somewhere in our heads to give us our sense of confidence.
I worry that with the Mumbai incident, that sense of security is no longer with me. Do I have to watch over my shoulder every time? Do I have to stick with ‘safe’ assignments? Do I have to replace my confidence with diffidence, my nonchalance with trepidation? Just because I'm a woman. No, sir, this won’t do.
I’m every woman, and I demand that my country is safe for me.