This is a plea to all women — stand up for yourself, stand up for other women.

A burglar breaks into a bank and says he was “provoked” by the huge amount of money kept there. Is his explanation accepted? No. When a person is murdered, and the murderer says he was “provoked,” is he left scot-free? No. Corporal punishment is condemned and many teachers who meted out inhuman punishments have been brought to book. And if they say they were provoked by the student’s behaviour, is it accepted? Never.

When why do men think it is acceptable in the case of rape? And yet, that was the exact reaction that came from many quarters, especially from policemen, when the shocking gang rape of a 23-year-old in Delhi came to light. And shockingly, most women too, think that victims of rape and molestation bring it upon themselves.

This attitude is deeply rooted in our patriarchal system, where the male alone gets to make all decisions and where the women are forced into submission and are made to believe that they have no right to live their lives for themselves, the way they want to. And if they violate this decree, they are asking for trouble. And what’s more, the women who are submissive will force other women too into submission.

It starts right in our families, where the son is given more importance than a daughter, and a free rein. A boy’s bad behaviour is most likely to be dismissed “as typical of a male.” And what do we get? We get men who think that any kind of behaviour is acceptable, including violence, and he can get away with it, simply because he is male. They think it is the women who should know their limits, and not the men. And it is certainly this attitude that exists in homes, which blames the girl entirely and encourages such incidents in our country.

When a sexual abuse occurs within the family, the women who are closely related to the victim create a false impression that the responsibility rests with the victim alone. This creates feelings of guilt, depression and hopelessness in the victim, and she will find no support, even from her own mother, to complain against the culprits.

There are limits to a woman’s patience and tolerance, and men have far exceeded these limits. It is time that women stopped taking the blame for men’s crimes. It is time that women realised that it is never their fault. That they alone have the right over their bodies and their dignity, and that no man has the right to even touch them without their permission. It is time that women spoke out, fearlessly. It is time that women were provoked. Provoked to fight back.

The bystander phenomenon has gone on long enough in India. This is a plea to all women — stand up for yourself, stand up for other women. You see some girl in trouble, immediately go to her aid — each and every woman in the crowd — reach there, mob the molester, give him a public lesson he will never forget. Start doing this, and you will see the bullies cower.

A bully lasts only as long as his victim fears him. Women power has always been underestimated. Power does not lie in muscles. Power lies in retaliating. Together. This act does not need a Bill to be passed by Parliament. It needs no law to be enforced. It needs only courage.

As for those so-called educated men, who believe that this situation is a result of women crossing their limits in their dressing, let me remind them of an incident in the Ramayana. When Sita was abducted by Ravana and her ornaments were shown to her husband Ram and brother-in-law Lakshman, Lakshman could identify only her anklets. Because he had looked only at her feet, out of respect. And this respect for women is what is lacking in men today. Before you criticise women for losing their morals and not emulating Sita, remember that you have lost your values and do not respect women anymore. Change yourself first!

(Email:snehaverghese@yahoo.co.in)

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