The right to respect

I know I am late for The Blank Noise blogathon, but better late than never, right? This blogathon is to raise awareness and help prevent Eve-teasing, Street harassment and Abuse.

I bumped into this Blogathon by chance and was quite surprised by the subject, considering that its pretty taboo and not that very well discussed, even though we are a ‘progressive’ urban society. But after reading through quite a few blogs, surprisingly some written by men too, I was shocked and jolted by the experiences. Shocked not because I could not believe of what these women went through, rather surprised by the fact that these women went through the exact same things that I have been going through, since my rite of passage! It was a revelation, considering that inspite of being from differences cities, towns, educational backgrounds, class, status, none of us escaped being physically and mentally abused. Be it cat calls, being stalked, groped, flashed, jeered, rubbed into, pushed, pulled, threatened, abused, beaten, jolted, ridiculed; the trend was frighteningly similar.

For many, eve teasing seems like a very harmless sport. C’mon every one of us has flirted or joked around with the opposite sex sometime. But where do we draw the line? When does it turn into abuse from harmless flirting?

I guess that’s where we all need to be taught, enlightened and disciplined. When people take effort to teach us the way to eat, write, walk, learn, think and even talk right, then why can’t we teach how to identify abuse and face it?

The world is a scary place, but each one of you feels safe in this cocoon hoping that as long as it doesn’t happen to us, we don’t need to be bothered. I guess this false hope of safety is what has led women to be this brutally abused EVERYDAY. If my parents, relatives or teachers had warned me about these perverts and their evil tricks I would have been prepared the first time I was groped, instead of feeling dirty, demeaned, ashamed, angry, and cheap about my body, doubting what had I done wrong? I wouldn’t have been scared shit when a freak followed me back from school if someone on the street had seen my plight and come to my rescue. I wouldn’t have been embarrassed and disgusted if my college management and police had done something to stop the flashers and eve teasers out side my college! If only I was safe, I wouldn’t have been this broken, shit scared woman who grows apprehensive when the sun goes down, who would rather spend a bomb on autos than take a bus home, who wouldn’t go to late night movies, restaurants, parties and even mid-night masses without a male escort, who would have to pick me up and drop me back home.

But then inspite of all the fear, anger, helplessness, shame, ignorance, self-doubt, disgust, agony and anger, I have made an effort to stand up to these perverts.
If someone touched me now without my permission, I would beat the living day lights out of that bastard, like I did on my trip back to Bangalore from Mangalore, a year back. I had to resort to beating him because; inspite of repeatedly complaining to my aunt about this guy who was feeling me up from the ‘front seat’ in a bus full of sleeping people, my aunt asked me to ignore him and I did. But there’s only that much a girl can stand. When that bastard didn’t stop inspite of my angry retorts, I pulled out my water bottle, stood up and beat the hell out of that guy. The bus was stopped, the conductor came running, I narrated what happened, people woke up from their slumber and grumbled, my aunt seemed embarrassed (can you believe that?), I looked at that creep trembling with fear and he seemed to be just a ‘college kid’!!!

And even after everything that had happened, the conductor asked me not to make a fuss and ‘disturb’ my fellow passengers!

I was fuming with rage. People didn’t support me, my own aunt did not come to my rescue, the conductor asked me to hush and sit tight, but none of this mattered, because when I reached Bangalore, I was a new woman, a stronger, braver, redeemed woman. That one moment of retaliation wiped away all the pain, anger, shame, anguish and disgust of the earlier abuse. It was a start and I have never been sorry about it. But even today I can’t forgive my aunt for not backing me up!

From then on I haven’t been afraid to walk with my head held high rather then fold my hands across my chest, scare these pricks away with a glare when earlier I wouldn’t even look up, now I resort to screaming and self-defence rather than walking away and sometimes even helping out other women.

A faint ray of hope is that when I tell my mom about this, she is proud of me and backs me up. Thanks Mom for understanding and encouraging me to face the world, one less grope at a time.

But this doesn’t mean that I am still a free bird. I follow every rule in the book.
Don’t go out alone after dark.

Avoid lonely streets.

Don’t talk to strangers.

Don’t wear revealing clothes and accessories, which draw attention.

Don’t pick up fights unnecessarily.

Always know your limits and dangers.

Always be alert and on guard.

Save emergency numbers on the phone.

Grow longer nails.

And never ever forget to pack your courage and presence of mind, while stepping out of home.

Anyways now back to the point of this Blogathon- Awareness.
Keeping this is mind, I forwarded a few of these blogs to my friends and colleagues, and I was quite taken back by the response. While most women recognized with the experiences in the blogs, most men seemed genuinely surprised that women actually go through this kind of abuse everyday and everywhere. This either shows that men just turn a blind eye and justify these atrocities or they were truly never aware of mistreatment of women. But I have intentionally skipped the third category, they being perverted themselves!

I don’t know if I can change the minds of those who justify eve teasing or they themselves part take in it, but through my experiences and hundreds of other women’s blogs, I can at least enlighten the ignorant of the atrocities meted out to their mothers, daughters, sisters, wives, friends, nieces, girl friends, aunts, babies and even grand mothers on a daily basis.
That’s the reason I am writing this blog. And for those of you who are rolling their eyes thinking ‘oh c’mon not one more of those Women’s day feminists’, let me make this clear that I am not here for male bashing or asking for any kind of reservation for women. I am here to plead for a life without constant fear. I am asking for the most basic of rights, the right to self respect and dignity.

I am not going to discuss what provokes these perverts, how they are mis-guided by the media, society and peers or why men think the way they think . Darn I don’t even want to know how many meters of clothing a woman should wear to avoid being eve teased?

All I want is a little awareness and acknowledgement of the fact that these atrocities happen, right under the noses of the family, friends, police, public and government. Not many women complain because they are scared, ashamed, embarrassed, discouraged, lose hope and give up and those who complain are harassed by the bureaucracy and red tape . I can guarantee you that every single woman in India has been molested atleast ONCE! Most of us, millions who travel venture out of our homes daily to ply by public transport, pass through streets, shopping malls, colleges, schools, temples, churches, markets, layouts and in every damn god forsaken public place, we are abused day in and day out. I cant even begin to imagine what happens among poor, illiterate women in villages and cities!

Men should be privileged that you do not encounter perverted pricks out to harass you sexually, daily. They are not waiting for you on lonely streets, in bus stands, grouped under a tree, behind the tinted glass of the passing car, riding on bikes and cycles, in the bus’, trains, autos, taxis and not every shadow or foot steps evoke fear and terror in you all the time.

You men are lucky to have privileges like taking a long peaceful walk on a moonlit night, watching late night movies, eating out in a restaurant post 9, traveling alone at 2 am, getting a breathe of fresh air in your own compound or terrace, all these are just mere routine for men, but an impossible dream for Indian women!

I know that things won’t change overnight and India will not turn into heaven immediately, but we can make a start somewhere. That’s why I request all you men and women to try and follow a few basic rules:

Women, there is no point in a few of us screaming for justice and dignity, if you yourselves do not take any initiative. I have seen so many of my friends, family and strangers bear the abuse silently and do not even muster enough courage to glare at the offender or even ask for help! Most of the abuse is spoken about, only after the guys walk away and its too late!
I know that every one of these women, has never been able to forget the snigger of those perverts, the lust in their eyes or have never stopped fearing the approaching hand. I am sure that their bodies and minds still feel dirty and no amount of shudders and baths can take away that feeling of disgust . They still vent their anger at their helplessness and ignorance. But there is no point in belated fury, while you let that bastard walk away?

So wake up, take control of your bodies and be on guard.

Scream, fight, scratch, slap, cry, castrate or just plain abuse them. Use any weapon that you can; be it safety pins, chilly powder, nails, teeth, pepper spray, water bottles, bags, umbrellas or karate, do not hesitate. People may or may not help you, police may save or harass you, your companion may turn away or your own family may hush you, but don’t let them stop you. Believe me even though that man did abuse you, you will have the satisfaction of fighting back against that ass hole and made sure that the he will think atleast million times before he abuses another girl.

I know how scary it is to face these perverts; I know how humiliating it is to tell people that someone just grabbed your breasts or tell your dad that a stranger just brushed against you. But girl you have to do it, to save yourself and others from being raped every day, piece by piece, part by part, inch by inch, before there is nothing left of your dignity, self respect, courage, education, talent or emotions. You will just be a empty shell of a woman, believing that you are just another set of boobs, ass and vagina!
So girls do something, do anything.

Next comes Family, you have the biggest responsibility. Why is it that when parents and elders can warn their kids against taking food from strangers or scare kids about being kidnapped, cant explain what kind of abuse men are capable of?
What stops you- shame? How does your embarrassment to explain these things, help your kid who has just been groped and doesn’t understand why she feels so dirty and disgusted? How does your denial to educate your kid save him or her from self doubt and low self esteem?

You have no right to have kids if you can’t provide, protect and educate them.
And a kind request to all those friendly, out going and easy to mingle aunts and uncles, do not let your kids sit or play with strangers and acquaintances. Don’t just trust people blindly. Always ask your sons and daughters about anything strange that they have encountered and always be on guard. It’s your duty to protect your kids, lest something unforgivable happens.

Of course last but not at all the least, support and trust your sons and daughters, rather than doubting them. They are your flesh and blood, your hopes and dreams, the object of your love and affection, the least you can do is take their side and, heed and lead.

Public support can help curb a lot of evils be it robbery, assault or abuse. Support the victim and not the perpetrator. Most timid public, like the ones in Bangalore would rather be silent by-standers than active supporters. All it takes is a little initiative, a little intervention; all it takes is one helping hand or a raised voice.

So please spread the word and make it clear to people that things like this do happen whether its in Forum Mall or City Market. Only awareness can lead to prevention and hopefully even eradication. At least this won’t give the snobbish, blind, self righteous pricks a chance to hush these things up and pretend nothing happened or claim that women brought this up on themselves!

I don’t exactly feel proud to ask men for help but fathers, brothers, uncles, grandpa’s, friends and boy friends, it is your duty to take care of us girls, protect us, educate us, support us, help us and prevent these perversions. And of course teach your sons, grandsons, brothers, nephews and friends to respect women and please do not encourage abuse.

When I narrated these horrors to one of my closest friends, he was shocked, hurt and apologetic. I know how most of you men must feel when we started revealing our painful ordeals. Remember that we are not generalizing and we are definitely not blaming you all. We know that there are a few good men, rare but they are there. And it is because of these few good men, women still trust men and muster courage to brave that crowded bus, markets, streets, malls, fests, schools and colleges,knowing that inspite of these evil creeps, there are a few good men who will come to their rescue.

Lastly I salute the undying spirit and strength of women, who rise like a Phoenix no matter how many times her will and dignity are trampled on.

I was always proud to be a woman, today I am prouder because of you few brave women . Thanks to the Blank noise for initiating this drive and spreading awareness.

Please remember, support the victim, not the abuser!

Action Hero L*J