Is Indian culture so flimsy that it can be destroyed by women’s clothing!

My best friend’s daughter recently got a job in Saudi Arabia. ‘How can you allow your daughter to go to an Arab country? Don’t you know women are treated like second rate citizens there?’ I fumed. It was beyond my imagination how could an educated mother send her young daughter to Saudi Arabia for a job.

My friend replied calmly, ‘If she was working in Delhi or any other city in India, I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night but I know she will be safe in Saudi. No man will dare misbehave with her.’

Today, women are in the board rooms, in space, factories, and even in armed forces but irrespective of their status, strata and education, they aren’t safe on the roads, not even on the streets outside their house.

One more incident of molestation, one more blood boiling statement blaming victim’s western attire for the offensive act. Don’t know which is worse – the indecent act or the disgusting statement. Samajwadi Party leader Abu Azmi said women in Bengaluru had been molested on New Year’s Eve because they were wearing ‘short clothes’, hours after the Centre condemned Karnataka Home Minister G Parameshwara’s similar victim-blaming comments. Azmi, like Parameshwara, claimed that the women faced repeated sexual harassment on the city’s streets because they had not conformed to ‘Indian culture’. Damn! Does groping and molesting women conform to the Indian culture? Not a word on how men are expected to behave.

First it was Delhi and now it is Bengaluru which have brought shame to India. It is spreading like some kind of contagious disease. Can’t say if the crimes on women are actually increasing in number or there are more number of such incidents which come to light.

Twenty Five years ago when during exams I used to study at night until the wee hours; in between cramming the boring lessons, it was a common practice for the students to take short breaks by having a quick stroll on the street. In the April heat, we looked forward to stepping out of the house even for just a while to soak in some cool breeze. A ten minute walk in the quiet of the night was refreshing enough to glue me back to my books for another couple of hours. The street opposite our house in Sector 22 in Chandigarh was dimly lit as some of the blubs would always be fused and I clearly remember in the dead of the night, dressed in my night clothes, I used to be the only one on the road engrossed in my thoughts, marching from one end to another, while my parents slept inside peacefully. On those days, it was a ritual in summers for most families to have an after dinner stroll on the street. People indulged in simple joys of walking on the roads. ‘Those days’ were just twenty five years ago but it feels like another era, a different world altogether when women felt safe on the roads. When I narrate the stories of ‘our times’ to my sons, they ask me, eyebrows raised in awe. ‘You used to go for walks alone? On the road? At midnight?’

Fast forward to the present times. After dinner strolls at night – alone or with a companion is unheard of for the fear of not only molesters but also of stray dogs, chain snatchers and thugs.

Nowhere there are statements from minsters or anyone that we need to put a leash on perverts. Punish the criminal and not the victim. Every time such an incident happens, men with misogynic mentality give disgusting statements and further shame the country. Are we saying, it’s okay to molest a woman? There are also no statements demanding better law and order, more stringent laws which could deter men. There are only statements how women should dress up, how they shouldn’t venture out alone at night. Seriously!

Media go overboard while reporting such incidents but when the culprits get caught, the media need to follow up , and report with the same fervour about the punishment meted out to them, publish their photographs to let public know about those men who shame their entire gender.

Are women public property that they can be groped at anyone’s free will? Do they need to be dictated how to dress up, do they need to be told where to go and at what time to go. Disgraceful! Unacceptable! It’s time to get it straight, it’s time to fight it out.

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