When enough is enough

One situation when someone did say enough is enough. A few days ago, Hemangini Gupta, a very brave lady put her foot down, opened her mouth, and screamed. And then followed that up with a police complaint. After reading her post, I talked about it with some of my female colleagues, and it is amazing how many women have had experiences like Hemangini’s.

And the minute that something goes wrong, girls are trained to look inside themselves first – did I do anything to bring this upon myself? Girls must have eyes in the backs of their heads, my mom says. What about boys? Do they look inside of themselves? In fact, do they think at all? Even when someone tries to cheat in an exam, I would think they would spare half a thought for what happens if they get caught? When you wear a seat-belt in your car, or a helmet when riding your bike, you do it as much to avoid shelling out 500 rupees to a cop, as protect yourself. Apparently not with “eve-teasing”. Why do men who abuse / harass women (I detest the term ‘eve-teasing’ – which feels more like Rishi Kapoor chasing Neetu Singh around a tree before every one marries everyone else, and all live happily ever after) never stop to think? The answer is quite simple – the threat of getting caught is practically non-existent.

It’s not just the men who’re to blame. Our values are skewed towards apportioning at least some of the blame on the women – if someone kidnapped a girl in Delhi , raped her, and dumped her back at the same spot, the questions asked include what was the girl thinking walking around so early in the morning, what was she wearing, did she do anything to “incite” the men? And these are not questions that some ignorant chauvinist asks – these are questions that our own moms could well ask, and at times, do. Even in this day and age, movies, hell, courts would still have us believe that marrying her attacker is the ‘honorable’ thing to do for a Bharatiya Nari. Are you kidding me?

And when someone actually has the courage to report an instance of abuse, everyone from the attacker (who, thanks to the fact that he’s an impoverished idiot from Bihar, suddenly morphs into the “victim”) to rank strangers, even her own family suddenly makes the woman feel guilty. Why does she have to be the forgiving one? Do I care that this man’s future could be spoilt by a stay in the jail? Yes, indeed – I want it to be spoilt – it is a simple concept called facing the consequences of your own actions. A speedier version of Karma, if you will.

It is amazing that issues of class crop up in such cases. When she was sleeping in her berth, Hemangini was an educated, wealthy (well, wealthier than her abuser at any rate) single woman and her attacker was a poor man from one of the poorest states in India, who is out looking for a way to improve his lot. But the minute that Hemangini officially files a complaint, she’s the rich chick who’s out to bully this socially & economically disadvantaged soul? Considering that he’s from Bihar, surely, that makes him something of a victim himself! What hogwash!

Hemangini’s awful experience is a lesson to us all – women, speak up, scream when you must. And when we raise our children, and teach them that he who lies will not get a meal (my lousy translation of ‘poi sollra vaikku bhojanam kadaikkathu’), we should also teach them that harassing a woman will mean that the next meal will inside a prison.

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