A city formerly known as the “City of eastern light” and commonly referred to as the “Gateway” to the north east region of India has been in the spotlight recently due to an infamous incident. I don’t want to dwell on the details of this incident and the video which went viral, simply because enough has been spoken about it, and enough opinions have been formed already.
However I do want to dwell on a slightly sensitive topic which has been racing in my mind for quite some time now, even before the Guwahati-molestation case became a subject of national concern.
I want to talk about the conflict between two very distinct, yet heavily supported, points of view regarding the subject of a woman’s modesty being outraged. The opposing points of view being that “Women should know better i.e. they should dress carefully and be mindful of their surroundings” Vs “Rapists are the ones to be blamed”.
- “Women should know better”
Well, this does seem like an archaic line of thinking and I can sense the blood of feminists across the board boiling with dissent. However I intend to provide a rationale for this line of thinking, only because it does exist. The rationale being that; we know there are men out there, who are capable of such dastardly acts, committing this crime day in and day out without signs of stopping anytime soon. The only course of action left for women to take, is to be scared and careful. It’s a sorry state of affairs to be in, but wouldn’t everyone rather be careful and avoid such incidents from happening to them? This thought first came across my mind a few years back, when one of my female friends voiced her concern about molestations and how it can be dealt with. The adage ‘Prevention is better than cure’ seemed befitting and that’s what I told her. I don’t want to entertain thoughts of equality of sexes and how even men can be victims, frankly because I do not hear or read of many men being molested or raped in India, and not liking it.
2. “Rapists are the ones to be blamed”
This line of thinking does not need much elaboration or discussion but I will give it the due attention. Simply speaking the blame lies only on the offender and it should in no way be shifted to the victim. Let her be dressed provocatively or highly inebriated, it does not give any person the right to abuse her or take advantage of her. When men can walk around anywhere anytime of the day, dressed however they please, why should women be singled out for their choice of clothes or the places where they choose to be? However such double-standards don’t just exist in our country, but are prevalent to an extent that we can’t imagine. All these double standards have come into existence only because women are subject to more sexual offences than men. Period.
I do not intend to compare and say that one of the above approaches is better than the other, or that one is right and another is wrong. Good or bad are words of subjectivity and i’ll let them stay that way. I only intend to lay down the consequences, because they are concrete. The 1st approach, no matter how narrow-minded it may seem, will lead to a future where women are constantly judged for their outlook as well as behavior. The 2nd approach does aim to free the victim of any responsibility for the crime, but does it cleanse the trauma faced by her?
Truth be told, sexual deviants are criminals just like thieves and arsonists. The degree of their crime varies from groping to rape and assault. What amazes me is that when such an incident unfolds in full public view, how does the culprit manage to escape? Would the same happen if someone tried robbing someone in broad daylight? Wait a minute, yes it probably would!
As a society we are a group which just loves to look and ogle. Starting from drunken brawls, to petty thievery, people choose to distance themselves from an incident unfolding in public. We pass the buck, and we do it with panache. “The police are responsible for safety, why should I run behind a thief or molester?” Of course there are a few who would act in such a situation, but these few include the offenders in such incidents as well. So that makes for a really small group of people who would, without any self interest, act and help someone who is in trouble.
If being idle in such situations is not enough, we have another way to deal with such issues. We talk. We talk and talk and talk about what we think is right and how things should be done. Dissonance is a funny thing to have. The only way to rid oneself of it is by giving suitable explanations and achieving some sort of closure. We do this by talking. What we ideally do, is discuss a topic to such an extent that all the possible arguments are exhausted and after gaining that closure we move on. Carry on with our daily lives, hoping we would never be subjected to such torment.
Though this seems like a rather bleak outlook, it is the truth.
As a group of individuals, we do not act, instead we watch and we talk. (Check http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bystander_effect if you don’t believe me)
I would love to be proved wrong.
I’d love to read about how a crime, on an innocent girl was stopped by a group of onlookers. I doubt that would happen anytime soon though.
On behalf of our society, I offer my condolences to the ladies.