Politicians and Parliament do not quite seem to understand that it is less about crime and punishment and more about our attitude towards women which makes India unsafe for them
So, you want me to write on the rape culture in India? Well, where do I begin?
• I was 10 years old sitting in a rickshaw when a cyclist groped me from behind. I have never sat in a rickshaw without feeling scared.
• I was 14 when I woke up in the train at a station with a man’s hands crushing my breasts through the window. I have never slept in a train with an open window ever again.
• I was 19 when a stranger took out his penis and stroked it right in front of my house.
• I was 24 and in my first job when a senior colleague would talk to me while staring at my breast. He did it for all of two years I was there.
• I was 30 when I stood alone at an Indian railway station waiting for a lost pickup and the lustful looks by men frightened me so much that I took a gun shooting course when I returned to the US, and swore to myself I would shoot them the next time, regardless of the consequences.
Growing up in a North Indian city, I’ve been groped, rubbed against, flashed in public transport, on streets and in colleges by strange men, young men and uncles. I don’t run on streets even though I love running as a sport.
I am constantly on guard while using public transport. I stand with my elbows jutting out so men cannot lean against me. I can’t pass a group of staring young men without an illogical shudder of apprehension. And then there are those instances I’ve buried so deep in my mind that I can’t even bring myself to remember. I can fill an entire notebook with them. So can every other woman in India.
One day I even realised I was terrified of bringing a child in this world because I couldn’t protect her from predators. Like my parents couldn’t protect me. It was only in the US that I found freedom from the constant stress that plagued me on Indian streets.
Yet, I count myself lucky.
Show me a woman in India from 7-70 who has not been harassed, stalked, whistled, groped, or raped and I’ll show you a liar.
Even as Indians outrage against the rape of Telangana or Hyderabad’s Nirbhaya, another woman is picked up and raped in a police vehicle. I personally know of a 75 year old, who an 18 year old boy attempted to rape.
If I were unlucky, I could’ve been a Nirbhaya, Aasifa or Priyanka.
Catching a bus at night and raped and murdered. Returning home from work alone, raped and burnt. Going to play outside, kidnapped, raped and murdered.
This is the scenario Indian women and their parents play mentally every time they step out of the door alone, every night they return home late. We know speaking up is useless. We will be the sluts, or the temptresses, the victims or the predators, the dishonoured because the honour of our families rests in our vagina. Worse if we accuse a powerful person, we might be the ones arrested. So, we internalise these traumas, and pass them as fears to our daughters.
Have you ever thought why only some rapes spark outrage among the middle classes and elite? But some rapes specially disgust us because they are brutal crimes against educated, urban young women who are People Like Us.