I’m a day late to participate in the BlankNoise Project – I just found out about it. Amit Varma wrote an overview of the daily harassment that Indian women face in the streets of India, which led me to this campaign.
This is my story. This is the story of every woman in India who does not have private transportation or ‘protection’ on the streets. These are the reasons I feel like an exile, sometimes, from my ‘own’ country, my passport country. Varma says,
Till recently, I didn’t quite understand the extent to which women are
violated every day in India, in so many different ways, and that there
are no exceptions to this — you step outside the house, you’re a body.
I’m not sure I can understand what it must be to be treated like meat.
Never happened to me.
When I walk with female companions in crowded places in Mumbai,
like railway stations, I often walk directly in front of them, to clear
the way, or behind them, to make sure they don’t get felt up. So many
of my female friends, when I ask, tell me stuff they’ve gone through
that seems shocking to me, but is everyday to them. A touch here, a
grope there, push, squeeze, hold, pinch, being reduced to tits and ass.
Bloody hell, I’m lucky to be a man; and a part of me says I should be
ashamed to feel that way.
Why are Indian men in Indian cities so free with their hands? Well,
because by a lack of adequate condemnation and punishment, there is a
sort of social sanction for it. Now, while men probably can’t imagine
what women go through in crowded buses and trains, they can put a stop to it. Instead of turning a blind eye to what is happening around us — minding our own business, avoiding trouble
— we can raise our voice, and even our hands, if we spot someone
violating a woman’s space. Every time one of us does this, shames a
molester in a public space, we change that public space just a little
bit, and make it harder for the next guy to go overboard. And even if
we don’t know the woman we’re helping out, we’re making things a little
bit easier for the women we do know and care about.
It’s kind of amusing in retrospect that it took me three years in Chicago to go from being nervous travelling around the city after dark, even at 7pm, to jauntily taking the ‘L’ back home at midnight after parties by myself.
I called my mum after I left the cop station the first time. I said,
"Do you think I over-reacted?" And this other voice in my head laughed
at me, and our society. A strange man, touches you twice in the middle
of the night, and your greatest worry when you screamed and complained,
is, "Did I over react"?!