Woman Believes Girls Wearing Short Dresses Deserve To Be Raped, Proving That Rape Culture Is Not A Men Vs. Women Issue•
Yesterday, a young woman hailing from Gurugram (allegedly, the hub of the young and promising corporate India), whose identity we will protect, stepped out to a restaurant with her colleagues during lunch break. While there, a woman from another table called out to her, and asked her if she was comfortable wearing what she was wearing, since it exposed her thighs. The young woman dodged the question, and went back to her table. The woman wouldn’t budge, however. To avoid any nastiness, she and her colleagues asked for take-out. As they were leaving the restaurant, the woman in question allegedly stood up, and addressing the men at the restaurant, said, “agar tumhe aisi ladkiyan dikhein, toh inka rape kar dena (if you ever see such girls, you should rape them).” As we were told, the men became uncomfortable and laughed off her comments.
Later, with support from other colleagues, the women found the perpetrator who believes that wearing short clothes is an invitation for rape, and confronted her on camera.
They garnered support from others at the shop, who asked the woman to apologise. As you can see in the video, no apology followed.
This is a website about health and wellness, and, for women living in a country like ours, gender-based violence is undeniably a health issue. Not a day goes by without the news of yet another woman, or young girl, getting raped in some part of our country. As a woman, you know that the ones that make the news, are only a fraction of the cases of sexual assault that actually happen.
The knowledge that gender-based violence against women is as rampant as it is, combined with our own personal experiences, combined with the systemic silencing of women, combined with abysmal judiciary systems, combined with the fact that there are many women out there who will find a way to victim-blame, stoke male ego, and uphold patriarchy, takes a toll on our collective and individual psychological health.
When we asked the woman reporting the incident how she was holding up, she told us that she hadn’t slept all night. She and her friends are receiving rape threats on social media. Sleepless nights is just one way gender-based violence impacts women. Last night, before going to bed, this writer was scrolling through top stories of the day on Google. They were a mix of Bollywood gossip, and rape news. This was not unique to last night - this is everyday. Some celebrity gossip, followed by the news of a woman being sexually assaulted, followed by some more celebrity gossip, followed by more rape news.
One would think that amidst this awful state of affairs, at least women stand by each other. But, as this incident proves, they don’t. Patriarchal and misogynistic views coming from other women is painful to deal with. It makes us feel isolated and alone even more than we already feel, under siege, even more than we already feel. And it reminds us that gender-based violence is a bigger issue than men vs. women, or men vs. the rest of the world. It is patriarchy vs. all of us!
Women live with constant anxiety, just by virtue of being women. We are accused of being “too guarded.” Heck yes, we are guarded - we are guarded even when you don’t realise we are guarded. Every time we step out of the house, we have to factor in safety measures - carrying pepper spray, having a trusted friend or family member on SOS, sharing live location, so on and so forth. Safety is like a constant buzzing sound in our minds that never stops.
We know women who have a list of ‘don’ts’ - who limit their lives and choices either because they are concerned for their safety, or because they have internalised the message that as women, they are not entitled to working long hours, or traveling solo, or going out at night, or dating, or having sex. We know women who develop depression and anxiety, eating disorders, phobias, and psychosomatic illnesses because they don’t know where to take their personal and collective trauma.
We know women who fight with every grain of strength they have, to not let their stories of verbal, sexual and physical violence pigeonhole them as victims; women who carve identities that are bigger than these - as professionals, friends, lovers, sisters, and mothers. You can be in the same room with a woman who has been sexually assaulted by someone she knew and trusted, or groped by a stranger on her way to work, and not know it. That’s how well we have learnt to cover our wounds. But, to think that those of us who continue to fight for some semblance of sanity and fairness - like the woman behind this video - have it all together, and are not haunted by the biases and prejudices that consume the society we have no choice but to call our home, is a grave mistake.
Women who wear short dresses don’t deserve to be raped. Gender-based violence is not a men vs women issue. And no, we are not okay. We are hurt. We are angry. We are sad. We are scared. But, we are not stopping!
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