Thursday, May 30, 2013

New Girl in India's Capital

I have lived in the Indian capital for over a year now and, like many other women in this metropolis of 16 million, I soon learned how to deal with the lecherous stares and dirty comments, the drunken men in cars who follow my auto-rickshaw home from work at night.

I have learnt to be aggressive, to talk straight and serious when addressing male strangers, to not make eye contact, to not extend a handshake and to certainly not smile, share personal details or be friendly when dealing with men I do not know. Some may think this is a little severe, but when you are bombarded with reports of crimes against women — of men throwing acid in women’s faces, of women being dragged off the street and gang-raped in moving cars, of little girls being lured, raped and murdered, of women being stalked and harassed, most here will likely agree my actions make sense.

Women in Delhi have learnt to be guarded, to keep up a wall, to use reputable cab services and to take pictures of licence plates on our phones and send them to friends as we board auto-rickshaws. We have learnt to text or call loved ones when we reach our destination, to carry pepper spray, attend self-defense classes and have rape alert apps installed on our smart phones. It’s become a way of life. A norm — almost part of our subconscious — which helps us survive in a city which has the unsavory reputation of being India’s rape capital.

The brutality of the December gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old student on a moving bus in Delhi shocked not only Indians but also the world outside, awakening others to the horrors women face in this largely patriarchal country. I realize now how much of my somewhat cold, aggressive behavior to male strangers is linked to concern for my safety. India has a vibrant culture, diverse population and breathtaking landscapes. Its people are warm and welcoming and economic gains are gradually improving the lives of the poorest in the interior.

Inspite of all this i just wish India would become a country where women can wear what they want, where they are not sexually harassed or stared at on the street, where they can talk openly with men they do not know and can wear the shortest of shorts and the skimpiest of outfits. No one stares. No one cares.

Women are present in large numbers in all public spaces, doing everything from driving garbage collection trucks to policing the streets to loading your bags onto trolleys at the airport. Maybe someday I'd want to believe that men in India would finally allow women to feel comfortable, unconcerned about attracting stares and unwanted attention. To feel liberated, let down their guard and be at peace.

But my point is that it is not just a question of better attitudes towards women on the streets, but also about Government sending strong signals to society to respect women, something we do not see so much of in India. Indian Government passed a new anti-rape law after the Delhi gang rape , but a U.N. expert criticized it as being too limited in scope. The law was watered down by the predominantly male parliamentarians, who agreed to broaden the definition of rape and increase the penalties, yet did not criminalize a husband who rapes his wife, saying this could lead to the break-up of the family unit!!!

And now it gets really difficult for me to understand... What values do we Indians talk about? We worship female goddess but at the mean time rape a woman? and even after all this the government doesn't do whats needed. Trust me... India being the biggest democratic Nation and I being an Indian.. I can clearly state that Democracy is for fools where goon rules!


Pat Hatt said...

Sounds like a big plight indeed and with 16 million, I'd go crazy, too many for me. Last statement is sadly true too.

Anil Sawan said...

i believe that every law can be misused and hence gov is playing safe with what is getting written. Having said that, there is no question on the truth of what is being conveyed here. As a man, a brother and a friend, I do support your concern and I only wish things get better.

jo said...

y dont u come to mumbai,,its so good here,,job wise and in every other way

Misterio Vida said...

well, you know how to deal with strangers and especially i say keep it up... being safe is better than being extra-social or extra-polite..after all personal safety is the most important... have a safe time in the capital :)

rohitash kumar said...

I am also worried, whatever is happening in Delhi, but its means not that Delhi is totally unsafe. Another worse matter is this, that everyone are talking about values, then who will teach us, definitely our own family. Female members of family should come forward, and try to create pressure on male in their family, to behave good in society. Becz, every bad or good boy/man comes form society. Another problem is Implementation of law. Police try best in many cases, but mostly wrong behavior of police is another big problem.

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