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Did you notice how few women there are in Dahi Handi celebrations? I did too. Why should this be?
About this time last year when the joy of Janmashtami was in the air, I stood in my balcony looking down at the Dahi Handi celebrations. The Govindas were trying to reach for the Handi as the crowd was cheering for them. I couldn’t help but notice; there were hardly any women in that enthusiastic crowd of dancing people.
The few of them that were there stood on the pavements, away from the celebration. The absence of women in such religious public celebrations is very easy to spot. A simple look at the pictures of such public celebrations will give you all the answers.
One of the reasons for this is that women don’t feel safe in such an environment. Instead of providing a sense of safety, the crowd often gives a mask of anonymity to unsocial elements. Many of them are drunk and out of control. They take advantage of the chaos and sexually harass women.
It is unfortunate that cases of harassment and molestation of women take place even around so many people. A woman will not go to public celebrations like this if she does not feel comfortable and safe there.
Dahi Handi is a sportive event. The Govindas are highly trained professionals and the risk of falling is real. Our patriarchal system also sees such physical feats are seen as a role of men. Women are seen as fragile flowers that need to be preserved and supported. It is not the crowds alone where women are hard to locate and this kind of mentality might be responsible for the low number of women’s groups that participate in Dahi Handi as Govindas.
With time, some of them have come forward. But cases of harassment of the girl govindas are not unheard of. One such incident took place when an all girls group from Mumbai was invited to Pune for participating in the Dahi Handi celebration. The team was of girls from 7 to 15 years of age was all minors. They were teased and harassed by people in the crowd.
It is important that women can enjoy these festivities just as excitedly as men. An environment of safety and comfort has to be created. We have to keep the number of crimes low, not the number of women!
This image is credited to Sandeepa Chetan, and used under a CC license