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Bangalore molestation scare is only one in a long line of incidents everywhere, all the time. Women continue to learn that they are not safe on the streets, and it doesn’t surprise us anymore.
Brigade Road in Bangalore is where people have been going to celebrate New Year since atleast 20 years or more. Today, Brigade Road is slightly less crowded on regular days but there was a time when college students and young people would all make their way to Brigade Road to hang out at bookstores and music stores or the many pubs and theaters there. For youngsters without much money, walking up and down Brigade Road was good enough and for girls in particular, being groped and molested was a regular happening.
I shudder when I am saying this but it is such a regular happening that “these things happen” became the standard response.
So this is not a new occurrence; this has taken place 5 years back, 10 years back and possibly 20 years ago too. The molesters have had years of practice and normalization and hence the words of the Hon’ble Home Minister do not shock me as this has been happening and the way we have dealt with it ranges from curbing the freedom of our girls to monitoring their clothes and whereabouts. For this same reason, the police is not going to find any formal complaints because if girls and women were to complain then the police force will drown in the aftermath of FIRs.
When we talk of molestation it is usually a single girl voicing her experiences and the conversation duly shifts to what she was wearing or her character or her independence. Even when girl friends talk amongst themselves and share the horror stories of molestation that have happened to them, you will always find the girl quickly describing her clothes and her whereabouts because the conditioning of blaming the girl is so strong in society that we have internalized it. The molesters meanwhile operate in the safety of the crowd; in a crowd it is very difficult to even identify the perpetrator let alone catch him. The crowd is their enabler and their conditioning their motivator.
On one hand where the blame is conveniently placed on the girl, on the other hand the incidents of sexual harassment or molestation are brushed under the carpet with words such as ‘eve teasing‘, and ‘cat calling’. Even in Hindi for example the words that are used to describe this crime are ‘cheddna’ or ‘thang karna’ which translates to ‘troubling me’. As long as we use these words these incidents are trivialised; when your best friend pulls your hair ribbons at school that is troubling or if your younger brother runs away with your home work that is troubling. What 20-30-40-50 year old strange men do to girls starting from the age of 10 on the streets, in markets, on the way to school or college is ‘not’ troubling – it is a crime of a sexual nature!
I will not get into the trap of describing the times I have been molested on or off Brigade Road or for that matter any place around the country; it does not matter. Because this is not my reality alone or the reality of today’s youth or the girls who wear western clothes. This is the reality of my grandmother, my mother, my 10 year old niece who was walking with her dad.
This is the reality of my dark friend, my friend who was short, my friend who was thin or who was fat. It does not matter what they wore or where they went. What matters is what our boys are learning, for them to think that this is fun or the girls’ fault or that this is their passage to masculinity. It has been happening for ages but we are speaking about it today because 2016 changed our tolerance level for good – yes, you can call us intolerant and we are happy about it!
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Top image via Pixabay