Women need to reclaim the streets; this should be our top priority before we are pushed into oblivion. Time and again efforts are made to restrict our access using culture, faith and security as reasons. After every episode of rape or molestations, the emphasis is more on what the victim was wearing, where and why was she there and not on the perpetrators of crime.
It is the responsibility of the state to protect all its citizens but in reality not only society but even law seems to put the onus on women for their safety, treating them as second grade citizens. It is unfortunate that society judges women but the worst is when the state also questions her instead of protecting her. Lawmakers and law enforcing authorities whose prime concern should be to prevent crime and provide protection indulge in questioning the victim, giving moral lessons and diverting attention.
Conveniently, the whole burden is shifted on the victim rather than the culprits; why then would the culprits be scared of the law? A law enforcement that is hand in glove with society to shield the culprits! What more could they ask for ? A system which fails to protect the victims emboldens the perpetrators; it only aids in adding more restrictions on women.
“Not safe, don’t go out after dark; unruly mob, stay away from crowded places; Eve teasing, dress properly.”
These are the ‘easy solutions’ given to further restrict women than to actually solve the problem. Nobody talks about making our streets safe, monitoring and punishing the perps or the unruly mob but yes, all try to outsmart each other when it comes to policing women. The result is that women, out of fear or as a precaution, start following the diktats until it becomes normal for a woman not to venture out freely. The worst is that men will get used to streets with few or no women.
Boundaries are made, territories are marked and any woman trying to venture out will be seen as defying the norms, challenging the boundaries and encroaching on their territory. A simple activity will be seen as law breaking action and of course, the one who breaks law has to be punished; punished by teasing, groping and molesting with no fear because the perpetrators already know that they will not be blamed. It is the women who will be blamed, who will be questioned and even punished by further restricting their movements.
The transition from “Why did she venture out” to “How dare she venture out” will prove to very dangerous for women.
Generation after generation, women will get restricted access to public spaces and men will get used to the idea of restricting women. When they try to break the norms not only the society but even law will treat them as culprits. Law abiding citizens will be marginalised and treated as second class citizens in their own country for no fault of theirs .The consequences will deterimental to the whole society; a society completely controlled by men and the unchallenged rules of patriarchy; the worst nightmare for any feminist, be it man or woman.
Any crime against women will be trivial, any discrimination justified and any oppression unchallenged. Hopefully we as a society have not reached that but if we continue to ignore safety and access issues, this might not be a distant reality. Women need to be more alert, cautious and clear about their priorities. Women should not let safety concerns further restrict their movements and access to public spaces.
Safe access to streets and public places is our fundamental right and the responsibility of the nation – we need to remember ourselves, and remind others time and again. Women from all sections should refuse to be treated as second class citizens in their own country.
Editor’s Note: A nation-wide #IWillGoOut march is planned for January 21st, to emphasise women’s rights to all public spaces. Do check details here and join one in your city! And if you go, please send us pics and videos at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will share it with credits to you.
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Top image via Pixabay