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An encounter in an isolated area leaves the writer contemplating how precarious is the safety net for most women, and how common the victim-blaming.
You have no idea how many sleepless nights I have had before I placed my fingers on the keyboard to narrate these thoughts.
Recently, a survey declared India as one of the most hostile places for women. Yes, I live in India and I am a woman. Kerala is one of those states where a woman feels timorous and unassertive and yes, I live in Kerala.
I live in a country where powerful political leaders make nerve racking statements. I live in a country where so many laws are written to protect us, but they are of no use to us.
My parents, grandparents, peers and friends kept warning me by pointing out my gender. They kept highlighting the fact that the hormones released by my sex glands are known for reducing one’s muscular strength and therefore I should be more careful.
I was warned of the possibilities of sexual harassment long before I knew the definition of “Sex”. I discovered the meaning of the word “rape” way back in 2005, when a friend of mine (jokingly) described how some men impregnate women by force.
Then came the Soumya case…the Nirbhaya case….the Shakti mills case…
Perils and treacherous circumstances; women live with a feeling of consternation. But then I am living here and of course, I have had my own terrifying moments. Yes, I mean moments.
Of course, in a group, I have seen men ogle, or wink or smile at me or my friends.
The reason why I bought this story up is because of a thought I have had recently.
I am studying mansuria kung fu for over a year in an indoor stadium. The stadium is not always well equipped for students because of a lot of work and construction going on for months. The ladies changing room which was near my class was being reconstructed. The second changing room for ladies was on the other side of the stadium. Since the stadium is under construction, no one goes there usually, except for the workers. It is a lonely place.
One day, I went there to change. I was tired after all the hard kung fu workouts; I crossed the threshold of the room, locked the door and I almost changed… almost, when a very decent man came out of the toilet. He saw me there and panicked. I had entered the gent’s room by mistake!
Me: (panicking) This is the ladies room!
Him: (While going out) The ladies room is the other one.
The gent’s and ladies room were next to each other. The ladies room was locked and the gent’s room did not have a board. So I didn’t bother to rethink if it belonged to the opposite gender.
Then he actually jumped out of the room. I locked the front door and looked around to make sure if anyone else was there. Then I quickly changed my clothes and dashed out of the room to my class. Well, almost everyone in my class is a boy (I didn’t tell them though; I was too embarrassed).
I wanted to confront the manager asking him why they had locked the ladies room and why the gent’s room didn’t have a board. But my father arrived there in time to pick me up, so I left with him (He didn’t see my scarlet red face, however).
This was a situation that is meant to be taken as a joke. I am supposed to laugh at my silliness. I could already hear the other boys/men laughing and teasing in my head, starting with my father. Then I started thinking. What if it was someone else? Someone… Hungry.
I thanked God several times and kissed my Om pendant because the man who was in the locked bathroom with me was decent and he went out immediately without a second glance.
I know kung fu and I could easily fight one, maybe two unarmed men and escape. However fear overcame humour in my head at the very thought of me using my skills, perhaps a deathly blow unto my attacker’s head. I don’t know.
And if I fail? I can’t! I have to train myself physically and mentally to win.
I am looked up to as a role model by my friends and I can’t fail them.
I am the only child of my parents and I can’t fail them.
I think of myself as a strong person, let alone a woman and I can’t fail myself.
Then again, even if I fight those men successfully and escape, the pressures of the society won’t spare me. The police and authorities will scrutinize me by asking a million questions and along with that comes the evil behind the immortality of violence against women: Victim Blaming.
They (media, peers, police) will end up blaming me for going to the gent’s room.
Blaming me for going all alone.
Blaming me for ruining those men’s reputation.
Blaming me for being reckless and stupid.
That is today’s society. The Abu Azmis of the society will say that “I should be hanged”. The Mulayam singh Yadavs will say that “men will be men and they make mistakes.” The Asha Birjes will blame me and lecture me on how to be safe. In case I fail to defend myself, Shri Ranjit Sinha will say, “If you can’t stop rape, enjoy it”.
Seriously, how can you sleep amidst all this? I am here at home. My body is perfectly safe and in one piece. I know that entering the men’s room is my mistake and I take full responsibility for it, but will that guarantee the safety of me or any other woman who goes to the ladies bathroom or somewhere else all alone? Will the society support them if they are attacked or molested, no matter what they are wearing or doing?
Was I lucky in that situation?
No, all women are lucky when men are righteous. It’s just that some women tend to be unlucky as they come before a lascivious man. Thank god, I was not one of those unlucky women.
Life is fragile. Being a woman is like a balloon. A sharp penis can burst it.
I refuse to believe that. I am a human being first. I deserve that respect. Then I am woman and after that a daughter, friend…etc.
Because women like me are also forced to live life in trepidation. You don’t need to be a humanist to know that. But I am aghast that people see things differently. They look at women that way, thanks, not to the so called flesh hungry beasts but to the mindset that’s been keeping them at liberty.
Tame them! So that we can be free.
Pic credit: Alan (Used under a creative commons license)
I am a journalist with a feminist voice. Hope to be a novelist or a
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