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Violence against women like bois locker room keep happening, and then we forget about them till the next thing happens, so how can we really say things have changed?
We women of India are a foolish lot. We expect equality. We think that now at least we would be heard, we would be given respect and dignity. We would be treated the way we deserve to be, instead of the way we are. We expect change.
We expect it from each new incident that shakes our consciousness and wakes us up from slumber.
We are a foolish lot.
Change cannot happen at an individual level. One incident will not transform society and culture.
This one incident of women speaking up will not make it safer for women. In fact, those who did dare to speak up are already being shamed, silenced, and ridiculed. Even more, and to a worse extent, than before.
Consent. Respect. Equality.
These will always remain just words until we learn how to dismantle the existing societal structures completely.
DCW has issued a notice. Police is taking action. The names of the boys (all fake ids, by the way) are out. Surely, that’s good sign?
Yes. Maybe. You could smile for the minor victory it is but only until you realise that duplicate groups are already up.
Only until the time you realise that the women who spoke up are being shamed, being called attention-seeking, and being accused of doing this for publicity.
Only until the time you realise that within a couple of days, this would all be forgotten. Until the next rape. When again the clamour of voices demanding change would be handed out carrots. Or brickbats.
It’s strange that instead of speaking out for what’s wrong, we find reasons and excuses for condoning it. We find ways to question the women instead. We distract and deviate and dilute the conversation until the real issue is forgotten. And it happens all too frequently.
For many of us this whole incident has been highly traumatising and triggering. We’ve been taken back to our own pasts when we were violated in some way or the other. Bullied, ridiculed, shamed, questioned, discredited – all because men want to continue doing what they have always done. The fear, the worry, the shame is all too real for all of us.
We are silenced because we fear the consequences. That we’d be made to quit our studies. That we’d be refused permission to go out, meet our friends, follow our passions, etc. It’s a long list, what we’d have to sacrifice in exchange for speaking up. And so we keep quiet.
Change is slow. And it has to be conscious, collective, and continuous. Free of consequences. Or, at least, free of the fear of consequences. It reminded me of a line from a book by Kavita Krishnan I read recently.
‘You do have it in your power as a parent to free your daughter of the fear that speaking up about sexual harassment or violence will mean that you will curtail her education.’
Never has a book like Fearless Freedom been more relevant.
When I wrote Dashavatar-Stories of Lord Vishnu, I was sure the female characters in my book would not be silent spectators. I wrote it in the hope that the change, however subtle, would be real. That the Sita of my story would be in all of us. That her strength would in some way permeate from the page to the reader holding the book.
And, fortunately, I see it happening already. For this time, the women who spoke up, refuse to be silenced. They refuse the attention coming their way too. They refuse to be the ‘sheroes’ they are being made out to be. They refuse to allow anyone or anything weaken their resolve. Or distract from the cause.
They stood up for what’s right and they refuse to let anything else take precedence over that.
Most of the girls who spoke up are students. In all honesty, I do not know whether I am deserving of being called a teacher/trainer. Because the truth is that I learn from them. And I am proud to admit that not only I am in awe of them but also that they are the ones teaching me something I only write about: to be fearless, to speak up, and to remain true to yourself.
We are learning from our children because they are the ones teaching us. And, therefore, for me, change is here.
I remember the mythological story that Paromita Bardoloi had written for Women’s Web, where the women (Draupadi’s daughters, all of them) couldn’t be silenced. I remember reading it and thinking, “HA! Never will this happen in real life. Even if we speak up, the noise remains for a short while but soon enough dies down. No real change takes place. No action is taken. Nothing really concrete comes out of the din we create.”
I stand corrected; for it has happened. It is happening. Because this time something is different.
Was it because these women refused to be silenced? Or was it because the collective power of the movement, that has been building up for many months now, has gained enough strength for it to make substantial change possible?
It is for this reason that names of the individuals are not important. This time it was these three girls. It could have been any other three. Who knows tomorrow it might be three hundred, three thousand, three million? Just like we have hoped and prayed.
The writing on the wall is clear: Change is here. Change is us.
It is evident then that the Sita from my story and the million daughters of Draupadi from Paromita’s story are real. And they are writing a new story.
It begins with the words, ‘We, The Women of India, hereby pledge….’
Image source: shutterstock
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Piyusha is a sometime sane reader, part-time crazy writer and full-time wacky alien.
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