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An Open Letter To The Men On The Streets Who Have Heckled At, Whistled At And Molested Women On Streets

Posted: July 1, 2020

As a woman walking on the street, I have faced many horrors. To all the men out there, all I ask is respect us so we can fearlessly walk on the streets. 

Dear Indian Men,

I am the woman you might notice on the streets every day. The plain-looking, handbag carrying office going woman. I might also be that teenage girl who plays around with her smartphone. Or I might be the housewife who carries a huge bag of groceries. I am a woman who minds her own business when she is out on the streets. Most of the time, I plug in my earphones as I travel by public transport or simply walk on the street.

Instinctively, I try and avoid eye contact with you. It is not that I brand all the men as lecherous beasts. In fact in my own experience, many of you I met are immensely kind, considerate, and polite.

I agree, not all of you are the same

Some of you knowingly put your hands in ‘safe’ positions while traveling in public transport and some of you willingly offer your seats in buses. Most of you would never even think of hurting a woman consciously in full public view. On behalf of all the women, I applaud you, if you are one of the kind I just mentioned.

Having said that, I must admit that not all of you are the same. Since my teenage years, some of you have winked, whistled, and rubbed against me in crowded areas. I have been heckled with abusive or derogatory words, the meanings of which were completely alien to me for absolutely no fault of mine. And I cannot be oblivious of the countless incidents when the seemingly innocent ‘uncles’ on public transport have stared at me like I am a piece of cheesecake.

There have been moments when I altered my choices in terms of my clothing, places, and time. I did all this fearing the wild stares and abusive words or actions that I might invite unconsciously. There have been times when I cried my eyes out and even went through deep psychological trauma. All this owing to my existence as a woman while getting harassed on the streets.

I remember the fear I saw in my parents’ eyes

I have been ashamed of the silent fear in the eyes of my parents when we visit extremely busy markets or temples. When I was a teenager, they used to shield me. They would walk beside me, like a sandwich, in an attempt to protect me from getting molested in the crowd.

Now, to I shield myself, a bag, my tiffin box and pepper spray become my silent weapons against impending attacks as I return late in the night from work.

Whenever I walk on empty streets, my heart beats soar when a bike passes beside me suddenly. I try my best to avoid conversations with strangers, no matter how good they seem to be. My mind is clouded with doubts of an impending attack or a verbal slur whenever I leave the confines of my home.

I am a woman who minds her own business. And I do not blame all of you for the hell that I and other countless women in India go through, even today.

If you are not at fault, I will never point my fingers at you, nor will I click your photo and share it on social media to gain publicity or unwarranted sympathy.

We don’t want this attention, really

Please do not be insecure all the time, owing to the viral attention we get for any slightest hue we raise. I think, owing to our nature, most of us will never ever think of defaming an innocent soul. We already have countless challenges to deal with. Most of us do not want to hog the limelight by projecting ourselves as the ‘woman in distress’ who gets an innocent man bashed for no fault of his.

We are proud of our existence and we do not want to drown in the chasms of self-pity owing to our gender. You know, we are independent, think rationally and deep within, we vow to protect our dignity and modesty.

We are not instruments of public shaming. And we won’t fail you if you don’t fail us.

If you are genuinely cordial to us, we will hold you in deep regard. Nothing can alter this.

But please don’t test us

However, if you try to abuse us while threatening us about dire consequences, we will remind you that we belong to a land where the female form is worshipped. That the land we belong to worships women as the primal force against evil.

We will do our best to teach you harsh lessons of respect and equality. For thousands of years, we’ve had enough and let me tell you, we will not shut up anymore.

I hope you choose to be the man who doesn’t choose a random woman on the street to channel his lust on after being provoked by raunchy item songs. And I hope you choose not be the man who, provoked by countless derogatory dialogues from Hindi movies, chooses to molest the woman.

I hope you choose to be the man who respects women and stands up for them. And I hope you and other men like you, enable women to walk on the streets carefree every day.

With hope,

A random woman who walks on the streets

Picture credits: Still from short film That Day After Everyday on YouTube

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