Just Because She Was Out Late, Is It Ok To Shame Her Or Bump Her Off?

No one shows any interest in finding out who the actual perpetrator of the crime is. The ‘good girl’ code is reinforced. Moral policing happens even before the actual investigation starts.

I watched the new release Jalsa, which at heart, is about internal conflict and class divide following a criminal investigation. It boasts of stellar performances by veterans like Vidya Balan and Shefali Shah.

The premise? A young woman is out with her friend, late at night. Her parents are at work, doing nightshifts, and assume their daughter is at home studying. The girl is hit by a speeding car by accident. The driver of the car drives off without checking if she is OK. The boy she is with, takes off in fear. She is discovered much later, and admitted to a hospital.

The character of the girl’s mother is played by Shefali Shah in one of her career-best performances. You can see the anguish-filled rage in her eyes, and her discomfiture with the system that weighs a victim’s complaint, not by the magnitude of the crime inflicted on them, but by their social status.

Oh… she was out late, with a boy! Why?!

When the investigation of the case commences, one of the common questions that are raised by everyone ranging from the investigating police officer to the neighbour is,

Why was she out at 3:00 am, and that too, with a boy?

Not one of them shows any interest in finding out who the actual perpetrator of the crime is. The ‘good girl’ code is reinforced. Moral policing happens even before the actual investigation starts. There is pressure to close the case from the Police who remind the parents umpteen times that they have neither the money nor the resources to fight the cases. 

Do you not know what she was doing out that late? Did she have a boyfriend? 

In this segment, there was one scene that stood out for me. The father, who is fed up with the inaction, the mudslinging, and the pressure-tactics, tells his wife that they should settle. He even argues for it.

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“The fault lies with our daughter. Why was she out that late?”

Shefali’s eyes blaze with indignant anger. 

She retorts, “Toh? Thok Dena Ka Usko?” 

Just because she was out late, should she have been bumped off?

That said it all.

Crimes are being committed against women, yet survivors are afraid to come forward. Why? Because of the shame and the incessant finger-pointing. 

If she was molested, what was she wearing? If she was leered at, what did she do to provoke them? Didn’t she know not to go out that late? Wasn’t she asking for trouble?

God forbid, if anyone dares to come forward and confide in their family, frantic attempts are made to hush up everything, and that too by family members themselves. Because of honor and shame. Because a woman’s honor is like a petal-it doesn’t matter if the thorn falls on the petal or the petal on the thorn, the damage is to the petal.

Isn’t it time we say NO to these archaic thoughts? Isn’t it time we stood up against victim-shaming? Who should be the ones being shamed? The perpetrator, or the victim?

It is NOT your fault!

When I was in my late teens. My group of friends and I finished an evening tuition class. We boarded a bus to return home. My friend and I sat next to each other and chatted away.

We heard someone try to catch our attention from behind. We turned to take a look. It was a man, with a leering expression. He made lewd gestures with his fingers and attempted to unzip his pants. Mind you, this was in a crowded bus. We turned our faces away, in shock. A few seconds later, the man got off the bus. No one seemed to notice, and the only person who might have witnessed his indecency was another woman in her thirties, who shrugged it off, nonchalantly.

If this had happened to me now, I would have raised hell, and seen that this obscene fellow was thrashed. I would have showered expletives on him. I would have personally dragged him to the police. Back then, I was petrified. We both were. We were a bunch of fifteen- or sixteen-year-olds; ‘good girls’ in a small town. What if this boiled down to our fault, somehow? We decided we must not talk about it; just abolish this incident like a bad dream.

I went back home, teary and upset. When I reached home, my uncle and aunt were there. They had come visiting. They noticed my mood and inquired if everything was OK. I couldn’t hold back anymore. I burst into tears and told them what happened. My aunt was furious.

“Haven’t I taught you better?” she thundered.

I hung my head in shame. Yes, it was my fault.

“I am disappointed in you. How can you come home crying? You should have made that lousy fellow cry, instead. Why did you keep quiet?”

I was shocked. This was not the response I was expecting. I wasn’t at fault?!

My uncle agreed.

“It’s not a safe world out there. But you have to stand up and scream so loudly, that no one can bear to look away. Promise me, you will never be scared, again. OK?”

Till today, this is advice I carry with me.

Don’t keep quiet. Scream as loud as you can. Sometimes, it may take longer to get noticed. But when you do, know that screaming aloud today, will save another woman from tears, tomorrow.

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About the Author

Lalitha Ramanathan

Lalitha is a blogger and a dreamer. Her career is in finance, but writing is her way to unwind! Her little one is the center of her Universe. read more...

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