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I Long To Walk Around In The Cool Night, But This Is No City For Womxn After Dark…

The night, the roads and the shining moon belonged to someone else. Every space in the night belonged to the Male Gender.

Recently, I had to visit a hospital late at night for some personal work and while returning home, I saw it. I had probably seen the same view a thousand times before in my life but this night was different.

As I sat on the front seat of the safe car, I trailed my eyes along the road, corner to corner, slowly caressing each street light with my gaze. The night belonged to someone else, the roads belonged to someone else, the shining moon belonged on someone else’s bright face, and these all belonged only to the male gender.

Are public spaces reserved for boys and men?

Every space that is meant for the public was filled with groups of men and boys.

One group of teenage boys were trying out the cigarette for the first time and giggling. The other group of 20 something men were drinking chai at their favourite hangout corner discussing events of the day. There were worldly uncles sitting alongside their parked vehicles giving gyaan on politics,… they all had their spaces laid out for them.

I have grown up in this country and have been on these streets every day of my life yet I have a time limit in spaces that were not created to cater to my needs. These spaces were mine only if I accommodated to the unsaid notion of going home after sundown.

Women and queer spaces in our society are very limited and the freedom of mobility is subjected to permissions, accompanying males, and acceptable areas of commute as the incessant fear of assault and harassment continues. Before walking out on the streets, a girl has to factor in several scenarios that can successfully help her complete her task outside of her house. And it is even worse for the third gender, as they cannot walk out without the fear of being mocked or ridiculed in our public spaces.

Where are the safe spaces for women?

The UN describes a safe space as a “formal or informal place where women and girls feel physically and emotionally safe. The term ‘safe,’ in the present context, refers to the absence of trauma, excessive stress, violence (or fear of violence), or abuse.” These spaces provide an arena of comfort, an opportunity for women to gather and exchange ideas, build a community of support or simply friendship. Unfortunately, this has not been possible so far.

The disparity in public spaces echoes the notion that power relations between genders are different and that our lives are different. It reflects the idea that cities were built on the traditional concepts of the family with the traditional division of labour for men, women, and others, and forces us to choose that narrative over changing gender roles in society.

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The sun, which is my favourite source of warmth, is a known symbol of life. Yet in this existence that we face in our society, the sun has become a symbol or rather a reminder of our incarceration to the ideas of patriarchal society. As it goes down, so do we.

Are women and queer people to always be restricted?

As a cis-gendered female, I desperately want to walk freely on these roads to feel my sense of belonging in this city without any fear or judgement. However, that dream seems as far-fetched as our dream of an equal society.

I read a while ago that the indigenous women of the Cherokee culture in the 1700s had autonomy, economic and political power, rarely experienced violence or harassment, and were the decision-makers of their tribes. Their aura of being “producers” in nature led to gender equivalence, not oppression. Their kinship was based on a matrilineal structure, and all genders participated equally in decision making, shared equal public spaces, and enjoyed this form of government until they were destroyed by imperialism.

I have to believe that all indigenous cultures or all natives believed in such a form of society including our ancestry. It provides a sense of relief, hope, and twist in fates. Because the reality is while coming back home that night, I knew I had seen these roads probably a thousand times by now, but that night I felt hurt and dejected by my city, my society, and my own space.

Image Credits: Alex Fu on Pexels 

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