Dear Mr. Karan Thapar,
I read your personal opinion in the Hindustan Times today regarding the need to take a deeper look at ourselves as a society and change our attitude towards women in order to stop their continuous humiliation. I must applaud you for having such an evolved mind. I also agree that in the longer run, changing mindset is what will work for us. But the question which the nation is asking about is Now, not the ‘longer run’.
I want to ask you a question. Just how many times have you actually travelled in local buses of Delhi or walked the crowded streets of Lajpat Nagar or ever tried taking auto at night in places like Uttam Nagar or Rohini? My guess is that neither you nor anyone in your family would have done that. I have spent 16 repressed years in Delhi before choosing to live a more free life in Mumbai and in those 16 years, I lived the life of a common middle class girl doing all the above and more. So, can you even begin to imagine the humiliation I felt when as a 19 years old naive college student, I was masturbated against in a local bus in full view of everybody and I had no idea what to do? Or would you ever know how it feels when you walk down a street in broad daylight and guys on bike come from behind and grope you? Or the terror you feel when the auto driver suddenly takes you off the normal route and down a deserted, unlit road at 8 in the night? Or the feeling of frustration when you roam around your locality for an hour trying to shake off a stalker because you know nobody will help?
You talk of changing attitudes, especially the mothers. An NGO which works on the issue of violence against women once told me that it took her 10 years to make the women in villages of Sawantwadi to introspect and accept violence as unnatural. These women had accepted abuse as a way of life and had no idea that a better society existed (if at all) outside. And now you expect them to be the torch bearers of change? Tell me, how many of us who are educated have the ability to really introspect and change themselves? So, can you imagine these women who are not educated and have never seen a life without a form of abuse to first change their thoughts and then change their sons’?
You talk of changing attitudes, especially the mothers. Let me tell you three stories that I have come across in the so called educated metros.
A well educated Bengali guy (parents’ only child) worked as a manager in one of the top private banks. He was addicted to S&M porn and forced his newlywed bride to all that he saw on screen. When asked by the NGO, he said that he can do whatever he felt like because she is his wife. His parents were scared of his anger.
A judge of a High Court often beat his daughter at the slightest pretext. Neither the girl’s brother nor her mother had the ability or strength to defend her.
A husband regularly beat his wife because she had a small room in her name which he wanted to possess. In order to punish her, he forcibly made their teenage son and daughter watch porn with him. He also passed lewd comments on his own daughter in front of everybody.
Dear Mr. Thapar, the current state of the Indian Society as I see it, cannot be simply explained as the result of it being a patriarchal society. The malaise is much much deeper. Why else would a society have gang rapes on children or sexually abuse both girls and boys? When I read this article, I was terrified because this does not have as simple a solution as changing attitudes.
You are perhaps right. We cannot ask our leaders to help because many of them are criminals themselves and won’t let the axe fall on them by changing laws. We also cannot ask the police force to help because as the Tehelka story suggests, they are worse than our tormentors. So with our leaders and protectors out, it leaves us with only you, Mr. Thapar and like minded people like you to help. You have two important media at your resource. Why not use it to influence people and work towards your solution your way?
If you can even change the mindset of any one of the three people I have mentioned above, I will forever look up to you as the evolved mind that you are.
But till that time, please stop playing the Devil’s Advocate to the better half of the country’s population.
For Mumbai women: Dial 103 for help, Railway Control Room (locals): 022-23004000
Women across the country, know your rights and insist on their implementation (most of these are really strong and in your favour): Protection of Women Against Domestic Violence Act, Sexual Harrassment of Women at Workplace Bill, Protection of Children from Sexual Offense Act
In Maharashtra, almost all districts’ SP’s offices have a special cell for women and children who are trained to handle cases of violence against women in any form. It is always advisable to go to them for help than go to a general police station as they are more sensitive and better equipped to handle cases of crime against women and children.