It’s almost been one and a half year in college, and who I was when college started has huge and stark differences with who I think I am today. What a university is, apart from a place for obtaining a degree, also includes this providence as well as an opportunity to re-evaluate yourself totally, for the better. Having said that, that’s not the case for everybody. An important part of this is the entire revaluation process includes the developing an understanding of our ability and need to question things around us. India has failed to provide this providence to its female students, for we do not have even one single space in the entire country where women can exist beyond the shackles of patriarchy and misogyny, latest example being Banaras Hindu University (BHU).
On Thursday evening, a female student was molested by three male bikers, right on the campus, in the presence of security guards. The hostel warden, instead of helping her, blamed her. The following Saturday, when she went to the vice-chancellor, to complain and put forward her demands of justice and ensured safety in the premises, the same thing happened. We, as a country, have come to a situation where we have allowed as well as encouraged the existence and practice, of this culture of Victim Blaming. Here, it is not the perpetrator of violence, the rapist or the harasser who is at fault, but the victim, the one who is harassed. “She must have encouraged in a certain way.” “She must have worn short clothes.” “What was she doing outside, so late that night? It is her fault.” This brutally patriarchal mindset, where in every outcome, we absolve the men of all his sins. This is what we have been sold in Bollywood, for such a long time, along with legalized stalking and cheap and lewd remarks being portrayed in such a manner as being liked and indirectly appreciated by women.
What happened with the VC, in BHU, was followed by loud protests in the university on Saturday, demanding safety for woman, and proper security in the vicinity of the university. The protesters, were deemed as anti-national, and were later on thrashed by the police with lathis. Yes!, there was a lathi-charge by the police by apparently male police forces on female students, brutal and violent. Though the act would have been equally condemn-able had a female police force been involved, but reliance on authorities that are supposed to work for you, ensure your protection and safety, would lead to nowhere, today. A realisation, that enough is enough, and we are going to have none of it, not anymore, is what that prompts students who are in that process of re-evaluating ourselves, to go out on streets and vocalize the need of change.
In our minds, a woman would never say NO. In our minds, a man has all the rights to a woman’s body and he may do whatever he wishes to do with ‘it’. This has led to the construction of a culture, where perpetrators of such violence, do not even know what consent is and since in their minds a woman always says yes, even when she utters a no, so consent won’t even come into the play, and thus they don’t even feel the need to realize the importance of consent. As a society, we need to understand that all unwanted attention, no matter how flattening or how appreciative, if unwanted, is harassment. The one who’s been molested, is not the victim.
A woman does not wear a mini-skirt in order to be raped or molested. If she wears make-up, it does not necessarily mean that she wants male attention. If she wants to have sex and she vocalizes her desires, it does not mean that she wants to be raped. Having sex or being molested are two very different things. One wants to have sex, but not be molested. We need to understand that it is always okay for somebody to retract their consent, even if it is five minutes before getting physical, and this is both for men and women.
Apart from Bollywood, religion also has entertained these patriarchal beliefs and customs, like concepts of chastity, subordination and perfection. The VC has agreed to talk to the students, very soon, to arrive at a conclusion, which is good, but also speaks of a larger problem. The need of a special meeting would not have even existed had the right action been taken, in the beginning. We still have an awful lot of work to do on both the parts of ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao.’ When authorities fail to do what they have been given the authority as well as the responsibility of, it is us who need to fill the spaces and do what needs to be done. Ignorance is not always a virtue. I will not end my article here by saying ‘Peace!’, like I always do. If peace means that I don’t get to question, then I don’t want peace.
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