I have a friend in Denmark who is ethnically Indian but born in Kenya and raised in London. She’s always had a fairytale opinion of India – a place where men respect women and life is just wonderful. I tried to dissuade her of that notion by telling her of the difficulties of being female in India – and she thinks I exaggerate for effect
The latest case of the gang rape of a young woman in a bus in Delhi breaks my heart. How can this happen in this day and age? How can this still happen in India? Why is this continuing to happen? When will it end? A 23-year old woman takes a bus with a male friend and three men rape her and beat her and her friend up. This happens in a bus – in public. It tells you a lot about the standing of women and our rights in India.
Reading about this incident takes me back to the time when I was taking too many public buses and being jostled around lecherous men. In 1991, I wrote an article in the Deccan Chronicle in my name about how difficult it is for young women to be in public in Hyderabad. Many of the sentiments I hear today on Facebook and in blogs were the same in my article all those years ago. (Writing that article in my own name created its own problems as time and again I was asked if I had written it and time and again I was asked why I was discussing such things in a public forum. After that when I wrote in an article, I did in my mother’s name M Lakshmi, so no one would know it’s me.)
I remember my experiences with Indian male perversion vividly because these things are hard to forget.
I was walking in Secunderabad by the YMCA and I heard this guy say to another, “Hit her, hit her,” and the son of a bitch banged into me and copped a feel over my boob. Then there was the time in the bus, and it happens mostly in the bus where I was sitting with a friend and this idiot behind me slips his hand by the window to cup my breast. I stood up and started to rail at the man. My friend tried to shush me, insisting I didn’t make a scene. Because it was just making a scene – I wasn’t making a point. The guy who had just felt me up didn’t care and would do the same the next opportunity he got.
Every woman in India has her own stories about men who have groped her. There is no way to feel safe in India as a woman. Rape is extreme – but isn’t someone grabbing your ass or your breast or trying to rub his erection against you in a public place just as bad? The rape this time has made the news but that serial boob grabber will never make the news and never be punished because no one really cares.
People keep talking about how prosperous India is becoming and how the middle class is expanding and how many rich people on the Forbes list of rich people are Indian—I think Indians are lulling themselves into a false sense of “it’s all good” because the fact is that two decades since I yelled at some asshole for touching me against my will in a double decker bus (5A bus and the incident took place while driving on Tank Bund – the details you remember…) this crime continues.
Who told these men it is okay to molest a woman in public? How did they learn that this was acceptable behavior? Are they pulled aside in elementary school and told, “And if you get a chance, anywhere, anyhow, you grab boob, ass, thigh…anything”?
The cops in Hyderabad were a joke 20 years ago and I doubt that has changed – please tell me if they have. They used to have a quota to fill for eve teasing every month. Eve teasing is defined as harassing a female in public. A friend of mine was arrested twice while he was waiting with me to catch a bus after classes at the university – twice, this poor guy was put in a jail cell for the crime of eve teasing and all he was doing was standing next to me. This guy gets arrested whereas the boob grabber continues to grab boobs and no one does anything.
A friend of mine who tried to do something about it once was completely humiliated. She slapped a guy across the face in a bus for touching her and his audacity, he slapped her back.
India is growing at lightning speed. Things are happening. Hi tech is happening. BCG says invest in India because it’s a growth market. Economic prosperity is here. When will social growth come? When will civil behavior come?
Does India have more perverts than other countries? I doubt it. Per capita, I’m sure we have just as much filth as the others. The only difference is that when a man exposes himself to you in Central Park, his ass his hauled to prison – in India, he exposes himself and then tries to grab your boob; and if you make any noise about it, you’re the trouble maker.
I’m hoping that change will come because of this terrible tragedy that occurred in a bus recently. I’m hoping that Indian men will learn to zip it up in public because if they don’t they’ll worry that someone will cut it off. I hoped two decades ago as a teenager in India and I hope now as an adult and a grown woman.