Keep your hands to yourself…

Yesterday, in a repeat of the horror I felt when I watched the Gurgaon New Year’s Eve molestation incident, I watched another video being shown on a loop on news channels where a young girl, a minor I was to learn later, was surrounded by a group of men, at least 10 to 15 of them, who pawed her, tore her clothes off, groped her and the video was played on a loop. To be fair to the channel, the girl’s face was pixellated on the channel I was watching but apparently Youtube had raw footage of her face clearly visible and the camera man trying to get a close up of her face. I haven’t seen that so I can’t say that it did with any authority, this is just hearsay.
I was appalled. Each time an incident happens I think I cannot be more appalled again, but then I am. I feel my heart clench, my stomach twist and raw anger knot up my intestines. I remember walking down roads being stalked by perverts, being groped while going through my daily routine of bus, train walking to school, to college, to work. Street sexual harassment, I refuse to call it eveteasing, is a reality every girl, every woman in India lives with. We walk quickly down roads, our eyes averted, terrified to make eye contact in case we are perceived as being available. We hold books and files in front of us if we are college going to block the elbows that nudge our chests. We are ashamed if we get harassed, choosing not to talk about it, believing it is something we said, did or wore that provoked it. The men of course, are paragons of virtue. They can never be at fault. It is their god given birthright to brush against you, grope, pass lewd comments, and if you do say anything or resist or if the man who is with you does, well, they return with three autorickshaws full with men bearing weapons and kill them. And no one will intervene, no one will help you. No one will step in. No one will take the risk. No one will bother.
We rush home as soon as we can, try to avoid staying out late at night and get told by those in places of authority that yes, staying out late is what caused it, if you stay out late you are asking to be molested, to be raped.
I’m a mother raising a son. I wonder whether I will be able to raise him to be a man who protects women from being molested. If he is anything like his father, he wont hesitate before swinging his fists and cracking a few jaws if anyone dares misbehave with a woman in his presence. I would like to think that when my boy grows up, he will not think of a woman out of the house as fair game, as an object to be touched and pawed. If I had a daughter, I would dread sending her out onto our roads unescorted today. I would have my heart in my mouth everytime she stepped out, and I would ensure she learnt a martial art and did self defence classes and carried pepper spray with her. But would that be enough to keep her safe?
At the end of it, its not where you are, what you look like, what you’re wearing and how late you are out. It is the men who decide that they want to make you uncomfortable, that you are a sex object. Because they don’t have wives, daughters, sisters. Because the women they molest don’t matter to them. Because they see women as objects not people. Because we women are terrified of being molested and our fear gives them power. Because most of us will never drag a molester to the cops or file a police complaint. And that empowers them, because they know they are going to get away with it. And that, in fact, is our collective shame.

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About Kiran Manral

Author of The Face At The Window, ( 2016), Karmic Kids, All Aboard (2015) , Once Upon A Crush (2014) and The Reluctant Detective (2011).
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9 Responses to Keep your hands to yourself…

  1. dipali says:

    Absolutely. One of the most horrendous things about life in India even today. It somehow seems more perverse and more aggressive now:(

    Like

  2. Sunita says:

    As a mother of a young daughter, this grueling incident sends the shivers down my spine. It requires some extremely harsh punishment imposed on the accused, that will send out signals to the others.

    Like

  3. adityamanral says:

    Very well written. I think acts like these have more to do with a man’s own inadequacies than
    with what a girl wears. It incenses me that men with daughters and sisters were starying around
    when this was happening and made no attempt to help the poor girl and stop those monsters from
    doing what they did. It is abominable and it must shame us as humans if those men do not get
    their comeuppance.

    Like

  4. Priyam says:

    The whole thing is so shameful and infuriating that it makes my blood boil. It is downright enraging that such things take place in a supposedly civilized society. The horror, the helplessness — every time I read about the incident, I have tears in my eyes. Those monsters deserve to rot in prison.

    Like

  5. mithil293 says:

    Its like a trend happening every next month. And these are only few cases getting the spotlight. There are many more victims of such horrendous acts waiting for justice. The more I keep thinking about it the more disgusted I feel and the less pride I’m taking in calling myself Indian

    Like

  6. Sujatha says:

    Its very scary… what bothers me is nobody helped her – shame on all of them..
    BTW, that is a very beautiful picture of yours…banner looks awesome..

    Like

  7. Gayatri Rao says:

    love the new header on your blog!

    Like

  8. sukanyabora says:

    It is the place I call home where this incident took place. I am heartbroken, saddened. Its deplorable and takes male desperation, lawlessness to a whole new level.
    Love the new header-you look gorgeous!

    Like

  9. Aarti says:

    Kiran,
    This incident makes my blood boil at the impotence and passivity of the bystanders–what a striking similarity to the plight of Draupadi during her ‘vastraharan’ millions of years ago in presence of some of the greatest warriors in Hindu mythology! What progress has India made in this context (street sexual harassment) since those days? So many Draupadis go through such public humilation all over India and the response to such incidents is always the same–a lame ‘enquiry’, politicising the incident and ultimately a mediocre punishment (or sometimes not even). No lesson learned. Which is why these criminals are out on the streets again looking for new victims. Such monsters deserve the harshest punishments, like in the Middle East–chop off the hands that commit such heinous crimes so noone dares again.

    Like

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