Friday, 13 September 2013

Harmless leching?

  The four accused in the Nirbahaya case have been granted the death sentence. Most of the people are rejoicing - Justice done at last. And it is true that justice has been done to the young woman whose life was cut short abruptly.
But what about all the other young women who may or may not have been 'raped'? Has anything changed to make life safer for them? What has changed for the millions of women around our country who live in the constant fear of being raped or attacked? What about the women who are insecure in their places of work, education or even homes?

We talk about changing the world, we talk about changing mindsets, we talk about raising better sons. But what to do about the sons that have already been raised? We talk about problematizing issues - do not look at unrequited only in the context of woman's right to say no, look at why she says no. See how different class, caste intersections and hierarchies put people in constantly changing paradigms of power. All this is important and necessary but what to do now??
How to deal with the practical lived realities of our daily lives?

For instance, there is a group of guys in the building where my classes take place, that have been 'staring' creepily at the girls of my class. At first each of us thought we were the lone target of these uncomfortable glances, but upon sharing experiences we found out that in fact most of us were being troubled by these stares. This group of men lurk around in the corridors of the building. Walk up and down outside our classroom looking inside through the windows, they stand at the corners and stare into the classrooms leching at us one by one. They follow us when we go to the washroom and when we go to the water cooler.
Every time we walk into that building we have to keep our guard on and wonder what is going to happen today?

What to do in such a situation? Some people think we should confront these men, some are of the opinion that we should just stare back at them. But how to get the message across without threatening their sense of masculinity? Masculinity, especially in the context of a group can be a very complex issue. At once, the group strengthens 'collective masculinity' but at the same time makes 'individual masculinity' very fragile, which when threatened can take on more aggressive forms. For instance, if a guy is alone and he is humiliated by a girl who he has been acting smart with, he may back off easily, but if he is in a group, his ego, his sense of masculinity gets a double blow and in this case, it becomes a question of gaining ones lost ego back, which can be done by punishing the perpetrator of the threat.

Thus, this is a delicate issue. Bringing an authority like a teacher into the picture can mend matters or make matters worse. Unpredictability shrouds the whole situation. And the Police? What do you tell them, please do something about these men who are staring at us? I have noticed that many times, people brush off the so called 'stares'. They aren't taken seriously - come on they say, how many times do you get leched at everyday, if you start taking all of them seriously you would end up traumatized? Hell, most of the times, some people even tell you to stop reading into 'curious stares' as leching.
But I know what I am talking about and I am sure at least a million other women would know what I am talking about. How do brush of that intuition, the dirty feeling of being violated by somebody's eyes? And what do you do if the person continues to indulge in this seemingly 'harmless' activity everyday!

What is the solution here? Do you stop going out? Do you cover yourself from head to toe? Do you confront the person, or do you ignore till something 'serious' happens? Why is that despite so many instances of threat to women and children, we are not taking preventive measures seriously! Why do we have to wait for 'something to happen'? Why do we have to live in fear?

What can be done? Any answers society?

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