It is an undeniable truth that at some point of time every woman I know has been a victim of some form of harassment. It could be anything- from obnoxious sexist comments on the street to actual molestation and worse. The newspapers are rife with accounts of brutal violence against women of all backgrounds. Despite all our supposed national progress, all our increased opportunites, all the 21st century liberalism- being a woman in India is still a curse. If the news is anything to go by, sex crimes seem to be on the rise- or at least they are reported more.
I’ve been told that education is the answer to stem the violence. But that is an incomplete solution. What causes people to commit sex crimes is their mentality. It is the breadth of their vision, their belief that women are inferior and deserve to be punished simply because of their gender. Or, if women are considered to transgress the supposed norms of dressing or behaviour, they apparently ‘deserve’ to be harassed.
There are many problems with such views. The entire issue is too complex to be addressed so neatly. Generalizations are grossly inadequate. First of all, how can you quantify something as abstract as ‘mentality’? Although uneducated, lower-class people of a certain social background tend to be more narrow-minded, highly educated people commit sex crimes as well.
As for social norms, it is unfair that women are often apportioned the maximum blame in this largely patriarchal society. Even if, for the sake of argument, this unfairness is overlooked, what is considered to be indecent or provocative is too variable. What should be the yardstick? Whose vision of ‘decency’ should be adhered to? How many ‘precautions’ must women take? And even if men are supposedly ‘provoked’, they are ultimately in control of their decisions. There should be a final barrier between temptation and action: if not a moral barrier, then at least a fear of the consequences.
And what about the solution? As far as I can see, there seems to be no easy solution. Rallies and protest marches can only increase awareness among people who already consider sex crimes to be fundamentally morally wrong. The people who actually commit the most heinous crimes are too trapped within the narrow rigidity of their views to be affected.
Changing a Facebook profile picture or other forms of Internet activism merely provide an outlet for outraged feelings to be expressed and nothing more. They falsely assuage the sense of horror we inevitably feel when we read about rapes and other sex crimes in the newspapers.
Women may take precautions and safety measures, but that does not address the fundamental problem. It is only a salve to a wound that continues to fester in the fabric of society.
A complete solution remains as elusive as ever.
These truths are unpleasant, all the more because they cannot be tackled. No matter how much we may cover up or reveal, someone is always watching, peeling away every inch with their eyes. No matter how many people may be around us in a crowd, it only takes one person to commit an atrocity. And all those other milling people we mistakenly consider to be our shield merely look away. We all look away on the scene, even the victims. And then we go back to our sheltered homes and vent our useless indignation. And all of this is just a drop in an ocean of indifference.
I remain helpless, as we all are.