The real issues
By Shaina NC
Umang Sabharwal is an ordinary Delhi college girl, but is attempting something quite extraordinary. She plans to replicate the global ‘Walk?’ in our national capital. While her attempt is creditable, I intuitively feel it’s an idea that merely skirts the real issues.
The so-called ‘Walk’ has been successfully organised in cities such as Sydney, Toronto, London, and so forth. Young women there have shed sartorial inhibitions to march on the streets and make an emphatic statement against crimes against women. They deploy shock-and-awe tactics to highlight such crimes and the society’s general insouciance towards tackling them. Such marches have brought a serious issue into the limelight. Whether there will be a decline in sex-crimes, remains to be seen.
The word ‘slut’ is difficult to translate into Hindi. So the nomenclature chosen for the march in Delhi is – ‘Besharmi Morcha’. The real question that screams to be addressed is whether such a street march will have any impact at all. First, young women in Delhi cannot be expected to shed their inhibitions as their counterparts in other cities have. We are culturally different, and a Morcha with women shedding their clothes to make a serious statement is likely to be construed as an unbridled ‘ogle-session’ precisely by those against whom such a statement is sought to be made. We also witnessed a novel form of ‘underwear’ protest some years back against obscurantist parties, but that faded out from public memory too before you could say ‘slut’.
Second, it seems based on a fallacious assumption that only those women that wear ‘inappropriate’ clothes are subjected to crimes of rape, molestation, violence, etc. In a land where women are treated as commodities by vast chunks of the population, it’s naive to believe that crimes against women are committed only when they dress to provoke. Have fully-clad woman never been molested on the streets in our country? Have elderly women not been groped inside Delhi buses for decades? Have college girls and young professionals not been picked up, violated, and then dropped back by the perpetrators who operate without an iota of guilt in their devilish consciences? Has honour killing of young women got anything to do with how they dress? Have all dowry deaths been of women who chose to strut around in bikinis? We know the answer to those questions. It can be summed up in one word – ‘No’. In our society, it’s the paternalistic, fossilised mindset of men that has resulted in unchecked crimes against women. The way these women dress up is irrelevant to this mindset. Crimes against women are largely not about sex, even in a sex-starved society such as ours. They are about dominance, a raw manifestation of power, where sex is a tool deployed to physically and emotionally devastate. They are about resisting the global clamour for gender equality, as men feel threatened that their centuries-old control over women is slipping incessantly. It is this strident sense of insecurity that is fueling more crimes against women in all sections of the society. A ‘Besharmi-Morcha’ will generate good sound-bytes for news-starved news channels, but that’s just about it.
Third, in a society where hypocrisy is widespread, the emphasis will shift away from the germane points to those bordering on absurdity. We worship the Mother Goddess in all her manifestations, while not hesitating to kill unborn or young girls. We ruthlessly set young married women afire for a motorcycle or a few thousands of rupees. We rape women, young and old, as an expression of interpersonal vendetta. Domestic violence against women is the worst kept secret in our country, prevalent even among those who live in posh localities like Malabar Hill, Cuffe Parade, Jor Bagh and Greater Kailash. These real issues will not be discussed. Instead, the police will allege that the Morcha has created a law-and-order problem in sanitised Lutyens’ Delhi.
Umang’s parents are likely to face uncomfortable questions on their inability to bring up their daughter in an appropriate manner. Some channels are also likely to comment that this Morcha is incomplete, as most participants are well clad. The fact is that many of us are a hopelessly duplicitous bunch of people, with voices of sanity getting routinely silenced in the midst of this gender pogrom. It is indeed refreshing to see young people picking up the cudgels to raise issues in the midst of an all-pervasive ostrich mindset, but the relevance of ‘slut-walks’ and ‘Besharmi-Morchas’ in a country beset with far more serious reasons for the problem is, I’m afraid, not very much.
(You like this article? Please respond to [email protected]; The writer is a Social Activist and Fashion Designer)