The shadow of fear

Security matters

The shadow of fear

The Bengaluru molestation has turned the spotlight on one of the biggest problems that women face nowadays — just existing in society. Hundreds of women in one of the most advanced cities in India welcomed New Year in a rather disturbing way — groped, assaulted, molested and terrified.

As new cases of harassment surface every other day, reactions have been pouring in from all spectrums of society. Right from Bollywood celebrities and ministers to college students and working professionals have something to say about this issue. What does this deluge of advice and anger mean for the single women living in the city?

It really doesn’t change anything, according to Bhakti Sheth, a professional. “I have been living in the city for five and a half years and have seen the best and the worst of it. There are some precautions that one needs to take all the time and while the mass molestation and related events have brought the importance of that to the fore, this isn’t anything new. Sadly, such incidents happen all the time, it is just that they are being brought to the fore right now.”

Asked about the precautions she takes, Bhakti says, “It is best to be a bit conservatively dressed when you are going out with people you don’t know that well. I am not saying that clothes have anything to do with what happened, but it is just an extra security. Also, it is best not to go out alone too late at night and be very careful and alert all the while. Be extra cautious while taking cabs at night and during night outs or parties, make sure you are around people you trust.”

As is the usual case after major shocks, social media users have gone on a rampage with angry posts, heated discussions, long rants and creative forms of protest.

Young women have posted their take on the shameful incident and their views on some of the insensitive comments from some politicians. Satshya Anna Tharien has written a poem, titled ‘Not Your Sugar’, criticising the misogynistic mindset of the political leaders.

She narrated the poem in a video she shared on Facebook which has already received over a 1,000 likes and over 400 shares. Another post going viral is a narration of a personal ordeal by photographer Chaitali Wasnick, where she talks about fighting back a molester all on her own, as the people standing around did not come to help. While the hashtag, ‘#NotAllMen’, was trending on Twitter with people claiming that not all men are degenerates, others said that the social media outrage was taking away the real seriousness of the episode.

“Another hashtag won’t make a difference; it is just a way to make yourself look cool,” says Reenu R, a young mother. “And yes — not all men but certainly all women. Claiming that not all men do this is an immature response and is serving to kill the debate around the actual event.”

Talking about how parents and relatives have become rather scared for their daughters’ safety, Gayatri Binu says that her aunt called her up and asked her to purchase pepper spray immediately. “She advised me to be more cautious and stay safe. The panic was evident.”

She adds, “Every girl has the right to go out and do what she wants to but there should also be an awareness about what you are getting into. Know the probable risks but stay confident at the same time. And for all those who are blaming the victims themselves — men being drunk does not mean an automatic license to do anything and everything. If they are so senseless after becoming drunk, then it is they who should be staying home after dark.”

Bollywood celebrities have joined in the chorus and are vocal about their shock and fury. “That is kind of ironical considering that Bollywood churns out item songs and sexist movies on a regular basis,” notes Shruthi Gowda. “We have had movies glorifying stalking and forgetting all about consent. Objectification of women is rampant and then when celebrities speak out like this, the effect will not be very long-lasting, even though what they said makes sense,” she adds.

With all the debate and discussion that the incidents have aroused, will this just be one in a long line of unfortunate incidents or the dawn of a change long overdue?

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