Undie protest bold, but it isn’t enough, say experts

Undie protest bold, but it isn’t enough, say experts

Women across the world are sharing pictures of their underwear as a sign of protest with #ThisIsNotConsent

Women across the globe are protesting against victim blaming

A storm is raging in Ireland after a 17-year-old rape victim’s innerwear (a lacy thong she was wearing during the incident) was displayed in court by defence lawyer Elizabeth O’Connell. She claimed it suggested consent.

The action led some women to come out on the streets to protest against victim blaming.

Metrolife spoke to experts to get their view on the protest, which many see as bold and provocative, and understand if a guerilla protest like this would work in India.

Kavitha Garla, founding member of NGO World of Women (WOW), says, “Drastic measures should be taken for any change. And in this case, the protest is all about women fed up of being taken for granted and held guilty for something that is not their fault. Irrespective of the type of clothes, background and education. Imagine having to justify the kind of underwear you choose to wear that too in public! It is appaling and regressive.”

She finds the rise in the number of children being targeted to be disturbing. Women’s rights and security, she says, never become election issues. She believes that having an open dialogue with the lawmakers of the country is the way forward.

“As long as the society (men and women) refuse to believe that sexual misconduct and violence are serious problems that plague our country, bringing about a change seems like a far-off reality,” she told Metrolife.

India is still a conservative society, and Kavitha doesn’t see this protest working out here at all. “These protests may have shock value and grab the attention of the world, but they don’t necessarily bring out a permanent solution to the problem,” she adds.

Franklin Joseph, founder, Power to Women Safety and Empowerment Workshops, believes these protests are a clash of two attitudes— modern and old, and to an extent, a clash between men and women.

“Educating people about the concept of men and women mindsets is the need of the hour. There are men who don’t have any idea about consent. For women, a bra or a thong is just a piece of clothing, and not a material to seduce men. But for men, it is entirely different, which to a large extent is fuelled by movies and commercials. Even today, men take the phrase ‘hansi toh phansi’ literally,” he says. 

Franklin recalls the watermelon protest in Kerela where women took to social media and posted pictures of watermelons covering their bare-breasts as a sign of protest after a professor’s remark that girls display their chest like watermelons.

He adds, “These protests are ways in which women can showcase their point of view. Having said that, just protesting doesn’t always serve the purpose; proper education is important too. If the protest comes to India, most men and some women will definitely take it negatively. They might also blame Western culture and finally, the purpose of the protest will be lost.”

For a campaign or protest to be a success, understanding the context and its expression is crucial, he sums up.