It was towards the end of the nineteenth century when Women’s Suffrage was recognized for the first time. It were the colonies of New Zealand and South Australia that allowed their women to cast the votes for the first time in 1893 and 1895 respectively, that was nothing less than snagging a bargain, a good one, resulting due to the First wave of Feminism. April 3, 2011 in Toronto, Canada marked the day of another rebellious notion being aired, something that women all around the globe are fraught with but perhaps it gets subdued under the cacophony of various other rumblings.
Constable Michael Sanguinetti didn’t have the slightest of premonitions about the extent, to which his words spelled out at a Safety Forum in York University would create ripples. While his remark in which he advised women to refrain from dressing up like sluts, in order to avoid instances of rape set many a feminist fuming with rage, his blooper tale would go down in history as another instance when women across the continents were united seeking answers to heinous crimes being committed against the fairer sex in the name of ‘glad eye’ and the blame being hurled entirely at the victim later on. The question is how a woman’s sense of clothing can be related to her sexual overtures, for mere sight of bare back, cleavage, midriff or even ti*s is not an invitation for a man to turn into a carnal. Sexual intercourse for that matter is a natural act of copulation that should strictly follow after mutual consent and not imposed owing to bestial sensibilities suddenly arrogating to itself right to physical emancipation. I hope I’m not sounding like the typical ‘Bra-Burners’ of the 1960s whose idea of embracing their sexuality was quite a revolutionary one and those form the import of another debatable topic altogether! The idea is to put forth a message to all and sundry without pulling the wool over one’s eye!
July 23, 2011 was the day when those incinerating flames touched the shores of India with groups galore urging for a Walk in the capital city of Delhi. In what was being touted as the congregation of frothing masses, huge disappointment dawned upon all who were present at the Jantar Mantar as only around a thousand or so men and women participated in the March organized by Umang Sabharwal and number of other students from the Delhi University. Unlike other countries, the shutterbugs from the various channels and other portals donned sullen looks since the Indian marchers hadn’t gone for short dresses, brassieres, etc. to express their contention, with the crowd donning the tees that was painted with their names, holding placards that said, ‘Change your thinking, not your clothes’, ‘Nazar teri buri, burqa main pehnu?’, with the name of the movement being changed to ‘Besharmi Morcha’ instead of ‘SlutWalk’ , this apotheosis been dominated with the intention of rambling the true purpose of the entire vortex.
India for that matter has had its share of SlutWalk moments earlier as well when the ‘Pink Chaddi Campaign’ launched in February, 2009 took the entire nation by profound surprise, the idea being to put an end to the kooky antics of Muthalik and his troupe of hoodlums that went around by the name of ‘Ram Sene’; this outrage being initiated by Nisha Susan in the wake of the Mangalore pub incident in which five women were brutally assaulted in full view of cameras that became witness to pique sparked of those right-wing extremists gone berserk. But when we are talking about a pluralistic nation-state like India, the issue is furcated with several other areas of concern that are often piped-down in the backdrop of some more major political and social issues marring the very harmony of this terrain.
Discontent is often given vent to the, very extent and plausible remedy as laid down in the Indian Penal Code regarding rape and molestation cases. Barring a few landmark judgments in cases like those of Rupan Deol Bajaj vs. KPS Gill, that was in the context of a 1988 dinner wherein IAS Officer KPS Gill had slapped Rupan at her posterior, thus inviting her wrath that culminated with the Supreme Court fining KPS Gill in 1998, with an amount of Rs. 2.5 lakh to be paid to the victim; there have been many instances when the deficient Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1983 has failed to provide reprieve as was expected from those in the reigns of Justice.
The ‘Besharmi Morcha’ failed to substantiate its raison d’etre with the entire gung-ho affair being truncated into yet another boutique protest, those taking part in it not even bothering to file a petition asking for some stringent rules to be framed and implemented, thus belittling their efforts by denying to don the litigant’s role. This certainly doesn’t stop there for apart from being labeled as yet another middle class rant, we in India need to acknowledge some other construal like those of Gay Pride, an attempt to pay obeisance to the Stonewall Riots; the Dyke March that is meant to raise awareness about the lesbians with the sole motive of breaking those stereotyped thought processes and last but definitely not the least, a majority of Indians are yet to be apprised of the existence of Transvestites!
What needs to be axed down is the puritanical mindset that relates the kind of dressing to the violence against women. Wearing jeans and sleeveless is still a strict no-no in many small towns of urban India, riders of two-wheelers vrooming past in high speed, passing lewd comments, insinuating whistles and giving back those uncouth glares, taking it as an act of temerity, and ‘kya maal hai’ mentality rules the very scuttlebutts of boys and men alike. One of my colleagues shared this incident with me a few days back when she was whizzed past by two guys who said, ‘chalti h kya, 100 rupaiye ki toh baat h’, the girl choosing to opt the path of keeping a mum instead of retaliating in any manner. That very sordid state of mind needs to be revamped in due course of time and definitely not the couture of woman perse. There’s this famous feminist quote by Sarah Moore Grimke, “I ask no favors for my sex…All I ask of my brethren is that they will take their feet from off our necks”. Hope this SlutWalk movement does ring bells in the ears, paving way to end decades of harassment with its clarion call.