I saw the BBC’s documentary India’s Daughter yesterday. It shook me up. We have known that such views exist but to see them, to see the unflinching faces, to hear the commitment in their voice, was something else. For the first time I am unsure of my place as a Woman in the Indian culture.
“What golden bird? The one that is all grey, with her feathers mercilessly pulled out leaving behind trails upon trails of dried blood covered by sands of time? Or the one we attempt to keep polished for the rest of the world to see? The wings of that bird hide within their folds, screams and wails, and an ever-increasing scroll of statistics. A woman in India is raped every 20 minutes.” A statistic we don’t want the world to know for it hurts our false national pride. We can go to excessive lengths to ban views from being aired, for they are a conspiracy to hurt our pride. The same pride that stays unscarred despite the numerous women scarred forever.
I have never felt unsure of my place as a woman. Growing up in the Capital’s neighbourhood, I was a typical child in a household of working parents. I never felt inadequate on account of my gender. I was raised to be a fighter. ‘Never come home beaten. Give it back,’ my father would say. ‘But never come back crying. You be a fighter.’ I imbibed that. From street fights as a kid, to sticking to my beliefs as a grown up – I never came back crying. Ever. So I have never been unsure of my place as a woman. Gender never mattered. Not until now that is.
Today I saw the banned documentary. Banned because it depicts ‘the comments of the convict which are highly derogatory and are an affront to the dignity of women.’ The comments are derogatory hence should be banned. What about the act itself? What about the fear that stays somewhere at the back of my head when I step out? What of the quickening of breath every time I cross a dark alley? Is that not an attack on my dignity? What of the comments that men, who are supposedly the educated guardians of law, make? Are they not an ‘an affront to the dignity of women.’
I heard those men today. I have never been so unsure of my place in the society till today. The defence lawyer, in response to the rape accused’s interview, says to a radio jockey that the question asked should be taken in cognisance before pouncing on the accused’s response. His exact words, ‘Maybe he was taking out his angst against women who are out late at night going to pubs, doing cabaret.’ The rapist says on screen, ‘It was a lesson.’ There is no remorse on either of their faces.
The words ring in my ears. For the rapist, we have always assumed, your being a woman is an excuse enough. Apparently not. Women who stay out late in the night, wear western clothes, and do not take the bid to rape lying low, they are the real culprits. I am the real culprit. I thought I were an independent woman, who could choose what she wanted to wear, where she wanted go, and what she wanted to do. I have stayed out late. I wear whatever pleases my fancy. Never have I felt more scrutinised than today. Do people judge me when I do that? Are my steps being monitored? Am I being ticked off as upholders of the great Indian culture, or plain characterless? Is someone, whom I pass by on the road, constantly deciding who the culprit is? From where I stand today, it seems, if you are a woman, you would be raped. If you are raped, you are the culprit.
“In our society, we never allow our girls to come out from the house after 6:30 or 7:30 or 8:30 in the evening with any unknown person,” remarked one lawyer. Perhaps he chooses to ignore the figures depicting the fact that in 98% of cases the culprit knows the victim. He added, “You are talking about man and woman as friends. Sorry, that doesn’t have any place in our society. We have the best culture. In our culture, there is no place for a woman.” I have no words for that.
We continue to hide behind the golden bird, the fabled, hollowing greatness of our nation. We choose to look towards the sky, while the claws of the bird trample spirits and bodies as it progresses, while in our culture there is no place for women. I am not overreacting. It can be argued that these are the views of a rapist and two narrow minded, blinker-wearing lawyers. They are not representative of society as a whole. I somehow find it hard to breathe easy. A tiny portion of society respects women for what they are – human, alive, equal, and very much a part of our culture. A large chunk however, in varying degrees, limits us, denies us, threatens us, and ultimately stifles us. A walk down the road proves as much.
Voices can be muted, views ignored but fact remains, the golden bird is a fable. We keep too busy painting the vulture to make it look like a glorious piece of the Sun but the charade doesn’t hide the smell of rotting flesh and stricken souls. It doesn’t deny the fact that I am not a welcome part of the culture. That I am supposed to be indoors. That I am not supposed to protest. That I am not a victim. That I am a culprit.
Originally posted at: The Huffington Post