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“This is not a problem, it’s an unfolding tragedy and an everlasting nightmare” - if there was ever a statement made that rang painfully through the crumbling state of safety for women in this country, it would be this. And even if it screamed at us through the traumatising accounts of victims and survivors, many of us would still feign deafness, and go about our lives like nothing has happened.
The #MeToo campaign following the Harvey Weinstein episode that came to light has been a shocking revelation for many people. The sheer number of women who have experienced sexual harassment in one form or the other, not just in the country but the world, is appalling. And these are women who have access to social media, and a voice to lend to the community they live in. What about those women who are silenced every day by the raging misogyny that prevails in our society? The power play amongst leaders and governments alike clearly shows us that wars need to be raged against those who refuse to stand up for the national anthem, or those who should be lynched for consuming beef, but not against those who contribute to the harrowing statistic of ‘one woman being raped every 20 minutes’ in the country.
Bollywood actress Richa Chadda took to her personal blog to express her voice on the campaign and the dire situation of sexual harassment against women in the country, and the world, today. In a startling, but painfully accurate observation, she states:
“For a country where violence against the girl child starts in the womb, I am surprised at the number of people surprised at the enormity of the #MeToo campaign. Unless you have been in hibernation in the Himalayan caves for the past millennium, there’s no way you would not know that sexual assault- verbal or visual, and gender violence are the rites of passage for the average Indian girl”. As women, we can’t help but tearfully agree with every word she said.
Richa also went on to pose hard-hitting questions against those who claim that it’s always the woman’s fault for ‘getting raped’ and things like what she wore and where she was determined the cause of her abuse: “Do folks that pose questions such as these ever read the paper? Do they know that infants are raped in India, as are grandmothers? Pre-teen girls are molested, as are women covered from head to toe in a burqa.”
Why do we still live in a world where girls have to fight for the right to be born, fight to be sent to school, fight for their right to marry the men they choose, fight the right to choose to bear children, fight in-laws and society for their ‘permission’ to have a career after marriage?
“Women who work outside the home have to carefully decide what they will wear keeping in mind their occupation, (traditional and covered options safest), mode of transport (public transport means avoid sleeveless, wear higher necklines, longer bottoms unless you want to be asking for it…actually whatever you wear, you are asking for it) and what time they will return home (always preferably before sunset). Private transport? You can be followed or worse.”
In a powerful piece that is thought-provoking and emotionally charged, Richa asks of the media to “create a safe atmosphere where open discussion is possible, where people can share their experiences with dignity and without being judged”. This cannot be stressed enough, given the state of affairs in our society, as humanity is long due from each of us; to be the change, and to come together to protect each other in the world. FOR our women, WITH our men, AS ONE solemn species of humankind with compassionate hearts.
“Hope we heal”.