- Kashish Sodhi
A few days back, while traveling to my office, I met a woman — about five years older than me, a dancer, an ambitious model, a fun-loving and spiritual person. We happened to get along randomly! OnourwaytowardsOkhlaBird Sanctuary metro station, we continuedtalking—aboutlife, parents, passion, goals, friends, traveling, etc. We exchanged numbers and texted back in a few seconds after separating. That day was one hell of a day! Igotlatewhileleavingfrom work and dropped the chance of meeting her while traveling backtoGurgaon.Iboardedthe metro and took my preferred spot (near the door). I habitually listen to music while onboard, but not that evening. That evening, I was just pondering, stressingmynerves so strong, just recollecting what thatgorgeouswomanhadsaid earlier in the day. What she stated will hit youstrenuouslyandI’mgonna quote it without altering, “You know, I asked my brother last weekend—whatareyoumost afraid of when you are out? (like traveling or shopping or partying till late) His response was simple — I am just terrified that no one snatches my phone! Or I seldom dodge encounters as I am frightened as hell towards any threats. I was like — nothing more? To which he responded NO.” “Now, imagine how much alarmed I am? I have to take care of what I am wearing and havetokeepmyself conscious perpetually — is my strap visible, am I resting in the right position. I have to hold that nerve full of anxiety and walk quicker when I am alone! People talk about gender equality and feminism and numerous other things. I think when this atmosphere transpires from every woman’s inner self, that day I will approach gender equality as a reality and not merely a notion(whichitcurrentlyseems to be)” Throughout my 1:30 hours of the course, I just kept on looking for explanations and peeked into myself as to how much have I made a girl protected.It couldhavebeenvery easy for me to put on some stories on Instagram and Snapchat, and censure the society, the mentality, the upbringing, the families, the friend circle, etc. Has that helped? Ask this question to yourself again? Has this exercise helped any woman of the nation? Did any of your female friend mention about feeling protected and unharmedevenaround7pm? Alimitedresponsecouldbe yes!Butaconventionalanswer each individual would have — Never! It’s remarkably good how the youth is utilizing social media today, that’s commendable. But, just put yourself in the thought of leaving from yourfriend’s place late or from office/tuition, what is the first notion that appears in your consciousness? It’s the anxiety that sinks in thatmakes youvulnerableand low on self-confidence, which can be critical. The new season of Ted Talks India — Nayi Baat presented a lot of female voices who are striving towards gender equality and sexual violence.But the most significant speaker—MadhumitaPandey (a doctoral researcher and a lecturer in criminology) just caused chills to me. She reached with an answer to the question which every Indian asks — ‘Why do men rape?’ Sheinterviewedmorethan 100 convicted rapists in Tihar Jail for her doctoral thesis. Shefollowedtheethicalguidelines which were set by the British Psychological Society and examined only the willing participants. Questions such as — ‘do you masturbate? When did you first have sexual intercourse? Did you ask for consent?’ were asked and the results, clearly not shocking! What her research stresses on is extremely insightful andisaccuratetothepointthat we humans manage to overlook issues on the other side of the nexus such as everydayeve-teasing,debasinglanguage against women, sexist jokes, and harassment. Longterm precautionary measures shall includethesociety’slocus ontheselessalarmingissues, which ultimately lead up to intense violence or build tolerance towards it. She has advised the society to shift towards structural changes that address the asymmetric power relationship between men and women in the country. Thedilemmaoflackofpersonal identity among women (especially in the rural communities)necessitatestheeducation and empowerment of womenwhileguaranteeingthe development of a healthy perception of masculinity amidst young men. Socio-cultural influenceand conventionalgenderrolesplay pivotal roles in subjects such as victim-shaming, toxic masculinity, and rape culture. Another element that is more prevalent amongst sex offenders — ‘victim-blaming’. It is a very common phenomenon that demands to be replaced. Sex offenders in theirnarrativeseffortlesslyput aquestionmarkonthevictim’s character. How can it be improved?Orhowcantherape culture standstill? The key to this barrier lies ineducation—SexEducation! In India, there is a distinct perception among people when the word sex drops in. Itisnothingtobeembarrassed about; we agree to it, yet we manage to evade conversations on the topicwith ourfamily members. Why? This draws in a lot of discomfortbutproffersbirthtothe ideaof‘lackofawareness’.The outcome of this is pretty candid—manyinourcountrydon’t evenrealizetheterm‘consent’. From the birth of a man, until he is grown, it is a very complex period and usually in our country, he experiences privileges such as autonomy, mobility, opportunity, and power.Themostamusingfactor is that these privileges are reckoned to be only enjoyed by men and not women. Womeninsteadstarttoendure restrictions. Weareyettohaveanationwide campaign focusing on educating our people towards sexual violence and exploitation, and changing everyday misogynistic viewpoints. Educatingyoungboysand girls (both rural and urban) will enable them to understand their bodies, age-related changes, the meaning of consent, respect one’s personal space, menstruation, sexual intercourse, sexually transmitted diseases, and risks of pregnancy. Also, it would be more meaningful if parents are committed to this process at the very first point. Parents shouldstarteducatingtheirchildrengraduallywithage,which will incur a greater sense within them from the very beginning. Puttingupstoriesandcomments on social media platforms is okay! But what is more important right now, at the moment, is people stepping up on such agendas. If you can put up a good message/caption on social media, then you are certainly capable of doing much more! Trisha Shetty, an Indian activist, runs a non-governmental organization called SheSays which concentrates on ending gender-based discrimination and the advancement of women’s rights in India. Her NGO has supportedrapesurvivorsandtheirfamilies with medical and legal aid (at times financially too). People like Madhumita Pandey, Trisha Shetty, and many more are working towards such subjects and require everyone to support them and help India become a rape free country. It is a tough job and not an easy one! But just reminisce about everything which appears in your mind being an Indian — rape culture, a dangerousplaceforwomen,lower ranking in terms of women’s inclusion and well-being, one of the countries with the highest number of crimes against women, etc. Four women are raped every hour in India. The real stat could be much higher. I am just pushing each one of you to stand up and deem about taking an action that might be conducive to many andevenyourself.Questioning the government, orthe law, on taking action is probably evident to each one of us. But, we not being part of the developing process are equally culpableforthebefore-mentioned acts. Ihavemyselfengagedwith such NGOs and people dealingwithhumanrightsadvocacy and gender policies. Please, step up and start taking productive actions, which can direct to the prosperity of our nation.This might not be the ultimate answer to the most prominent dilemma of the nation, but it could be multiple steps up the ladder to arrive at the coveted stature. Think and act smartly people! This is what young India is supposed to do!