Thursday, 22 August 2013

Of sexual harassment and gang rapes in India

Another gang  rape. This time in Mumbai. Mumbai, as I used to know it way back in the mid-Seventies was a secure place for women. Unlike Delhi, I could stay out late, board a late night bus, which I often did after my office duty as a journalist, and feel safe. Unlike Delhi, the men in Mumbai were better behaved. They did not grope and pass lewd comments. They were comfortable with women around and did not make them feel like strange objects to be stared at. A taxi driver once went out of his way to drop me to my destination during a particularly heavy monsoon shower, when the city had become waterlogged and came practically to a halt. My attempts at waving taxis to stop was proving futile, for they all had passengers. And then he came along. He told me he was on his way home, but he would drop me at my place, which was in a different direction. To my great surprise he did not ask me for any extra fare.

That was the Mumbai I knew, a safer city for women. But over the years, instead of becoming better, it has deteriorated, become an unsafe metro. This ghastly crime, as well as the New Year assaults on women, show that the city of  Mumbai has sunk to the same pit as Delhi!

This comes soon after a Canadian student on a study tour of India, described her harrowing experience of being in India. What she described and what has driven her into depression so severe that she has to seek treatment for  it, is what Indian women face day in and day out. It is the price they have to pay for "stepping out" of their homes into work spaces, or just to enjoy a movie or eat out. The sad tragedy is that the criminals get seldom punished. Eight months later, despite a fast track special court and the public outrage, the bunch of men who raped the Delhi girl on a bus, are still to be punished. One demon ended his life. Probably he was shamed to face the world! We have had some people clamour for showing leniency to another who was not yet 18! But the act he committed was not an act any child would commit. The hearings are still on.... We are awaiting punishment for the gang of goons. The state has yet to act on behalf of a young girl who lost her life in a most brutal way and her friend who was beaten up. And as we wait, another gang rape.

Why doesn't India act decisively for once? And tell the women that it cares for them!

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