Saturday, December 29, 2012

I Will Protect Myself

Being a woman in India is a compromise, a compromise that we accept at birth. We are taught lessons of acceptance, of shame, of fear. We are taught to keep our heads and voices down, never to 'provoke', either with words or actions. We are taught that all men have vicious animals dormant in them, and yet that they are better than us.

We perpetrate these notions in our sisters, friends and daughters. We demean other women by saying things like 'She looks like a slut' or 'Those shoes make her look like a hooker'. We teach our sons to disrespect women by saying 'Don't cry like a girl'. No wonder they think we're weak, that we will take anything they give us. We judge a woman's right to protest against assault by asking whether she was dressed appropriately, whether she was out late, whether she was drunk, whether she was the partying type. Those who refuse to live by our rules are asking to be brutalized. Even those who play by the rules are asking for it simply by being women.

Our political class knows us too well. They know that the best way to shut up a rape victim is to imply that she is a prostitute. They know that most of us do not believe that a prostitute too has a right to deny consent for sex, that she too can be raped. They know that our anger will abate the moment we leave the protest venue and go back to earning a living.

I have no faith in this government or any other because it is made up of men and women just like us. A government which is powerless even to make sure that auto drivers do not refuse female passengers hardly inspires confidence. A political class which passes resolutions to increase its pay with supreme efficiency cannot come to an agreement that women deserve to feel safe. I know that most of those six rapists will probably be hanged, because it's easy. Because none of them belong to well-connected families with political clout. I know that ultimately I'm the only one who cares about my safety. But I will do what I can to make things better.

I will not shame any woman for her clothes or her habits. Nothing gives me the right to do that.

I will learn to defend myself as far as possible.

I will learn to rely on myself as much as possible.

I will never do anything to put another woman in danger.

I will not teach my son that he is better than women.

I will not teach my daughter that she is less than a man.

I will not keep my voice down.

I will not be ashamed to be a woman.

To the girl who faced worse cruelty than anyone deserves, I'm sorry we all failed you.