Women have often been protected all their lives against molestations, rapes and such harassment. This leads to them being under-confident and often freezing as victims. It is, therefore, important to have sex education classes where the idea of consent and awareness is discussed, writes SARIYA ALI.
BEFORE I make this piece a personal narration, I do recognise the fact that even men get raped, even women rape and there are all kinds of perversions among the identities beyond the mainstream binaries.
I have empathy for all the victims, but this write-up focuses on how a woman is protected almost all through her life to stay safe from rapes, molestations or any kind of similar harassment. But such incidents still happen and one must go beyond the usual dos and don’ts to a more constructive understanding of the subject.
If one looks at various attires of men and women, they are illustrative. Wherever I see extra clothing like a veil or a covering from head to toe, why do they all look like women?
Then I try zooming into neighbourhoods and colonies. I see men in vests and boxers and comfortable clothing, while women seem conscious about covering themselves as much as they can.
It has been quite a long journey ever since the world saw women trying to claim independent spaces, but the struggle is still on. I am a Gen-Z, born post the emergence of the third wave of feminism. Even after 24 years, I am fighting the same issues.
My lifestyle and that of a lot of women have always been guided under presumptuous protection, be it appropriate clothing or curfew timings.
I am a pseudo-feminist who supports Pinjra Tod in her head or on the streets of Delhi’s premier women’s college Miranda House but am still anxious if I am not back home before the clock ticks the “decent” hour to be inside.
There are more layers to this under-confidence. There is a socio-cultural reason behind this, but as we have been tamed, after a point of time we assume our guided choices to be independent.
The liberal idea, in this context, is a disguise of what we have been fed all our lives as we make peace with the appropriates. Probably that is how the structure reproduces itself as not only men but women start playing an active role in contributing to these chains which get passed on to daughters, sisters, daughter in-laws and granddaughters.
A Frozen Victim
Despite this “presumptuous protection”, the precautions and measures, rapes, molestations and harassments still happen. I remember one time when an old man grabbed my posterior in a packed metro, and my “under-confidence” froze me and stopped the reaction I should have given. That is what a safe, guided lifestyle makes out of you–a frozen victim.
But the story doesn’t end there.
Despite all the protective attire and attitude, any untoward incident can be a heavyweight to carry and the horror keeps coming back.
Despite the woman saying, “I swear, I said ‘no’ but he didn’t stop”, she doesn’t know what went wrong– her being a character of that scene, her unwillingness to participate, her choice of going there or the man not knowing when to stop. These things are never talked about.
On Sex Education
If I go back to my Class 9 lecture on sex, it was just half an hour of the biology class where the teacher hesitantly spoke of the male and female anatomy and X and Y chromosomes. Our generation could have googled it. But why were we never told what rape is beyond the idea that it should never happen to a girl?
I felt deeply disturbed when I came across the “Draupadi ka cheerharan” episode while listening to a Mahabharata podcast as it was about a woman being molested and harassed in the middle of a court of so-called learned men along with her five husbands. The whole argument of protection went into the trash for me then and there. Very rarely are the deeper meanings of consent and awareness spoken about.
Education & Ethics
On the subject of sex ethics, consent is the key. I don’t recall being told about consent ever. As women themselves don’t understand the importance and power of consent, rarely are conclusions to marital rape found.
Society also doesn’t want to recognise it. Consent comes from talking about each other’s comforts, discomforts and limits. It is important to know that either of the two parties can “stop” the act whenever and wherever they want and the other must respect it.
Such reflections are the need of the hour. Till then, we will have uncomfortable questions being thrown to the victim in court. Sexual cases are often complicated and that is why discussing this topic is important. By educating oneself and others and knowing how much an individual’s agency matters in the discourse of sex, a beginning would have been made.
If all men are not potential rapists, then our outlook has to shift from protecting oneself to a more constructive and educated space on the subject of sex and its ethics.
(Sariya Ali works as a field associate at Azim Premji Foundation, Barmer. The views expressed are personal.)