A Change? Doesn’t Look Like It…

It’s dark. I walk down the road in jeans and a tee. I’m not showing skin and I’m not calling attention to myself. I’m lost in the tunes that my iPod is playing. But then I hear comments. Loud catcalls that my music can’t drown out. Unwelcome glances and insulting phrases. I quicken my pace but alas, there are some things that nightmares will not let you forget.

Sounds like a familiar scenario? This is something that many of the girls reading this would identify with. And it doesn’t even have to be dark. This happens in broad daylight. And the girl could be completely covered in a salwar kameez with a dupatta. It could be someone as young at 15 or even a 40 year old mother of two. Age is no bar for these men who think their masculinity comes from showing power over a perceived weaker sex.

Eve-teasing can escalate into worse. There is molestation, rape and assault; each just as bad as the other. Every single one of these experiences is scarring and no woman should have to go through it. But we do, every single day. So it doesn’t matter if it’s Delhi or Mumbai or Hyderabad. We still have to take it. Silently. For after all, we are the “gentler’, “weaker” sex.

But then, women have learnt to retaliate through something called Adam-teasing. True, it is pretty juvenile an idea. Something akin to ‘he hit me so I hit him back’. It preys on characters that might have had nothing to do with eve-teasing in their whole lives. This is something that doesn’t really address an issue, only solves as an outlet, albeit childish, for deep-seated resentment.

Very recently in Andheri West, Mumbai when two young men stood up for their female friends, they lost their lives. When their friends were being teased by a person identified as Jitendra Rana, Reuben Fernandes and Keenan Santos stepped in and intervened. The issue might have ended right there but then Rana returned with 4 men, two of whom were armed.

They then proceeded to beat up Reuben and Keenan while everyone in the crowded street and restaurant where they had just had a meal, watched. Keenan died the very same night and Reuben passed away too. Reports in Midday stated that the local MLA had offered the victims’ families compensation. The parents denied this vehemently. Justice will probably never be served to those who committed this horrendous act.

The reason I state this case is simple. When there was action, proactive action, taken against eve-teasing by two brave young men, they were cut down in their prime. What made it worse was that there was no help forthcoming from the onlookers during the entire incident. When there were voices raised against an injustice, they were cruelly cut down. The case went to the police and the goons have been remanded to 14 days of police custody after which chances are that they will be released on bail. It might be years before this case ever comes to court.

If this is the state of affairs in Mumbai, a city that prides itself on coming together in a crisis; a city that prides itself on being safe for women; then what hope do we have in other places in the country? If something like this can happen to someone who takes a powerful stand against something everyone knows is wrong then why will anyone take a stand again? Yes, hope and courage and bravery still exist. And the campaigns supporting the two brave-hearts prove this.

But disillusionment is what I feel when I think of this and the countless other cases which go unseen and unheard. Sadness is what I feel when I think of the suffering of the families involved. Fear is what I feel when I think of what women have been going through and still go through every day. And hope is very hard to find.

Ayesha Sruti Ahmed