Stigma

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Eve TeasingRecently, there has been an innovative project put together by a popular organization fighting against street sexual harassment of women. This organization had the brilliant idea of putting together a wardrobe of thousands of dresses worn by women when they were eve-teased on the streets. The basic purpose of this project was to bust the popular myth that only women who wear ‘provocative’ (and what is that supposed to mean?) dresses are eve-teased. On hearing this, a friend of mine dryly remarked, “Goodness, we can’t give away our whole wardrobe!”Unfortunately, she was unerringly true. The whole concept of eve teasing is a horrifying reality for any woman, regardless of her age (yes, we do have perverts in our midst), who travels out daily in public transport. The above mentioned project has even had school uniforms and burquas submitted. The verdict is impossible to miss. The so-called ‘indecency’ of the woman who ‘deserved’ to be eve-teased (even in a school-uniform?) apparently has nothing to do with her dress. Or her behavior.There’s this popular concept that women ‘ask’ for eve teasing (though it’s beyond me why anyone would voluntary want to be letched, stared and groped at). We have often seen defenders of eve-teasing violently proclaim that the women encourage it. Some go as far as to say they ‘like’ it. However, the fact remains that most women have no other option than accept it (perhaps from that stems the myth of their liking it?). Imagine walking down the street only to be hailed with innuendos all along the way. If that wasn’t bad enough, imagine being able to do nothing about it. Why? Because however much we proclaim that India is a ‘modern’ country soon to emerge as the new superpower, its basics are still deep-rooted in male chauvinism. Women throughout India are still, frighteningly, considered ill fitted to ‘match’ a man. She is required to be the docile daughter who will swallow all eve-teasing without protest, the ‘good’ wife who will look after the household, and would certainly never cherish dreams of having a future beyond the kitchen and the nursery. Why, that would be blasphemous! Female infanticide continues to grow at an alarming rate, but that ‘issue’ is conveniently sidetracked. Thousands of girls all over India are forced into a premature marriage and soon afterwards subjected to the restricted life of the widows (and they are roughly between 19 and 25 years of age). What’s still more frightening is that these young girls are really unaware of a better life. Their mothers, aunts and female relatives urge them to be a ‘good little girl’, deliberately and cold-bloodedly pushing them into the same darkness that they themselves came from. What’s more, they are contemptuous of the modern day ‘working women’… “It’s against Indian culture” they say (meaning of course, that the men won’t like it.) Considering India is the land of the Goddess Shakti, the symbolic representation of female power, it’s hardly an understatement to say that these people have completely misinterpreted our culture, as they call it.Coming back to Urban, Modern (?) India: disapproving eyebrows are raised at women wearing jeans, let alone skirts and dresses. My point is, who has the right to decide what to and what not to wear? The women concerned, of course. And only them. If they chose to wear a skirt in a public transport, they should have perfect liberty of doing so. After all, society is indifferent towards a man in shorts, isn’t it? Then why are there different societal laws for women? Why do they have to bear the brunt of humiliating comments and awkward stares every time they set foot on the street? Why do they have to keep quiet and not protest for fear of social stigma? For the fear of being labeled “fast”? (“That’ll never get her married.” And marriage Must be every woman’s ultimate aim, her one goal in Life.)Why are they still second-class?Sohini Pal

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