People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 48

December 02, 2007

Fight To Exist


G Mamta


Don't go out alone at night
That encourages men
Don't go out alone at any time
Any situation encourages some men
Don't stay at home
Intruders and relatives can both rape
Don't go without clothes
That encourages men
Don't go with clothes
Any clothes encourage some men
Avoid childhood
Some rapists are turned on by little girls
Avoid old age
Some rapists prefer aged women
Don't have a father, grandfather, uncle or brother
These are the relatives that often rape young women
Don't have neighbours
They often rape
Don't marry
Rape is legal within marriage
To be quite sure - DON'T EXIST!


IF you are a woman and reading this, then be careful because you still exist. If you have not experienced discrimination, harassment or attacks in the past or as of now, there is no guarantee you would be spared in the future. Beware, if you were to face these in the future, we are all told you yourself are responsible for it. Don’t think that attack itself is a trauma that crushes you completely; you will have to face punishment for being attacked too. Do you think I am going exaggerating things? Then wait a minute. Aren’t you aware of what happened in Saudi Arabia recently?


A Saudi woman was gang-raped 14 times in an attack by seven men. The victim was punished to 90 lashes for being in the car of a strange man at the time of attack! The ‘Qatif girl’ as she was called was handed ‘double indemnity’ for appealing against the original sentence, upon which the punishment got more than doubled to 200 lashes along with a jail term of six months. This is the reward for possessing the temerity to appeal. Her lawyer was suspended from the case, his license to work was confiscated and he faces a disciplinary action. The woman was blamed for inviting the attack on her. The Saudi government has termed her as an adulteress in a bid to assassinate her character. This incident has once again confirmed the degrading status of women under religious fundamentalist and patriarchal regimes.


Do not think that you are fortunate for living in India and not in a religious fundamentalist country. Alas! we also have our share of fundamentalists. Doesn’t this illogic of putting the blame on women for their problems ring a similar note to us in India? Even in our country, women are blamed for all the sexual attacks on them. We often hear, she was raped because ‘she’ encouraged men through her dress, she is being too social etc. If you are older this might sound nothing new to you. From ages, we have been listening that women are responsible for their own problems. Long back, Manu said, “The bed and the seat, jewellery, lust, anger, crookedness, a malicious nature, and bad conduct are all assigned to women.” If you think Manu is long dead, then behold! He still lives as an idea in the heads of many local fundamentalists and believe me, they are very eager to translate this idea into practice. Manu bhakts are there even today. Remember what the guru of all Manubhakts, Golwalkar, the guiding light of the BJP, RSS, VHP, Bajrang Dal and other outfits of Saffron Brigade has said? In a chapter, ‘Call to the Motherhood’, in his Bunch of Thoughts, Golwalkar desists Hindu women from being ‘modern’. Modern women, he argues, lack in virtue and think that ‘modernism lies in exposing their body more and more to the public gaze’.


Dress codes, banning women to carry cell phones, or ride motor cycles (in Saudi Arabia, driving is prohibited for women), and the orders to move around in veils, banning Valentine’s Day etc., flow from the same source - fundamentalism and patriarchy - from the urge to dominate women, blame her for everything and in the process absolve themselves of all the blame. An article in the Shiv Sena mouthpiece, Saamna, on the rape of a college girl by a policeman in Mumbai blamed women for wearing revealing clothes.


If you think India has outgrown all these obsolete notions and is zooming into a modern country with latest technology, gizmos, culture etc., then take this, the capital city – Delhi – is well earning the name of a ‘rape capital.’ And you know what the police here had to say to women to avoid attacks: The Delhi Police's booklet containing tips for women from the Northeast to be safe in the capital portrays them as responsible for their own problems. Excerpts from the booklet: On a dress code it suggests: “When in rooms do as Roman does” (sic). Under security tips: “Revealing dress to be avoided.” “Avoid lonely road/ bylane when dressed scantily”. And “dress according to sensitivity of the local population.” The fact that for the culprits, your being a woman is enough provocation to tease or attack irrespective of how you are dressed does not seem to count. The onus for remaining safe is once again placed on the women.


Irrespective of the dress they wear, or, their ages, their looks, their educational, professional and marital status, never mind the time or place, when it comes to the ideology of treating women as objects and second grade citizens, there is no difference - be it Manu or his bhakts the police force or the moral police, be it Saudi Arabia or India, it is the same.


Thus we too have to cut across space, gender, religion etc., and unite to fight against these ideas, against the conditions that give birth to these retrogressive ideas. Recently in Delhi, some men concerned about the growing violence on women held a candle light protest expressing their willingness to fight this menace. Many Left student, youth organisations, trade unions and other mass organisations are all doing this and are committed in the struggle against women’s exploitation and for their emancipation. Let us recall Che Guevara, “If we are capable of trembling with indignation each time an injustice is committed in the world, we are comrades.” If you really care for a secure future there is only one way, and that is unite, join hands and fight.