I recently came across an article written by Vogue, about the repressive attitude of the Indian government towards women’s safety. It has been known for a long time that a man’s ego comes before a woman’s wellbeing in this country. If a girl is abducted, a woman is molested or a lady harassed in public, somehow the consensus of leading public authorities tends to place the blame on the victim rather than the problem. The men.
This is old news for sure. But recently the victim wasn’t simply another unknown identity. She was a designated VIP, Varnika Kundu, the daughter of senior IAS Haryana officer Virender Kundu. The offenders were also VIPs. Vikas Barala, son of leading BJP Haryana politican Subhash Barala and his friend. According to the father of the victim, Virender Kundu, she was continuously harassed in a vehicular chase, down busy streets, markets and traffic lights until cops were finally alerted to her emergency honking.
The offenders had of course been drinking before the harrowing incident occurred, but somehow what had not occurred to politician Ramveer Bhatti, who said post incident, “The girl should not have gone out at 12 in the night. Why was she driving so late in the night? The atmosphere is not right. We need to take care of ourselves.”, was that the atmosphere is only a result of the surrounding people.
If we had drunkards or inebriated would-be molesters on the streets in the middle of the day, then that wouldn’t exactly be the ‘right’ atmosphere either would it?
The most important part of this incident is in fact the silver lining. The brave response of both father and daughter is an uplifting example for the women and the men of this country. While they both have acknowledged the complicated political, legal and social implications of a public battle, neither is willing to back down, for the sake of countless women who stay silent about their own ordeals due to the heavily prejudiced attitudes of government and police authorities.
As said by Virender Kundu on his Facebook post about the incident, “If we do not persist in trying to bring the guilty to justice, more and more daughters will suffer this hurt. Maybe some may not be as lucky as Varnika. Someone has to stand up. We are standing. So long as we can.”.
But the positivity does not end with the father and daughter duo. The ignorant and degrading comment by Bhatti lead to a backlash on social media, with women posting selfies in the company of friends and alone, at all hours of the night, with sassy captions such as ‘Dear regressive India, I will do as I please, night or day. Don’t ever think you have the right to stop me’ and the trending caption #AintNoCinderella, to imply that women are not weak helpless princesses that need to be confined for their own safety!
Anyone who cannot perform basic human functions like walking and talking respectfully, should perhaps be confined (in a padded cell).
So we say cheers to the women who protect other women, cheers to the women who protect other men and cheers to the men who protect other men and women too!
Because only if we cooperate with each other in mutual respect do we have a chance to truly be safe and happy citizens.
Women’s safety, just like gender roles, is all in the head!