Mumbai's society & its women in particular, must continue to protect their freedom
We take her lead...Days after the cowardly act on the young, brave photojournalist, and after, all the five rapists have been nabbed, Mumbai's society and its women in particular, must continue to protect their freedom, with increased will power, as Sameera Khan, journalist, researcher and author of Why Loiter? Women & Risk on Mumbai Streets, assertsAugust 27, 2013MumbaiSameera Khan
The week after Mumbai has been stunned by the gangrape of a young woman media professional out on a work assignment in the heart of the city, one asks oneself, how do we move on? Not that rape is unknown in this city, neither is verbal and physical harassment or sexual molestation.
Women in this city -- working full-time or not; in white collar, blue collar and increasingly informal jobs; educated or unschooled; young (including babies and toddlers) or older; lower caste or not; migrant or not; foreign or not; heterosexual or not; minority or not; differently-abled or not -- all contend with violence every day. Yes violence, in this the most women friendly of all Indian cities. We negotiate, we strategize, we keep our cell phones pressed, we simply get going.
Courage against the odds
But all of us might not always show the amazing courage and presence of mind that the 22-year gangrape survivor exhibited. When her rapists threatened her about not telling her male colleague tied outside that they had raped her so that they both could leave the Shakti mills premises (where the rape took place), she held her tongue to keep them both alive. When away from them, she told her colleague about the rape. She called her immediate boss. She caught a cab. She went to a nearby hospitals casualty section, and she got herself admitted. She filed a police case and has assisted with the investigation in every way with her determined male colleague. And since then, she has boldly spoken out about continuing her fight for justice even as she heals physically and psychologically. She has expressed the desire to get back to work, to complete her assignment. She even told the National Commission of Women chairperson that rape is not the end of life for her.
This is the way we go ahead -- we take her lead. We demand justice and the right to be on the streets, to roam our city, for work and pleasure. We demand a safer city with more receptive and proactive law enforcement and better infrastructure. But what we certainly dont want is increased surveillance of where women go, what they do, how they dress, or what time they are out. Or as the State Home Minister suggests a policeperson trailing after every woman journalist and photographer. His stance is impractical, paternalistic and in keeping with the heightened moral policing he has gifted this city.
The simple thing is you do not police those who are likely to be assaulted, you use your law enforcement resources on policing and convicting those who commit crimes. The perpetrators have to be focussed on, not their potential targets.
Sameera Khan is a journalist, researcher and co-author of Why Loiter? Women & Risk on Mumbai Streets.