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It was with great shock that I looked at the pictures in the media showing the mayhem wreaked in Bengaluru on New Year’s Eve. It was claimed that there were 1,500 policemen deployed on the streets, yet so many young women were molested that night.
The media later had a field day pronouncing it as the state's failure to protect the women. Debates raged on Facebook and Twitter and women’s rights groups slammed it as a violation of the girls’ modesty and infringement of their rights.
I don't justify molestation, neither do I condemn the presence of women on the streets. And I also don’t object to their clothing or the choice of beverage they might have had.
But I feel it has become fashionable to blame men and their mindsets. And portray women as victims and helpless. Simply because that’s so convenient!
Why Were They Out On the Streets?
Let us examine if this issue was about gender inequality or rather a law and order issue. It was the New Year’s Eve. People were happy and in a mood for fun and revelry. Each individual was wearing what they wanted to. Each chose the beverage they liked the most. But the question that arises is: Why were they – both men and women – out on the streets?
When we talk about equality, aren't men and women both supposed to be citizens who must uphold discipline and observe basic lawful behaviour?
So perhaps it’s high time we consider a few radical thoughts on this issue. While battling misogyny, let us not give way to misandry.
Unruly Behaviour of Mob, A Natural Outcome
When we organise a wedding, we hold it at a wedding hall. When we have a religious ceremony, we host it inside a building. Every celebration has a suitable venue. Why then is there a need to take it to the streets?
Being out on the streets exposes one to anti-social elements, like a mob. A mob is the most insensitive group of people imaginable and breeds unruly behaviour. As responsibilities are distributed within the group, accountability vanishes and inhibitions are shed.
Now, why make this a gender equality issue when it is a breach of law and order, on the part of both the men and women present on the streets?
Why blame public servants who are ill-equipped to deal with a massive number of people not fully in control of themselves?
Being Safe is An Option
So, why label this matter as an ‘equal rights’ debate? And coming back to the point of why were they on the streets in the first place: Weren't there enough pubs or restaurants where they could’ve gone to enjoy themselves?
Being a woman, I never wore a purdah – neither a burkha nor ghunghat. Did someone say pepper spray? I do not know where one can buy it. I do not earn enough to afford a bodyguard. I learnt martial arts as a hobby in my twenties, though.
Yes, I have had to endure pinching and grabbing on railway stations. But whenever a guy acted smart, I have used my sandals or my verbal weapons. Over the years, I have realised this: Being safe is an option not to be confused with rights.
So, aren't we confusing the outcome of an unruly mob gone berserk with equality and gender-related issues?
Don’t Blame the Road
When you step out onto the street, you are fraught with an incumbent risk. You may meet with an accident. That’s why there are footpaths and zebra crossings. You may slip on the road if it is wet! Will you then blame the road because it is wet?
This is the point I’m making: Precautions and rights are different things.
I have a right to be on the roads. And I can also take the precaution to walk sensibly and not run in front of the oncoming traffic.
In the same way, if I know I am slightly tipsy and others are likely to be tipsier than me, it is best I stick to familiar people and environs. Why venture into unfamiliar areas and expect strangers to behave decently with me?
If I were to give one lesson to my child in the light of these events, this is what I would say. If you must party, why not do it in a place where security and accountability measures are firmly in place? A street is meant for walking, not partying – whether it is New Year’s Eve or any other night.
(The author is a short film scriptwriter and spiritual healer. She can be reached @sonnalp74. The views expressed in the article are the author’s alone. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
Also Read: It’s Not Bengaluru’s Shame, It’s Me and You