She made her way down to the river early that morning, all the time thinking about her grandchildren and anticipating their arrival. She stripped off her sari and got into the river to bathe. She enjoyed the stillness of the morning and the chirping of the birds. Moments later, her peace was shattered by a group of boys in their twenties. Even younger than her grandchildren. And that’s when it happened. They took turns with her and left her lying there battered and bruised. As she slowly wrapped her sari around her, she thought of telling someone. But who would believe her? A grandmother of 70 raped by twenty year old boys. She decided against it. She was the one bathing in the river at 5 in the morning. Surely, she had asked for it.
She managed to get into the first class compartment on the train. It was a rainy day and most trains were delayed. Her sari was soaking wet but she figured she could dry it upon reaching work. The compartment was crowded but things could be worse she thought…she could have been in the second class compartment! As the train went through a tunnel, she felt it. Hands squeezing her breasts and rubbing against her bare stomach. She felt violated. As the train got out of the tunnel she looked around her. There were men but they all looked educated. She thought of speaking out. But then decided against it. She was wearing a sari that was soaking wet. Surely, she had asked for it.
She was standing in the crowded bus on her way to college. She hated travelling this way and the only reason she was doing so was because the trains had broken down. As always. It was the same story every monsoon. Somewhere along the journey, she felt it. A squeeze on her buttocks. She glanced around her but couldn’t pick which man it was. She thought of making a scene but decided against it. She was wearing jeans and a tee-shirt. Surely, she had asked for it.
She was checking out her text messages as she walked down to the shops. It was a lovely evening and she wasn’t due back at school until next week. In the mean time, she had been spending time with her friends at the local mall. She passed by a group of boys sitting on a wall. And that was when she heard it. Wolf whistles and cat calls and lewd remarks about her body. She thought of showing them the finger or yelling at them. But then decided against it. She was wearing a skirt and a singlet. Surely, she had asked for it.
She was walking home from school excited. She couldn’t wait to tell her parents about the results from the maths test last week. She was the only student in the whole of Year 3 that achieved full marks. As she took the short cut that led up to her street she saw him. The shop keeper that was always friendly and gave her a sweet. She smiled and waved to him and he beckoned her inside as he had a surprise. He showed her a pup at the back of the shop and gave her permission to play with it. He took her on his lap as she played with the pup and he put his hand under her school uniform. She felt his hands on places that no one should touch as she learnt at school. He let her go sometime later and invited her back to play with the pup. She thought about telling her parents what the shop keeper had done. But she thought they would scold her for taking sweets from a stranger and decided against it. Surely, she had asked for it.
It’s the same old story. Girls and women are made to think they are to blame for any form of sexual harassment, sexual abuse or rape. Particularly in certain cultures and countries. In India, this is particularly common. I remember while growing up reading about women being raped or sexually harassed and “asking for it” because they were wearing jeans! And I remember reading about 11 year old girls in their school uniform being raped and wondering…did they ask for it too? Recently in Australia, a muslim cleric talked about girls being meat and apparently, if you place meat in front of a cat, the cat is not going to resist. Politicians in India talk about how a woman was “asking for it” This only reinforces the mentality of some men in these cultures that as long as a woman is present in front of them and if the man is aroused, he has every right to have sex with her. Based on this, some women are trained to think that they are at fault…that they asked for it. It affects their self-esteem, their self-confidence and their self-worth.
I am guilty of not speaking out during some of my travels on public transport in Bombay during my college days. But I know better now and had decided when I returned to India last year that I would speak up should anyone touch me without my permission or pass any lewd comments. (Nothing happened though to give me that opportunity given that I didn’t travel by public transport much!)
Remember, it is never your fault if a man cannot keep his penis under control or his hands to himself. Whether you are 7 or 70, every woman must speak up and speak out loud against any form of sexual abuse or harassment. Only then are people going to listen. Because you NEVER ask for it.
This has been written as part of Indus Ladies International Women’s Day Contest under the category of Sexual Crimes after I was tagged by Nu and Saya. I in turn, tag Richa, the Legal Alien and Rachna.
Until next time,