When the headline of a report reads ‘Woman murdered by man’ and not ‘Man murders woman’, there is a systemic problem in play. Even in violence and death, the onus somehow falls on the woman –– as if she may have incited, asked for, or walked into it.
We were told at a young age, “Your safety is in your hands.” Unfortunately, this seemingly guiding statement holds a different weight and meaning for women. As much as we would like to believe we are on the path to a world where atrocities against women are on the decline, we are not –– following the narrative of ‘progress’ here would be living in a bubble of comfort.
In 2019, not too long ago, the rate of crimes against women in India went up by 7.3 per cent, as reported by The Indian Express. If one were to assume that the lockdown made things easier, they would be highly mistaken –– the National Commission for Women received 23,722 complaints for crimes against women in 2020, the year of the lockdown, as compared to 19,730 in 2019.
Must we look at things at a macro scale to put the issue into perspective, or are we not allowed leeway to narrow in on individual women’s situations? In fact, even these numbers seem less like numbers, and more like lives in danger once we hone in on the circumstance.
We are not new to landmark cases of violence against women –– from Nirbhaya in Delhi to the Hathras gangrape, these cases remind us that they are one or two of the thousands that take place each day, whether that be outdoors in broad daylight or within the walls of one’s home. At times, we wonder if we are numb to such news –– does its overwhelming frequency and severity just not surprise us any more, or is it the helpless situation we ourselves are in? Such events that do come to light, reinforce the fear each woman carries with her day in and day out.
It is for every citizen to realise that each woman in this country is at the risk of being the next Nirbhaya –– the possibility is too large to rule out.
A social media post pertaining to a video of a man brutally stabbing his wife in Delhi asked –– Why is it not easy being a woman in India? A country that does not consider marital rape as a crime, but excels at commenting on what women wear seems far from safe, doesn’t it? We could list statistic after statistic, but the real trauma is faced on a day-to-day basis.
Our country is tirelessly fighting the COVID-19 war, with love and hope on the losing side, and yet, even in grave sickness, women are unsafe. In Gwalior, a ward boy named Vivek Lodhi attempted to rape a 50-year-old COVID-19 ridden woman, not once, but twice. It makes one realise why each woman worries about her safety at almost every second of every day.
The trauma of receiving unsolicited pictures online, being catcalled in one’s own colony, experiencing sexual harassment and assault, and discrimination at every stage of life and violence imminent at any moment –– the trauma women experience is never-ending. The fear of being in some or the other sort of danger is omnipresent.
For women of India, the preparation of being in danger is easier than to believe that it does not exist. A 2012 sting operation revealed that many cops in and around Delhi believe rapes are caused because of women themselves. If those that are meant to protect us from heinous crimes such as rape, themselves, believe that the fault there is of the victim, it becomes difficult to argue otherwise –– not because the argument does not exist, but because it seems next to impossible to flip that mindset. This applies on a larger scale pan country –– crimes like rape are considered to be the fault of the woman –– the victim –– and ridiculous reasons such as clothing, whereabouts and activities are used to support that claim. It is never the intent of the perpetrator, validity of the crime or the extremely regressive and backward thinking of a large population.
So to answer the question, ‘Why is it not easy being a woman in India?’ –– it is because of the uncertain, unsafe and untrustworthy conditions India has been providing to us for decades. Our lives, integrity and safety depends on preventive measures and punishments rather than on solutions. It is not difficult to believe women as equal to men, but in India, it is easy to think of them as lesser –– it is convenient to extend explanations that justify horrendous acts of violence against women because in the end, “Galti toh aurat ki hi thi (The fault was the woman’s).” The lack of support is a cowardice act, and hence, a simple one. Our protests, cries for help and loss of lives are numbers to those who sit at the top of the ladder.
It was, is not and will probably never be easy to be a woman in India. The answer to the question of ‘why’, too, will probably remain constant across the country.
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