As I type 'BHU' to research for this article, the first result page on Google shows me one link to their official website and another to its Wikipedia page followed by a long list of links to reports and articles about how the esteemed university responded when one of their female students complained about her safety.
Security for a woman has much more weight than it does for a man. In a country that worships women as goddesses, women get harassed sexually literally every day - in buses, schools, offices and our very own homes. As a woman, you worry about becoming a victim to sexual assault more than you worry about crimes like theft and murder. You pause before you enter a room full of men and would rather not go at all than go somewhere alone. Each time you wear those shorts or those sleeve-less tops, you debate in your mind whether it would be appropriate or even worth the 'risk'. How many men think twice before they head out in boxer shorts and vests?
Security for a woman has much more weight than it does for a man.
This issue of lack of safety and lack of basic freedom isn't an Indian one alone. Women all over the world have been fighting for something as basic and simple as the freedom to walk on a street without fear for as long as we can remember. But why haven't we gotten it? Is safety such a ridiculous or bizarre request that our leaders and lawmakers have made little effort to give it to us? Is safety not our right? Or does the problem lie with the men who we've elected to govern us whose incapacity to comprehend the simple concept of safety that has forced us to be imprisoned in our homes just because they fail to realize the importance?
Is safety such a ridiculous or bizarre request that our leaders and lawmakers have made little effort to give it to us? Is safety not our right?
The issue that gave birth to the controversy at BHU was a student's complain to her warden against a group of harassers outside her place of residence. Her fault? She was out at 6pm in the evening. We shouldn't be surprised at yet another incidence of victim blaming and yet another group of men teaching women about the purity that is 'Indian Culture'. When the students protested against the warden's decision, the police were called who lathi-charged at the students. Because when someone tells you they don't feel safe, the obvious response would be to have them beaten up. Forget the gender of the students here for a moment and think. What's so wrong with a student asking for a safer place of study? Isn’t it the university’s job to ensure the safety of each and every student?
We shouldn't be surprised at yet another incidence of victim blaming and yet another group of men teaching women about the purity that is 'Indian Culture'.
For all the readers who still find it too difficult to make sense of the demands of the ladies of BHU here, imagine there's a thief or a murderer at large near your campus/office/home. Wouldn't you demand from the concerned authorities to ensure that they be dealt with? You would, wouldn't you? That's because your safety in your own country is your right! You have absolute right to demand a secure environment to work and live. Well, so do they.
Women are still treated with little importance and often their demands and wishes are ridiculed to the extent that they are not taken seriously and often ignored.
Despite all the talks of feminism and equality and so much more awareness about women safety and rights, a large number of people in the country still refuse to accept the real reason behind sexual harassment - the harasser. Women are still treated with little importance and often their demands and wishes are ridiculed to the extent that they are not taken seriously and often ignored. The misogynistic views of people and lack of respect for the gender has pushed us back as a country instead of forward. With the comparison of Feminism, a movement about equality to the Nazis, overall gender equality seems like a far-fetched dream.
Recently, following the controversy at BHU, Girish Chandra Tripathi, V-C, BHU was asked to comment on the incident. His views were not only shocking but also reflective of the 'pure' and 'cultural' society that we live in. He said, "If we listen to every girl, we can’t run the university." Because a girl demanding a secured campus is obviously not justified. Furthermore, in a more recent conversation with a Youth Ki Awaaz journalist, he justified the gender biased rules and the lack of safety by asking why only girls were raped and none of the boys weren't. Unknowingly stating exactly what was wrong, he showed the ignorance and sexism that every woman in the country today is battling against. Instead of teaching the men not to rape, women are taught to be careful because ‘boys will be boys’. For how long will we keep caging girls as a solution to sexual harassment?
The women outside BHU aren't a group of girls trying to grab attention. They're an army, fighting a fight for survival that each and every woman in the country is fighting.
The women outside BHU aren't a group of girls trying to grab attention. They're an army, fighting a fight for survival that each and every woman in the country is fighting. Women are raped every day and then shamed for it. They are constantly told what is right or wrong for them and mocked for making 'silly' demands. Women have let the patriarchal society set their rules for way too long and now, with more and more women coming out and standing up for their rights, it is clear that they are not going to go back to be the damsels in distress that the chauvinistic man is so used to. With #IStandWithBHU trending on Twitter, the only hope is that the authorities at BHU come to their senses as soon as possible because the country knows which side it's on.
Nandini Arora, part of Safecity’s Writer’s Movement, is an aspiring actuary who loves to write. Although married to numbers, her first love has always been books and writing. She regularly writes about issues such as women's safety, Feminism, LGBTQ etc. on her blog nandiniaroraweb.wordpress.com.
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