One would imagine a walk with a male classmate/friend inside the campus of an esteemed university like IIT BHU is as secure as being within the confines of a familiar place, like your home. But sadly, freedom and respect are still a far-fetched idea for women across the world, even today. Things that a man takes for granted are not the same for a woman.
One can’t forget the incident in Madrid when a group of male university students, were seen filming and chanting obscene misogynistic abuse at female students. Videos circulated of the days of abuse being hurled from the windows of an all-male student building at women in the block opposite. One can’t fathom the deep hatred for the female gender that such men bury within themselves.
If you dive deeper, the message to women is “Stay indoors, don’t you dare think you are an equal”.
Gender-Based Violence That Is Infiltrating College Campuses
The shocking incident of the BHU girl being dragged away from her male friend at 8:00 pm by motorcycle-borne men inside the campus, kissed forcibly, stripped off her clothes, and photographed and videoed is again a reminder that as women we don’t belong in public spaces. It is like the frightening Taliban mindset of the treatment of women. A world where she belongs behind veils and closed walls. A confined space created by men for her. Her personal agency of body and mind isn’t hers. She belongs to society and the standards that are set by men for her.
The message given out to us is that as women we don’t deserve the same right of freedom as men. A simple walk in the evening is not what she should indulge in unthinkingly. She must consider what is wrong versus right moral conduct, created by patriarchy.
If we shift the lens to the survivor of the assault we would wonder what the girl must be going through emotionally and psychologically as the news has spread across India and there are protests across the university. Female survivors are never forgotten or forgiven.
She will in all probability live questioning herself, as to why she went out on this fateful evening. These thoughts will scar her young impressionable mind, as she will learn to come to terms with this outrage.
The truth is that even today, in 2023, as women we are still conditioned to blame ourselves for being caught in the midst of gender violence. Deep down we think we bought it upon ourselves. Why were we caught unaware and why did we land ourselves in this situation? So, instead of turning the lens outward to the sick mindset and rightfully being angry with the system of oppression and gender violence, that never seems to stop, we as women, blame ourselves.
As again and again the ugly misogynistic mindset for such disgusting acts emerges, we fail to dissect and discuss enough about the root of the culture that the perpetrators are born into. Homes where women are quietened lest her voice reflects her ability to protest against inequalities.
As for the men in BHU, it may have been a fun evening as they wanted to remind the girl of her place in her room and not on the campus strolling post-dark. They wanted her to understand that as a female student, she must not dare do what is considered immoral according to them. And if she is indulging in such an act, which isn’t the right conduct then she must be taught a hard lesson of not ever again trying to dare to break the rules that they think a woman must always keep in mind.
This horrific incident brings us to the crux of how entitled men think of freedom and success versus a woman. The expectations that men nurture and are promised in patriarchy, unlike women who are tutored from the start the conditional commitment to self, that they must consider and reconsider or nurture based on their surroundings.
Varanasi for me is the evening chants and prayers on the peaceful ghats. A place of communion between the reality of life and death; a city that is known for its heritage and culture. But this heartbreaking incident leaves me wondering if the holy city will be remembered for its beauty of history, art and crafts or the current culture of violence that tells us that the state is among the top states in violence against women.
Mohua Chinappa is an author, and podcaster and runs a digital storytelling platform called Asmee dedicated to women.
Views expressed are the author's own.