Sexual safety of women: Before the world went into a lockdown, my mother would drop a text every day to my sister, asking if she was home from work in the evening or not. At 34, whenever I ventured out for a work or leisure related trip, I had to keep my mother and my husband updated about my whereabouts at regular intervals. We are talking about the pre-pandemic era here, when being able to hop on a taxi at midnight was both a luxury and a dreaded task, depending on your gender, location and privilege.
With the world slowly opening up post the havoc of a deadly pandemic, men and women are slipping out of their homes, however, only one gender predominantly has to worry about their sexual safety. Every 15 minutes a woman is raped in India, and yet it is not men who are answerable for these crimes in our society. It is women who must think thoroughly before carrying out any kind of activity. I write this after reading the news about a 21-year-old woman in Madhya Pradesh, who was abducted from outside a college where she had gone seeking admission. She was allegedly restrained and gangraped by three men for 24 hours.
Boarding a local train, walking home alone from the bus stop at night, going out on a solo trip, accepting a male colleague’s invite for dinner, wearing a short skirt to a pub or simply going to play outdoors with your friends in the evening, every activity comes with an added list of dos and don’ts that girls and women in India are told to follow, for her own sake. Don’t accept a drink from strangers, don’t retaliate if someone teases you, just get out of the place as quickly as possible, note down the number of your hired cab, text mom your friend’s number while on a night out, always move in groups, chose well-lit roads for commute – do we ever stop worrying and calculating the impact of such unnecessary chores that we have to perform every day?
With time, these chores become a habit for every woman, often from horrid tales of sexual crimes or repulsive personal experiences. What about men though? What kind of accountability do they carry? Do men even see gender-based crimes as a cause worth championing? I also came across this tweet today on my timeline, and while I can’t authenticate the source of this picture, it does make sense from personal experience.
Jackson Katz, a social researcher, asked men what they do on a daily basis to avoid being sexually assaulted. Then he asked women.
(via Women Hold Up Half The Sky on FB) pic.twitter.com/8SYBnh6cTB
— Anant Bhan (@AnantBhan) October 5, 2021
How many of us have heard men worry over their safety. Let us be clear here, that this also shows our ignorance towards sexual crimes committed against men. That rape and assault are not discussed among men reveal why it is so difficult for men who experience these crimes to come forward and share their ordeal.
It is high time that men stopped seeing sexual crimes as a woman’s issue and only fuss over it when it is their wife/sister/daughter or mother’s safety at risk. Each one of us is susceptible to impacts of sexual crimes – it leads to tragic emotional consequences for a survivor and their loved ones, it has led to the development of mistrust, shaping us into a society where when a stranger offers to help you, terrible thoughts and doubts come to your mind before gratitude and relief.
We have to break free from this toxic environment, we have to leave this world a better place for the generations to comes and for that to happen, men need to see sexual safety as their issue too.
Views expressed are the author’s own.