For every conversation about our 'Indian traditions and values', there are 10 cases of sexual violence against women. New Year's Eve in Bengaluru was no different, when a crowd of men molested female revellers out on the road. According to witnesses, members of the police force stood as silent spectators while men groped and pawed the severely outnumbered victims. If the 'Night of Horror’ wasn't enough to set your blood boiling, the reactions to the whole incident will definitely push you over the edge.
As has been the case with every other instance of sexual violence against women in India, our progressive politicians immediately found the root cause of the problem. It’s the women wearing short dresses and partying without a male guardian, drinking and dancing with strange men.
Karnataka’s Home Minister G. Parameswara dismissed the incident as routine on days like New Year’s Eve and Christmas, implying that partying and celebrating should be regarded as an invitation for molestation.
But the cherry on the rotten cake of victim blaming was when Samajwadi Party leader Abu Azmi decided to add his two paise. In an interview with NDTV, Azmi said that such an incident was bound to happen as women nowadays chose to stay out even after sunset and do not follow ‘Indian culture’.
He went on to add that if a woman is not accompanied by her brother or her father, it’s wrong to expect that she'll be treated with respect. It gets worse. He then presented the very flattering analogy of ants being attracted to sugar, with the ants being the sexually-repressed molesters and the sugar being the western culture-influenced, short dress-wearing women.
At this point it is important to remember that this is coming from a man who, in 2014, went on record to say that women who have been raped should hang themselves.
You can shake your head in resignation and mutter under your breath that this is to be expected from our politicians (who, we shouldn’t forget, we’ve elected) and then muster enough righteous anger to claim that not all men are like that, which brings us to the other problem.
Soon after the reports of the incident began doing the rounds of the internet, #NotAllMen began trending on Twitter. In an incident that clearly brought to light the bleak reality of women's safety in India, men on Twitter decided to massage their fragile egos by making it about themselves. Correction, #NotAllMen did that, but some did and that’s where the problem lies.
Women from across the country expressed outrage at the hashtag claiming that the issue is far more serious than assuaging wounded male ego about being thrown in the general category of ‘those’ men.
Are you a man who has never raped anyone? You deserve a gold star. That must have been so difficult. You should state it proudly. #NotAllMen— Wildcard (@Vidyut) January 3, 2017
It's not enough to just retweet your support or share an angry meme. Because we're not even a week into 2017 and we've already started the ledger on crimes against women.
Know your rights
Amnesty International India reported that only 1% of women who are assaulted come forward to report the crime. While this can be credited to multiple reasons including lack of awareness, it's necessary to know what constitutes 'sexual violence' in India. After amendments in 2013, sexual violence is not just limited to physical harm. It involves sexual harassment, assault, voyeurism, stalking, trafficking and rape. Amnesty's campaign #ReadyToReport comprehensively lays down all the steps you can take and your rights in a matter like this, including filing an FIR and what happens after that.
Women have the right to ask for free legal aid at a police station, while filing an FIR and if, for some reason, the victim is unable to file a report immediately after the incident, you are entitled to do so at a later date too. It is, however, advisable to do so as soon as possible.
Zero FIR enables women to file an FIR at any police station, regardless of the place of where the incident took place. You can even file a virtual complaint, via email or letter, after which the victim can give the statement at home. The law also prohibits the police from arresting a woman before sunrise or after sunset, even if there is a female constable present at the time. Women cannot be called to a police station for interrogation, she can be questioned at her home in the presence of a female constable and her family or friends.
In case you are stuck in a situation that you deem unsafe, you can call the following numbers:
Police control room: 100
National women helpline: 1091/1090
Anti-stalking/obscene calls: 1096
Visit here for helpline numbers for different states.
For assistance in filing a report or any related issues, you can contact the National Commission for Women (011-23219750)