An examination of the notion entrenched in our patriarchal society to place the onus of safety on the victims instead of curbing crimes or changing the patriarchal mindset.
According to the most recent government data for the year 2017, more than 32,500 cases of rape were registered in India, which comes out to around 90 a day. A lot of cases might not have been reported. In a lot of these cases, not to mention the harassment that countless women have to face on a daily basis, the one factor that is common are the instances of victim blaming that are offered by the patriarchal society as justifications. The idea of victim blaming in crimes against women is deeply entrenched in the Indian society, with the clothes the victim was wearing or the time she was out on the street being a topic of conversation instead of the lack of gender sensitisation, morality, or the brutality of the perpetrators.
From the countless instances during this year’s cultural fests across Universities, traditional safe spaces cannot even be seen as space. Even in these safe spaces such as colleges, hostels, and even homes, it is seen that the blame is shifted on women instead of addressing the root issue. A student from Indraprashtha College For Women (IPCW) and a resident from IP Hostel who wishes to remain anonymous narrates an incident from a hostel General Body Meeting (GBM). She says, “Along with our curfews and restrictions, we face this pressure to change and compromise our lifestyle to stay safe. In the GBM, a girl complained that the male workers stare at girls when we don’t wear a bra. Our Principal told us that its a hostel and we should dress properly and not wear shorts and wear a bra. So instead of making our hostel a safe space for us and checking the male workers, the blame was shifted on us.”
The idea is also engrained into what should be the first safe space, our homes. Varshini, an M.A student from Chennai says “My mom slut-shames me when my bra shows through my top. If I don’t want to get raped, I have to wear three layers of clothes in the Chennai sun. Comfort or safety is the choice I have to make.” This onus on women is something that women have been made to follow through fear instilled by the condition of women’s safety in our country and what they have seen growing up.
Recently, the nature of police in India and their brutality has come to light, with those who are supposed to protect massively failing to do so. This is also something that women have had to face even before it came into light for most of us, as Sakshi Singh, a student in Pune recounts a disturbing tale “This happened last May, I was in the car with my maternal uncle and we were going home, around 11 o’clock. These two girls on a scooty were riding beside us and looked panicked. They asked us to pull the window down. Then they explained how they just left left a party and two drunk guys are following them on a bike. My uncle was very concerned, so he drove alongside them, but the bike continued to follow, and they were shouting. They were even threatening the girls. We reached a junction soon, where there were two police officers. We stopped the car and told them the entire thing. The police just looked at the girls and said, “aise kapde pehen ke itni raat tak ghumengi toh hoga hi na” (if you wear such clothes and roam around at night then this is bound to happen), I was very shocked and irritated. Uncle took their names and complained to higher authorities later.”
Without gender sensitisation, effective laws, lack of support, and an incompetent police force, women are left with nowhere to turn to. Women are forced to compromise their lifestyles and identity for basic safety. It is high time that the culture of victim blaming is fought back against and more emphasis is put on curbing these crimes through gender sensitization and teaching the concept of consent to men from a young age along with the government actively working to curb these crimes instead of putting the onus on women and telling them how to dress or when to leave their homes and come back.
Feature Image Credits: FreePressJournal
Prabhanu Kumar Das