Monday, December 3, 2012

The Viewspaper : My Letter to The Prime Minister

On 2nd December 2012, The Viewspaper was organizing the PMji Samjhoji! Letter-a-thon - The day India will write to its Prime Minister.
Eminent journalists like Madhu Trehan (Founding Editor, India Today), Sonia Singh (Editorial Director, NDTV), activists like Abhinandan Sekhri (Core Member, India Against Corruption) were asked to contribute along with me.
Here is my contribution that was published.

Dear Prime Minister,
I was 12 when we moved from Boston, USA to Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. It was a huge culture shock for me. I had been living with my family in the States for over five years and I could do what I pleased there. I went to a co-ed school. We went out in groups for movies and lunches. When Madonna burst on the scene, I wore short skirts and tights. I used to go alone to the market to buy groceries for the family. I interacted with old men who were cashiers to young boys who picked things from the top shelf for me. I wore short dresses, shorts, and any old rubbish that was the fashion then. My mom hardly said anything to me as long as my grades were good. That was my life in the States.
Then I came back to my country. Mom left all my clothes there. She told me she would get me a new wardrobe. I was most excited until I realized it was all salwar kameezes and an occasional long skirt with a chikankari full sleeve kurta thrown in. I grumbled. Why did I have to wear this when I was far more comfortable in shorts in the heat of summer in a place that had frequent power cuts and no generator to even keep a fan on? Mom told me that things were done differently here. People would look at me strangely and she didn’t want anything bad to happen. I told her no one was allowed to look at me differently; I would scream at them and report them to the police. I was taught that in the US school. She laughed and said the police themselves would stare and not be on my side. And the perpetrators would throw acid on me if they saw me again. From then on, I have never worn shorts again. I have been scared in my own country of what I wear, how I behave, and whom I talk to.
It’s not ok.
I thought things would change and I would prove to my mother that the world I live in has become better. But it hasn’t.
In Dec 2009 – The Chief Minister of Goa said that women should not roam the streets at night if they didn’t want to get raped.
On Dec 14th 2011, The Brahmin Samaj of Muzaffarnagar in UP declared that jeans were “provocative”.
On July 2011 the Delhi Police commissioner declared that women were not allowed to drive alone at 2 in the morning and “not ask” to be raped.
In 2012 there was an uproar throughout the year since Haryana witnessed 60 rapes a month. A few outlandish quotes on what causes rape and what precautions should be taken were:
“I support Khaps on this issue. If girls are married off earlier it can save them from crime. People during the Mughal rule used to marry their young girls early to save them from atrocities inflicted by the rulers. The same situation is arising in Haryana and the government has become more or less impotent in dealing with rising crime.”
—Om Prakash Chautala, the leader of Haryana’s opposition party, Indian National Lok Dal encourages demand made by khap panchayats that the marriageable age of girls be reduced to 16 from 18.
“To my understanding, consumption of fast food contributes to such incidents. Chowmein leads to hormonal imbalance evoking an urge to indulge in such acts. You also know the impact of chowmein, which is a spicy food, on our body. Hence, our elders also advised to consume light and nutritious food.”
—Khap panchayat leader Jitender Chhatar.
“I don’t feel any hesitation in saying that 90 per cent of the girls want to have sex intentionally but they don’t know that they would be gang raped further as they find some lusty and pervasive people in the way ahead.”
—Congress spokesperson Dharambir Goyat.
“Earlier, if men and women held hands, parents would reprimand them. Now everything is done openly. It’s like an open market with open options.”
—West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee.
The theory that eating chowmein makes a man a rapist is simply absurd. The idea that women should be married off to men at 16 so more men will not rape is even more ludicrous. And should we not be progressive and move towards an open dialogue in society about all topics so that women are on equal footing?
Whether a woman chooses to wear certain clothes, be out at certain times of the night, be drunk silly and flirt, be loose with her language, be at ease with the “boys”, have mood swings, and so and so forth. There is no reason for a man to be provoked. There is no reason for him to think it will be ok for him to force himself on her. He CAN NEVER think that he has authorities on his side that will let him get away with it. A man HAS to be courteous. It is his birthright.
People in power need to be more sensitive. They cannot make statements that allow men to take an inch. We need political parties taking a stand against rape. We need the police to throw the man in jail if a woman files a complaint. We need academicians propounding the theory that men need to respect women no matter what, at home and outside. We need religious groups to tell their sects that women are goddesses and shall be revered at all cost. We need authority figures at homes to not tell women to “wear something else”.  We need this to happen now!
We cannot be a regressive country. We cannot worry how the world perceives us. We should worry how our daughters will grow up. I don’t want them to wear only salwar kameezes. I want them to hold their head high in whatever they wear, wherever they go and whomever they talk to. We want them to know that in their country, the police will back them without looking at them up and down. That the Vice chancellor of her University will not lecture on inappropriate dressing. And that she can stand and fight for her rights wherever she is in India, even if it is a small town and she need never be afraid of an acid attack. That’s the India I envision for our daughters.
For that to happen we need to bring up our children to respect every woman, even if it is the maid. To sensitize our fathers, uncles, sons, husbands, lovers, and then our community to understanding women better. It’s not about women’s attire. Respect them for who they are in whatever they wear. Be aware of how women think. Make it important. Do not associate with men who think that women are just sexual objects. It is no longer a joke. It is no longer a “let it be” attitude. It needs to change. Now.
It needs to start with you taking this stand.

Women cannot let men get away with misdemeanors. If there is eve teasing, it needs to be reported. If a man is rude in the house, it needs to be pointed out. If any person in authority has said something that offends and causes harm, it needs to be raised in the media. We must garner support and change the outlook of every single person who thinks it is solely the woman’s fault. Women themselves need to be aware. They need to realize that it is not how women dress that causes rape. It is a man’s sick mind. Period. There is no but, and, or to it. They need to be proud of being a woman.
Let that be our resolution for 2013. A common goal. Even if it is uncomfortable in the short run. Even if it takes time. Let us start.
Then we can truly be a better society for each other. And our kids.
Into that heaven of freedom Pradhan Mantriji, let your country awake!


Inder said...

I agree

yogesh said...

Really admirable work.

Madhuri Banerjee said...

Thank you so much. Hope it works!

Hemant said...

Sad but true.

Nothing you have posted here that people don't already admire or agree to ..
& yet here we are, so hell bent on destroying our female population, in this morally corrupted society of ours that doesn't put a whole lot of value on "love & sex".
If only....

fahad ali said...

thanx for share the information....

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