Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Politics of Sexual Harassment

The nation is outraged over the Guwahati incident.

At least we are meant to believe this, if we are to go by the antics of hysterical TV anchors. And so? What is going to follow next?

Outrage is a distraction. It lasts as long as the next one comes along. We will soon have something even more chilling to waste our shock and disdain over. And we all know that is around the corner. A new victim, a new set of culprits, rape, molestation, the mowing down of an honest police official, ‘accidental’ encounter with a bunch of innocent villagers, take your pick. It could be any of these.

If the ordinary mortals do not deliver, the ministers should. They will make some insensitive statement to get us all worked up and give us our daily delicious dose of outrage. And the victim from Guwahati like all other victims will soon be a footnote in the history of our ‘outraged’ voyeurism.

Like it happened with the rape victims in Kolkata and Gurgaon. Like it happened with the young man who lost his life last year fighting a bunch of goons who were trying to molest the girls he was out with. Like the three-year-old child who was raped by her own father but according to the cops has not been able to provide adequate evidence to nail the culprit.

Do we remember their names? Do we even need to? They are all victims and victim-hood has only temporary entertainment value. We need new victims to keep us enthralled and glued to the television screen.

And because it is all so temporary, the solutions we come up with are also temporary and laughable. With the culprits in Guwahati it is about shaming them publicly by displaying their sneering mugs on social networking sites. In the hope they will become social outcasts.

But is that going to happen? Are you sure about that? In certain quarters they are already heroes. Do you think Pramod Muthalik thinks of them as criminals? Do you think they would be outcasts in the village that has banned cell phones for women? At best, they will get ridiculous jail terms for a few months and walk out as heroes. Most of them will be recruited as political party workers. The ones who are sent to more deprived neighbourhoods to intimidate the residents to vote for a particular party.

And why should any of us protest? What is this over the top reaction about something that happens all the time in this country? Women in this country are always getting harassed on the streets. They are pinched, groped, slapped, their clothes torn off, lifted in vans and cars and gang raped. Ok...some guy captured the whole episode on camera to raise the viewership of the channel he worked for. But this is after all a crime committed against an ordinary citizen. Why do we want extraordinary repercussions for the culprits?

Did we take out posters of Rathore and his wife, who were partners in crime in molesting and driving Ruchira Girhotra to suicide? They even branded the brother of the victim as a criminal and paraded him on the streets. I have brought Rathore’s wife into picture because she very righteously defended her husband in court.

Do we even know what the French diplomat who raped his own daughter looks like? They always give him the luxury of covering his face. He was responsible for an equally if not a more heinous crime. Why have we not thought of ‘outing’ him on social networking sites. Some complex socio- legal distinction at play here? All pigs are equal but some pigs are more equal?

Sexual harassment just like anything else is a class phenomenon in this country. Some of them have a greater right to commit these depraved acts because of where they come from.

Both the victim and the culprits are soft targets in the Guwahati incident. We can derive salacious pleasure from finding out all the details of the victim that she does not want to share with the world. We can whip up this artificial frenzy about stoning the culprits in public. We don’t have to worry about the repercussions of being sued, about getting into trouble and most importantly looking inwards.

But then that’s fine. This is about outrage right? Not about lasting solutions. If we found a way to fix this, what will we be left with? So let’s not even ask pertinent questions here.

Like why our women MPs who can rise over party affiliations to demand reservations in parliamentary seats, not align with each other to ensure exemplary punishment is meted out to perpetuators of these crimes, regardless of their social standing. Why can’t we see a link between Katrina Kaif shaking her booty surrounded by a mob of panting men trying to grope her while she teases them and belts out jaan lewa jalwa hai, dekhna me halwa hai? In any case, Kaif or a female MP or MLA is never in the danger of getting groped or molested on the streets. Why would such a thing happen to them? Who will dare? They have a posse of bodyguards to safeguard them.

The women at risk are those who have to use public transport, walk on the roads, get the shopping done after a day’s work, commute to schools and colleges. They have to pay this price of getting harassed for simply wanting to exist in this country. Going by these yardsticks, the whispers about this girl in Guwahati having brought it on herself should not be completely off the mark.

How dare she go to a bar for a drink and afterwards have a public spat with her male companion? And that too when she didn’t have a chauffeur driven car waiting for her and could do no better than hail an auto rickshaw to reach home? So of course her ‘dubious’ background brought on the harassment. We need to understand this. Only women who can afford large sedans have the luxury of wearing short dresses in this country.

Now that is outrageous, don't you think?


  1. Yes, it is women on the streets who pay a price for Katrina shaking her booty...

  2. shoot the messenger being our country's policy, first we will begin with the female's character assasination. sad sad state