Dear Ms Sonnal Pardiwala I don’t buy your arguments but would you please buy a pepper spray?

This is a response to a blog that appeared in the Quint after the mass molestation in Bengaluru on the New Year Eve.

Written by Nandini Rathi | New Delhi | Updated: January 5, 2017 8:40 pm
benagluru mass molestation, bengaluru molestation, bengaluru women molestation, bengaluru new year mass molestation, mg road brigade road molestations, bangalore mass molestation, bengaluru shame, india news, latest news In our country, girls and women don’t even come borderline close to feeling secure in public spaces, where there are equally entitled to be as citizens of this country, like their male counterparts.

Ms. Pardiwala,

I have found bits and pieces of your opinion in many online conversations and thought it worthwhile to respond. I am afraid I find it inconsistent.

Yes, I have had to endure pinching and grabbing on railway stations. But whenever a guy acted smart, I have used my sandals or my verbal weapons. Over the years, I have realised this: Being safe is an option not to be confused with rights.

You share that like any woman, you have had to suffer groping and that you have always managed to protect yourself. Is it not because these acting-smart guys tried to infringe upon your right to not be touched inappropriately against your will? Didn’t you teach them a lesson because they did something wrong?

You say you do not justify molestation and claim that it’s “fashionable to blame men and their mindsets”. Yet, you choose to ignore that molestation takes place because many men carry thinly veiled misogyny in their minds. By that logic, do you not blame the guys who felt entitled to take advantage of crowds to grope you? Are you saying that being in a crowd or a mob means the individual’s actions are not his own doing, and thus absolved? There is no mindset problem apparent in attempting to “act smart”?

I would really like to know how you propose to battle misogyny without touching any men or mindsets.

When you step out onto the street, you are fraught with an incumbent risk. You may meet with an accident. That’s why there are footpaths and zebra crossings. You may slip on the road if it is wet! Will you then blame the road because it is wet?

Accidents and slippery, wet roads don’t target any gender. Molestation usually does. It’s a crucial difference, which I am sorry you missed.

But the question that arises is: Why were they – both men and women – out on the streets?

Weren’t there enough pubs or restaurants where they could’ve gone to enjoy themselves?

… if I know I am slightly tipsy and others are likely to be tipsier than me, it is best I stick to familiar people and environs.Why venture into unfamiliar areas and expect strangers to behave decently with me?

Is it possible to not pass through any streets, if one revels in pubs, restaurants or other venues? MG Road is hardly a strange environ, but a prime location of Bangalore with plenty of appropriate celebration venues that you refer to.

In Delhi NCR, if I chose a classy, aptly secure pub in Hauz Khas village for carefree, drunken New Year revelry, I would still have to leave it at some point circa 2 AM. At that point, it’s unlikely that my cab would arrive right at the doorstep. Even if I wished to – one cannot avoid walking across that stretch of the road that would be filled with hoards of potentially drunk, rowdy members of the male species. Hopefully I won’t be alone, but even that would not ensure no-groping if we are suddenly outnumbered.

What if your average weapons like sandals and words were not sufficient then? Clearly, in a mob, they won’t be. “Precautions and rights are different things”, you say. How do you so easily separate precautions from the right to reach home safely? Because, in my experience, the line between safe and unsafe is frequently blurred, yet unavoidable.

While battling misogyny, let us not give way to misandry.

The anger is not about just this particular incident. In our country, girls and women don’t even come borderline close to feeling secure in public spaces, where there are equally entitled to be as citizens of this country, like their male counterparts. Is it fair of you to brand a genuine anger for that as “fashionable” male bashing? Do most of these girls not have fathers, brothers, male friends, boyfriends or husbands who would not have behaved like the hooligans did? Do most women not understand the difference between men who compose friends and family and men who compose mobs that try to molest them? So I beg to strongly disagree with the blanket charge of misandry you level against those who speak up against horrific, shameful incidents.

There might be a few politically incorrect statements – intentional and unintentional – but I can assure you they are fewer and far less visible than the victim-blaming statements righteously made by visible spokespeople that decry women’s freedom of movement and dress – on national television.

Why blame public servants who are ill-equipped to deal with a massive number of people not fully in control of themselves?

Um, because that was their job? Why are they ill-equipped, Ms. Pardiwala and should they continue to be? Should the inadequacy of the state continue? While defense spending is a hot button issue, this is not even a marginal subject that the politicians talk about in their election manifestos.

You have got to want to see a problem, in order to want to solve it.

No one wants to be touched and felt up against their will. But there is no crowd in which (heterosexual) men will have to worry about being targeted sexually, no matter what their attire or drink factor.

If there was ever a dream, I dream of a country where women don’t have to run for cover and be invisible from the streets like cinderellas at the stroke of midnight when their fellow male citizens can revel on unfazed. That is only possible if we acknowledge that there is something significantly wrong with the mindsets who populate the molesting mobs.

Changing attitudes is a slow process, I understand that. But some enlightened countries have come quite far and set neat examples. So I request you, Ms. Pardiwala, to think bigger and beyond. Let’s think of an India where girls and women are at least almost as safe as their male counterparts, where safe places are not so strictly confined to four-walled enclosures.

If I were to give one lesson to my child in the light of these events, this is what I would say. If you must party, why not do it in a place where security and accountability measures are firmly in place?

Aside from teaching your child where to party and where not, you could maybe pay attention to what cues he or she gets from their environment and what they learn from their books about boys and girls. You could deconstruct popular media and even textbooks for them, and discuss, and debate and clarify when it objectifies girls and their roles.

Maybe help them distinguish that girls usually don’t step out after dark in our times because of sick mindsets of some men who can attempt to injure, grope and violate their bodies – and not because the girls do not have a complete right to. You could make sure that they know that a woman’s place is where she wants it to be.

Did someone say pepper spray? I do not know where one can buy it. I do not earn enough to afford a bodyguard. I learnt martial arts as a hobby in my twenties, though.

Good for you if you still remember those chops. Would you please buy a pepper spray? Those are available online.

 

The Sonnal Pardiwala opinion published on Quint can be read at http://www.thequint.com/blogs/2017/01/04/bengaluru-shame-you-can-chose-to-be-safe-dont-blame-the-mob-new-year-eve-molestation-gender-issue-womens-safety

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    Ashish Chatterjee
    Jan 5, 2017 at 3:44 pm
    I am ashamed of a society that is so frustrated that it justifies personal space violations. I am ashamed that our policemen induce fear, and not security. I am ashamed that our law is an impotent bystander. We have the gall to call ourselves as a Developing Nation!
    Reply
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      Amit Singh
      Jan 5, 2017 at 5:50 pm
      We indians always act with kneejerk. If any incident happens then everyone will shed crocodile tears and after sometime it becomes normal as if nothing has happened till next incident. lt;br/gt;During nirbhaya in delhi just remember the public outrage. Believe me nothing has changed in delhi after the so called outrage. lt;br/gt;According to me our country has enough and sufficient laws to tackle most of the problems. Even like gender crimes rape or corruption for that matter. lt;br/gt;What is required is independent, senstive and accountable police. Secondly the criminal courts/justice delivery mechanism needs to be increased maniifold.lt;br/gt;If justice becomes swift, effective and quick then things may start to change.lt;br/gt;However most imp change has to take place in minds of male dominated society. Which cannot be changed by any law or stringent application of it.
      Reply
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        Niladrinath Mohanty
        Jan 5, 2017 at 3:16 pm
        So according to Ms.Nandini Rathi unless you drink on the new year's night it would not be fun and joy!
        Reply
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          Pinna
          Jan 5, 2017 at 9:01 pm
          At the outset, I must make it clear, I hate the molesteers. They have no right to indulge in eve teasing. At the same time, even the women folks need to keep it safe. They do have the rght to choose whatever they want to wear, shorter, transparent or whatever, but at their own perils. Enjoy the celebrations of New Year and other parties as you do have the same feelings as your counterparts, the men folks, preferably in safer environment. Please don't expect policemen to be deplo at every nook and corner. Play it safe as it is in your own interests.
          Reply
          1. P
            Pulkit
            Jan 5, 2017 at 4:30 pm
            Advice:-(humbly) just dont ride the tide and blame the scapegoats, dive in brong out facts that public would'nt accept after all its innocuous civillians turned perpetrators in a blink of an eye... Without that all these articles and thoughts would amount to nothing but would one-day be clichès... If nothing but talk is done!!!
            Reply
            1. P
              Pulkit
              Jan 5, 2017 at 4:19 pm
              Rathi madam, u are saying what u know would be a por opinion like India ko retaliate karna chahiye, ladkiyon ko liberty honi chahiye(though they should be so) and would always get nods in answer because the moment someone deviates from the point u posed and try to address the issue from the roots(which may seem irrelevant indeed) you start calling foul, but what ms Pardiwala said(about civil servants and misandry) is more of a practicality based notion, i.e. A strategist would know whats more important at the moment(retaliating right-away which may cause long term fuss but would satiate our anger for now) OR understanding why is such a problem/mindset exists almost-ubiquitously?? or why convicted people,especially in female-crime cases don't feel any regret, but rather would say they'll try to be "Cautious" "Next Time". If you really care so much stop thinking or whining, go out, by your own effort try to "clean" a dangerous place by engaging officials, civilians
              Reply
              1. S
                Sagar Byahatti
                Jan 5, 2017 at 5:58 pm
                There were 1500 cops and they were prepared to handle the situation. Bangalore cops have handled this situation year on year every year. They had special task force in place... How and why they failed this year is something that needs to be probed by them ....
                Reply
                1. V
                  Vijayalakshmi Ramkumar
                  Jan 6, 2017 at 12:48 am
                  Okay good. We should start changing the mindset. Because it is what you said why not start at your home first. You should make your dad brother and son and if possible gfather to sit for a meeting and tell them you guys should not molest from today on. You should respect women from today on. Then I accepted your solution I will make my dad my son and my husband to sit and tell them the same. Alas! Somehow I believe my men are not molesters I strongly believe so. Oh my god if all men are molesters and rapists are my men not men? If most women think so which they do most men are not molesters. No no I being a good feminist should believe all men or most men are molesters and rapists. Oh my god I am struck between these two walls. Ok then let me not be ic to say all men or most men are not rapists like they cannot say all women are willing prosutes.
                  Reply
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