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Friday, January 05, 2007
Gateway molestation: Get this right, all men are potential molestors
By the time you read this, all of you must have heard about the molestation and stripping of a girl at the Gateway of India during New Year celebrations. More groped people are appearing in newspapers and television - seems there was another saree-clad woman who was groped and was rescued before the situation for worse, a foreigner who was groped, and more such instances.

I am not surprised. I won't call those men perverts either. Calling them 'men' would suffice.

Why? I have been in groups of men, semi-mobs of bullies, though my college life and if there is one thing the experience has taught me, its this: All men have it in them to take a grab of a female body if the chance presents itself before them. In the minds of more civilized men, there happens a battle between what they know is right and the desire to join in the fun. Often, the good mind wins - but don't be mistaken for a second that they doesn't consider the alternative. Yes, those men include your husbands and boyfriends and fathers.

And there are many who go ahead and take the chance. Don't blame it on perversion, social class, upbringing or moral values. We are talking about something at the core - deeper and more ingrained than where the moral value layer floats. Civilization and civility, politeness and decency - are in effect recent innovations. If you mistake your bubble for reality, you will be sorry.

Taking the woman you want, has always been a masculine thing. If you watch old movies, you can see the tough guys doing it that way. There were wars, there were battles between little lords, and one of the things that would happen was a quick rape of the women of the vanquished. We can quibble all we want that this particular country or that particular religion did not do it, but fact is that men have millions of years of power and a brain programmed for violence behind them, and they always did it and will do it.

Those men are the Gateway were not perverts. They were just men, doing what they have been doing whenever they had a chance.

Men - young and old, lower and upper class - have been groping and molesting women whenever they got a chance. In college, the guys who were very protective of their classmates - often the guys whom the women love - do what they can to women they do not know personally. They are on their best behavior in class, but when you girls are not looking, those great friends of yours are staring down your cleavages, looking up your skirts, and touching up your friends and poking their breasts with their elbows in crowds. Then they come back and boast about it. The larger number of men who can empathise with women listen, horrifed and fascinated at the same time. Their horror is the result of their better upbringing and a lucky brush of sensitivity, their fascination is the result of generations of tweaking of their brains towards sexual violence when the man who could be unscrupulous and violent would be the most successful.

(Here, I would like to offer my choicest abuses to the retarded brother/ boyfriend who took the girl to Gateway of India in the middle of a crowd. You technically have a right to be anywhere you want irrespective of your companion's gender - but if you do not understand the way our society operates, you probably need a finger up your arsehole to under some facts of life.)

Now, men and women, what are we going to do?

Some advocate extreme caution. Some say go out and beat them up. Some stand by the roadside with flurescent arrows and call themselves action heroes.

All valid approaches, and all futile too. None of this is going to get you women, or your sisters and mothers, freedom from groping and worse.

Do I have any solutions? No. But I would like to consider certain avenues.

A large part of the problem is about power. Men in India are disproportionately powerful in a social sense, and many of us fail to recognise that. In a crowd, the real instincts of men take over, and drunk on the power of the mob to do what it wants to whomever it wants, it strips you of your dignity. We have to figure out a way to better balance the power dynamic. What would that be? Is there a way in which we can ensure massive retaliation in some cases which would serve as an example? Okay so there may be nothing we can do to ensure retaliation against a mob. How about bait-teams which can enter crowded places known to be frequented by gropers? If a woman enters a crowded bus, seemingly alone but actually part of a bigger group, there will be groping attempts which can be stopped, and the perpetrators can be mercilessly beaten. Ten such incidents in a metro, and perhaps a few where television channels can be involved, might work wonders in instilling some fear in the minds of men. How practical is this? Do tell me.

How about shock tactics? How about constant reminders to men - by way of advertisements or hoardings - that women who they know and love are constantly violated by men like them? For example, imagine a hoarding outside a railway station in Mumbai or a bus station which displays a very respectable 40 year old woman and the line, "someone is doing what you just did to me to your wife." I would of course prefer much more graphical descriptions about hands that crawl up skirts etc, but I don't think they would be allowed on our streets.

I basically believe that we need to generations - father and son - who have seen the rule of law working, for the law-abiding culture to really settle in our minds and override our genetic programming for sexual violence. Assuming that it starts now, we are still talking about at least 50 years of the rule of law. Fat chance its gonna happen.


posted by a correspondent @ 8:18 AM    
  • At 8:34 PM, January 08, 2007, Himanshu said…

    Good work man..really liked your attitude..more people like you can really help india o be a better place for all..

  • At 1:58 AM, January 10, 2007, kaveetaa kaul said…

    Sensitive post, nicely written.Heartening to read that it was a male who felt as strongly.Keep it up.

    And if I may add,its also about how molesters perceive themselves, rather than how they look at women. Its their lack of self esteem that needs to be remedied..

  • At 5:21 AM, January 16, 2007, Impassive said…

    Very good blog....I agree with you and the supremacy that men carry in this country is impossible...there must be something to stop all this from happening

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