“You’re not allowed to leave the home after 8 p.m.” her father shouted the words at her. They hit her like a sharp blade. “But why?” she asked desperately, even though in her heart, she knew the answer.
“Because you’re a girl and this city is unsafe for girls at night.” His father looked murderously angry.
“Don’t you trust me papa? They are all my friends. I am with them every day. Its his birthday and all of my friends are going.”
“We trust you beta. It’s the other people we don’t trust.” Her mother tried to calm thing down.
“I have been hearing that all my life. I am 20 and I cant even step out of my house in the night!” she bursted at them in anger and left the house. After 8p.m.
This conversation is not bizarre or weird, but common in mostly all of the middle class urban households. Girls are restricted to go out in the night. For some, the night starts at 6 p.m. while for others, it usually begins at 8 p.m. But for every girl, it puts a full stop on their limited freedom. Why, then, do we even allow them to study or encourage them to score good or tell them that they are grown up now when they are not even allowed to do what they want to?
Many people think that the curfews are only on the time, but for a girl living in India, the curfews are on her dreams. “You cant wear that, its too short!”, “You cant have boys come over, what will the neighbors think?”, “You have to be home by 7 p.m., its unsafe after that.”, “You cant take that career, how will you live after your marriage?”. These are just some of the questions that a girl has to answer everyday. And everyday, she kills a new dream.
From the time of our birth, our courses are set and we are provided with a small sphere in which we have to live and dream. Anything beyond that sphere will just bring shame to the family. Our parents always tell us that they want the best for us, and honestly, none of us doubt that, but wanting the best for us and giving a wrong solution to a problem will not help anyone. Restricting us from not going out at night will not end the rapes, it may put a temporary end to the situation, but at what cost? Rape is not the only form of sexual harassment, the term ‘Sexual Harassment’ is very wide and apart from rape it also include touching, groping, staring, ogling, cat calls, whistling etc.
I am a girl and I travel everyday in the Delhi metro and there has not been a single day when I was not stared at or someone tried to touch me or grope me and when I protested, no one came for my help. Yes, you can stop me from stepping out in the night, but what about the day? What about the time which everyone considers as safe? Girls are raped by their own relatives in their own homes, child sexual abuse is very common. What about that? What will you do now? Ask the girl child to not to come out of the womb? Voila! We’re back to Level I, right from where it all started, female infanticide.
If someone can guarantee me that my stepping out of the house at night will reduce the sexual harassment we girls suffer every day, then maybe I will think about it. But you cant, no one can. Because the problem is not the time or my clothes for that matter, the problem is the mindset of the people. The problem lies in the very basic values and believes of this society. A man is always seen as the dominant and a women as a submissive. And as the definition of these two words make it very clear, dominant does whatever it want and the submissive has to comply.
What most of the people fail to understand is that setting curfews is never going to solve the problem. Mostly, sexual harassment is considered as rape. But as I mentioned before, there are other faces to it and setting curfews is not going to end it. So, whether I leave at 8a.m. or 8p.m. I will face one or the other form of sexual harassment.
Setting curfews is not even a precaution, it’s a way to blame it on the girls indirectly. If I will go out at night, I am bound to get raped! Just thinking about this statement makes me angry, I don’t even know how people believe it and apply it to their daily lives. Not only this but many people actually were of the view that because Nirbhaya as out at night with a boy, she was raped. What saddens me the most is while one part of the nation was busy in protesting, the other part was looking out for excuses to blame the Girl.
Instead of setting curfews, if only people applied their minds and energy in eliminating the root cause of the problem, there might have been a headway. Instead of telling me to be home by 8p.m. why don’t you tell your son to respect girls and not see them as an object to play with?
A woman doesn’t want a ‘women oriented legal system’, what we want is equality. And when there is equality, there is no space for special laws.