So the protests have stopped and the political games have begun. The 23-year-old girl continues to battle for her life. What now?
The immediate reaction from Delhi Police after the incident was to pull up all the drivers and see to it that they have valid public service permits. People started tweeting about buses with dark windows or curtained and saying, be wary of them. Yes it is a good thing to have these in place because it helps us catch the culprits when a crime occurs. But this is not a preventive measure is it?
Closer home Home Minister R Ashoka, inspected various bus stands and promised better security for women. This is definitely appreciable. But why wait for a horrific incident to wake up?
The Delhi incident has now ensured that every woman outside that city is now swearing to never to step in to the ‘rape capital.’ Then what about the women living there? If we listen to the police (and the sundry well-wishers) then we should all be very very scared of all the drivers, gym instructors, random neighbours – in essence all strangers and that we be cautious of even stepping outside our homes.
But that would be disastrous isn’t it? To not step out, to not hang out at the parks, movies, beaches and pubs, to be careful about what we wear, to worry about who we hang out with – a boy, man of a different community or person of different sexual orientation, ensure that we are inconspicuous, lest we attract some unwanted attention, not travel by public transport, to not try new things, to run home before dark, to not live the life we want. It would be mighty disastrous.
Yes, it is mortifying to think that it could have been any one of us on that bus in Delhi. That it could happen in any city for that matter. It could have been any one of us grievously injured and fighting to for life. But get out we must. The city, be it Delhi, Bangalore or Madurai, belongs to all of us.
We should learn to ask for things. The street lights not working in HSR Layout may not be your problem because, well you live in Indiranagar and you are only driving through. But better lit streets will only make it safer. Demand that the street lights be fixed.
If the BMTC bus is full and you find a man sitting in the ‘ladies’ seat politely ask him to get up. And if you see a man bullying her for asking the same, don’t turn away saying it is not your problem, it could be you, next time.
And for once as Delhi protests and the protests in Bangalore and elsewhere have shown, men are with us too. At the recent protest at Townhall, a father accompanied his two young daughters. He said ‘this is not just women’s problem anymore. It is all of ours. We want women to be safe.’ And he is right.
Do not sit quiet if someone is sexually harassing you or anyone else. Make noise, get help. It is not your fault, don’t let people tell you otherwise. While it is imperative that we demand that the administration – the politicians, the police do their jobs without bias, it is also important to introspect and see what we can do to make the cities safer.
Blank Noise project, the community art project that seeks to confront street harassment is asking people to take a ‘Safe City Pledge.’ They are asking you what you will do to make your city safe. Their website says “Dont just be angry. make a pledge. a promise to how you can make change. you can.”
You can tweet your pledges with #SafeCityPledge #DelhiGangRape or change the status to " I pledge to _ _ #SafeCityPledge
The course of action is pretty simple. Do not ignore and deny. Speak up, demand for your place in the city. And now is the time to do this.