Sunday, 31 May 2020

Say No To Slut Walking

Updated: August 20, 2011 12:11 pm

In a diluted version of the ‘Slut Walk’ that took place in a few cities of the western world, many young women comprising college students, IT executives, bankers, artists and employees of the growing service sector undertook a similar walk in Bhopal on July 17. While about 5000 had signed up on the social networking site, Facebook expressing support for the walk, less than 50 women turned up for the event. Spearheaded by the Bhopal Besharm Morcha, the walk was to protest molestation and sexual harassment of women in the city. The organisers have promised to make the walk an annual event in the city in future. Meanwhile, Delhi witnessed a ‘Slut walk’ on July 31 and Mumbai is planing to hold a similar walk in the first week of September .

                Every culture has a worldview that determines its unique approach to social problems including that of women. In the west, the anger and frustration of women is considerable; after all they have got their respect, freedom and rights in just last 75 years or so after a long and arduous struggle for gender equality. Given this backdrop, giving vent to their ire through a ‘slut walk’ is understandable. However, in India the situation has been entirely different. Indian faith holds that men and women are complementary to each other. It is this understanding that led to the concept of Ardhnareeswar, which suggests that even divinity consists of both male and female principles and that Shiva without Shakti is of no consequence. In fact, it is this liberal tradition of Indian thought that has resulted in women occupying important positions in society right from the Vedic period to contemporary times. Unfortunately, the spell of aping or following the west gripped the leaders of the Besharm Morcha so firmly that they appear to have lost all sense of Indian history and culture.

                What has triggered this series of protest walks by young women in different parts of the world? The provocation came after a Canadian cop suggested that be safe “ women should avoid dressing like sluts”. It must be remembered that all dressing is socially and contextually determined. For instance, about 30 to 40 years back, many women in the countryside wore just a blouse and petticoat in Kerala without inviting derision; this may not have been the case in Bihar or Uttar Pradesh then. Specific contexts also decide the dress code; a modern woman may wear a saree to the workplace, tight slacks to the gym and an attractive nightie while in her bedroom. Analogously, a male professor may dress up in a proper shirt and pants while lecturing and wear a bermuda while going for a morning walk. Would the leaders of the Besharm Morcha take lightly a male professor giving classes with a lungi folded upward?

                However, this is not to deny that even thoroughly clad women are subject to harassment from lumpen elements and criminal men. The antidote to this lies in the strict implementation of laws against sexual crimes against women. Punishment for sexual offences against women must be swift, certain and harsh. But law alone may not work. Mindsets of boys and young men also need to be changed. ‘Slut Walks’ would not transform minds. For that very cause parents, schools and colleges need to instill moral values in boys and young men.

By C Rajashekhar

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