I WANT FREEDOM FROM THE FEARS OF BEING A WOMAN IN INDIA. Let me make it very clear here that I am not a feminist. Not at all. I am against reservation for women anywhere and everywhere. I believe that when you support reservation or seek special favors just because you are a woman, you imply that you are probably weak or under-deserving to get anything on you own, just on account of you being a woman.
The freedom that I am talking about here is the freedom to just be. The freedom that gives me the spontaneity to just take off to explore my country on my own, without having to fear for my safety, and without having to answer a zillion questions about why I am travelling alone, what my intentions are, why am I without a companion (family, husband or friends), and without having to be accountable for my every move. I am sure many of my friends and fellow travel enthusiasts will agree that in our country, the idea of a single female tourist/traveller is still a far-fetched one.
We all know how India was in the spotlight the world over on account of the horrific bus rape incident that happened in New Delhi. The furor condemning it lasted a couple of months, there were all kinds of protests condemning the incident, the outrage was palpable, following which the parliament passed a bill recommending harsher punishments for rapists. But this has hardly brought about any significant change at the ground level. Every single day, there are reports of molestation, kidnapping, harassment and the new menace, acid attacks.
No matter how mentally strong you are, no matter how much self belief you have, no matter how independently you have lived, every time you step out on Indian roads – be it a city road or a village trail, you steel yourself against the subtle and not so subtle harassment that you know will come your way, something that makes you feel like a hapless prey. There are times when I wonder whether it is too Utopian a thought to imagine gender equality taking roots in our country.
Utopian or not, I do not see it happening anytime soon here. Not unless there is a complete overhaul of the country’s attitude towards its women. Not unless lawmakers, policy makers, social workers, politicians and the people themselves all come together to speed up the change towards a gender-equal India, and make it a country that respects its women, a country where women are allowed to live free from fear and oppression. For freedom is all that matters.