Enough is Enough

By Mayukha Bathini, Special Correspondent for the Light House
“People were pushing and shoving, touching, grabbing, groping and everything was happening on that street.”
“There were a number of girls there who were in a similar situation. I saw a few of them crying and running for help. It seemed futile.”
“I felt helpless. Although I have hands and legs and I could abuse and slap them, I could not do anything. I didn’t know who was touching me and groping me.”

While the curtain to 2016 fell to a backdrop of awe-inspiring pyrotechnics, heart stopping beat drops and goodwill from loved ones, the night wasn’t nearly as much of a happy memory for the numerous women who found themselves on Brigade street (quite affectionately known as Gropers’ Street) in Bengaluru. As the New Year rolled in, they were the victims of a mass molestation.

The New Year’s Eve party package for these women included a night of dehumanization, objectification, shame, fear and trauma for every year to come (oh and completely free!). The abusers on the street though, quite frankly got close enough to a jack-in-the-box.

Now christened ‘The Night of Shame’, the incident sharply pulls us to reflect on where we stand as a country. A country regarded as the Land of Wonders, where the truth of our inability to protect either the Taj Mahal or the honour of the lady in whose name it stands is a cold, hard slap (and definitely not on the face…) into reality. Nirbhaya in the face of every woman who dares venture out, dying hope in every young girl’s heart, the thousand voices of shame in every victim’s mind, cheeks stained with the tears of agony of every child bride married off to her rapist, the crushing defeat of every abused wife as she knows the law cannot save her… how many more? How many more nights are to be christened with shame? How many more days are to become a living hell? How many more victims are to wish they could die instead? How many more… before we say ENOUGH.

Etched in my memory… a 6 year old me playing on the streets. Right there, was a man walking around. One minute she sees him stop walking. He then starts to gratify himself. All she knows is that it’s wrong, especially the way he’s staring at her. She knows she’s scared, she knows she wants to run, she doesn’t know why.

Rape. Abuse. Harassment. Words that in our heads, belong on the screens- in a news report, an article or a TV channel. They seem so distant, far away… But, they are close. So close that they escape our vision.

“It is nearly every day that we deal with being undressed with mere eyes in their minds.”

I urge you to look around you. Ask the women, girls and even the boys you know if they’ve ever felt sexualized. It’s a wake up call to know that almost every girl and woman, at least once (if lucky) has experienced abuse in some form or the other- stares at her private parts and catcalling to “accidental” or intentional gropes to rape. A friend, a sister, a girlfriend, a mother, a wife… no one is an exception. Even a brother, a guy friend or a boyfriend. You might be in for a surprise to know he has been through something too.

“I was around 8 years old. My Qur’an teacher who used to come home to teach, one day ten minutes into reading the Qur’an, stopped me. He made me raise my arm, touched and stroke my armpit, then he slid his fingers down my navel into my trousers, pulled it down my thighs felt and inspected my parts. He then commented, “Oh you are not mature yet”. I never understood what that meant. But I have a feeling he probably would have raped me if I were “mature”. Another time he made me stand facing him and held my waist. I could feel him aroused.”

The above are quotes from my friends, the girls around me. It would be impossible to include all instances in one article.

It is a fact that all men are NOT abusers. Women speaking out about rape does not imply otherwise. It only implies that there are rapists out there.

“Consider a bowl full of M&Ms. A few of them are poisoned. Now go ahead… have a mouthful!”

Men are not the enemy. Rapists are the enemy. The patriarchy is the enemy. The longer we keep quiet about it, the stronger it becomes. Dear men and women, boys and girls, take a stand. Men, respect women. She is not an object. Women, respect men. He too is human.

It is our responsibility to ensure we don’t just read the news, say “oh dear another rape” and then let it go. For starters, talk to each other about it. Think of what you can do as an individual. Be there for each other. Learn to defend yourselves and teach others what you know. NEVER ever turn a blind eye to catcalling or a deaf ear to victim shaming. Teach your little brothers and sisters the meaning of respect and someone’s rights to their bodies. Teach them that no means NO.

Abuse is all of humanity’s issue. This is not cry for attention and sympathy, this is an urge for action, an earnest plea to say enough is enough.

About the Reporter:
Mayukha Bathini is an avid reader, a passionate feminist and one of the leaders of Fem — IHS. When not listening to Gloria Steinem, she’s probably fangirling over One Direction. And if you can’t find her, look under that pile of shopping bags…