I hear that the average middle-class woman in this city finds it increasingly scary to negotiate its public spaces, given the recent rise in the media coverage of gruesome rapes. I hear many long for those prelapsarian times when the streets felt safe even late at night (when was this, I wonder).
I find this attitude extremely irksome.
Just because rapes are now being reported more widely (post December 16) does not necessarily mean that women are at any greater (or lesser) risk than when untold numbers of rapes and other instances of systematic violence against women would fail to garner any attention.
We have always been at risk. Life in this city, like life anywhere else in the ‘Third World,’ is precarious.
We have to constantly learn to negotiate our lives in whatever fashion we deem most suitable for ourselves, using whatever tactics we find most feasible.
Did our mothers not tell us that it would be a relentless struggle? What is the point of being scared? Let us be angry instead, and stop paying attention to 10-second solutions that involve removing ourselves from public spaces, as if somehow, by doing so, we will escape any risk of harm. Life is precarious here. Anything can happen to anyone at any time.
The more women disappear from the sidewalks, the metro, the street, buses, trams, autorickshaws, and invest in cabs and private cars, the more risk there is of their absence becoming ‘normal.’ And that, for me, is a far scarier prospect than the daily struggle with paranoia and fear that most women face simply by going about their lives.
We are all at risk, whether we are at home, in our own vehicle, in a cab, on the street, at the mall, or anywhere else. This state does not guarantee our safety anywhere. If that is the case, what is the point in participating in this fear-mongering? Is it not more reasonable to simply exercise our rights (does this state guarantee any?) by refusing to vacate those spaces that belong to all citizens and resist their transformation into male fiefdoms by remaining visible participants in the everyday life of our city? Is it not more reasonable that instead of letting ourselves be cast as essentially rapable and desecrable bodies that need protection through appeals to sisterhood, daughterhood, motherhood, wifehood, we affirm other roles we play, other hats we wear, other ways in which we participate in the civic/economic/political/cultural/social/intellectual life of our city? Is it not more reasonable that instead of cowering in fear or wallowing in apathy, we stand tall and work to mobilise our outrage and extend our solidarity to those that are denied their rights of participation in the shared spaces of our city?