‘My sister should be able to go out of the house at 2 am without being questioned’
Dhananjai Gaur, 25, Gurgaon
Senior analyst with EValue Services
What do you think of the Delhi bus gangrape case? What shocked you more – the rape or the violence of them ripping out her intestines? Why do you think this case caught so much attention?
The violence shocked me more than the act I’m afraid. How they tore apart her body. It boggles my mind how anyone can do that to a woman, to a human being. How can you go from looking to attacking in such a vicious manner in an instant?
As for the unprecedented attention that this case got, the media coverage played a huge role. And that is also because of the brutal nature of the attack. Perhaps something less vicious would not have been reported on so extensively. Another factor is that for a lot of Delhi people it hit close home. The locality is not where one expects this to happen. So now, the feeling has finally sunk in that no place and no person is safe. This can happen to anyone anywhere. I see the repercussions in my office. Girls seasoned to Gurgaon, having lived here for 6 years, say they are scared for the first time.
Why do you think so many rapes and sexual assaults happen in India?
A lot of the reported incidents are from the metros where people have media access. But in majority of the cases, the victim can’t even raise her voice. There is no one to talk to. The society will shame her. The police won’t file an FIR. The prevailing mindset is that women are private property. And that is the mindset people are brought up with. This combined with the enforced silence makes it so easy to get away with sexual assault.
Do you think this happens more in big cities and less in small towns? Do you think “modern culture” is responsible for this?
No. Like I said, in big cities, they get reported as compared to small towns. Women in small towns are scared into silence with the threat of shame and social stigma hanging over them. If you look deeply enough you’ll find a lot more cases of assault outside of metros. There is a divide between the number of reported incidents and the actual number of cases.
Many feel women’s freedom is responsible for the rise in sexual crime — how they dress, how late they go out, if they have relationships outside marriage, if they go to bars or work independently. Do you agree?
Of course not! That is such an illogical conclusion. Dressing up doesn’t matter. What about women in villages, in traditional clothes, in burqas. They are no more safe than women who are dressing up and living freer lives. Women do not invite assault on themselves.
Are you comfortable with women getting freedom? What are the freedoms you would be comfortable with for your sister/girlfriend/wife?
I am all for liberation. We are equals. My sister should be able to go out of the house at 2 am without being questioned. But, sadly, the fear and the sheer lack of security is what curtail that right.
Do you think Indian women have enough freedom or should they in fact get more freedom?
They should be getting so much more. They don’t have basic freedom of choice, when it comes to marriage, education, career paths. Why do women have to fight with their parents to go for higher studies?
What do you think should be men’s attitude towards women? Do you feel there is anything wrong in the general Indian man’s attitude towards women? What do you think is the root of the problem? Where do you think that this mindset against women is emerging from?
Men’s attitude towards women should come from a place of respect. They should treat each other as human beings. Stop judging women by their assets, or treating them as property. The attitude we have is one of possession. A woman is an object to be possessed. And it is prevalent because in one way or the other, we have all been brought up that way.
What were you taught to think about women in your own family? Do you think women should have equal freedom as men? Has your thinking changed in any way as you have grown up and been exposed to other ways of thinking?
I remember in class 8 we were studying the human brain. My father, being a doctor, gave me extra lessons and one day told me that the female brain was 200 gms lighter than the male brain. I was stupid at that age. Once when I was arguing with my mother I just threw that fact in there, half jokingly, half to prove my point. I got the thrashing of my life. She told me that never again was I to look at women as lesser beings. So the concept of gender equality hit me, very literally, that day.
Lots of women today like to enjoy their bodies — wear nice clothes, many of them are comfortable with having relationships before marriage or outside of marriage. Do you think this is good or bad for society?
Everyone has the right to their lives and their individual choices. It shouldn’t matter how many partners women have, whether they are in live-in relationships. It should be fine. What could the society possibly get by judging and passing verdicts on individual choice?
Have you ever seen violence against women in your own family — sisters/mothers/wives being beaten?
No, but I have heard about eve-teasing incidents happening to friends.
If any woman/girl in your family told you she had been molested by someone within the family or outside, how would you react?
The first instinct would be to bring the perpetrator to book. I would want to inflict double the amount of pain that he did on the girl. Regardless of my eventual course of action I would not stay silent about it. What possible honour can a family have if it doesn’t stand up for the dignity of its own girls, for righting the wrongs done to them? Silence is an obstacle in this fight.
Would you like to take up the issue or protect the family or woman’s honour? What do you think makes it difficult to take up issues of sexual abuse?
Silence does make things tougher. If you are vocal then people might rally and take up your cause. Silence will achieve nothing.
Do you think pop culture has any role to play in the way society behaves?
Personally I am able to see pop culture as a work of fiction and extract just the entertainment out of it. I haven’t thought much about this. But I think it is a two-way situation. The youth does draw from movies, from the way their favourite actors appear on screen. But movie makers too draw from society, collective behaviour and social norms. They both in a way feed into and from each other. It’s a mutual evolution. A problematic evolution but.
What is your concept of a modern successful woman?
Someone who is able to pursue what she wishes to, and is happy in that. Success is so relative. A happy homemaker can be as successful as a happy CEO. Depends on where her ambitions lie. A successful one is probably one who has the freedom to make her choices—company, education, career and partners.
What is your concept of an ideal man — in terms of how he deals with women?
One who treats her the way you’d treat your guy friends. Be open about topics such as sex. One who can go beyond taboos. That level of mindset would hopefully reduce these crimes.
There is so much discussion about rape in the country today, how do you think this problem can be fixed?
One important thing is speedy justice. At least the reported incidents should languish in failed system. Harsher punishment should be some deterrent. I think education is the best tool to address the mindset of people. From the earliest years, co-education should be made compulsory. Perhaps with more equal economic progress, which allows resources to penetrate all stratas of society the mindsets will slowly start to change. Economic shifts are important. For example, 10 years ago my grandparents would not be too happy with my sister wearing shorts, especially in Lucknow. But now, slowly that’s getting accepted and normalized. This trickles from metros to mini metros, to smaller towns. So it should eventually happen in the future. A lot of it is due to information technology which is making the world smaller. Of course that is also limited to a small population of India. Parts of society that don’t have access to IT and resources maybe NGOs could reach out and help spread these resources.
There is a lot of talk about sensitization: what sensitization do you think is needed?
Again change should happen in school curriculum, right from early classes. Sex education should be compulsory. It should begin when puberty is hitting, when boys and girls realise they are different. That’s when you have to teach them that these changes in bodies are ok, they’re normal.
Also, the police should be more active, more spread out. The measures they have supposedly implemented, such as the helpline should actually function. Maybe more female cab drivers, for short-term security. DTC buses with women drivers. In places like Gurgaon, where development is so discontinuous, each SEZ should have a PCR van. There should be major crackdown at least in the NCR region.