Slut Walk – Delhi

“She asked for it”

Four words that are intended to shut every woman up. She was a victim of sexual assault because she asked for it.

She slept with her boyfriend and that proves she’s loose, she’s my wife and I own her, she’s my brother’s wife and he said I could, she’s my maid and I pay her well, she’s lower caste and needs to be taught a lesson, she said no but we all know that means yes. She was dressed provocatively, she was talking too loudly, she was walking down the street, she was wearing lipstick, she was alone in the general compartment after dark. She was a college student in salwar kameez, she was twelve years old wearing her school uniform and walking home from school, she was a seventy year old grandmother, she was wearing a burqa…

How do women provoke the assailant? Is it the fault of the woman in the burqa for exposing her toes by mistake? Is it the fault of the little girl for going to school at all? Is it the fault of the old woman who is a widow for not living in her son’s care? Is it the fault of the woman who wore lipstick because it indicates that she cares about how she looks? Is it the fault of the woman who was running late and only just managed to get into the general compartment?

It seems to me that a woman asks for it just because she’s a woman.

When will Indian men understand that no means no? When will men understand that they no longer live in the neolithic age? When will men understand that women are people too? When will they understand that irrespective of how a woman dresses or behaves, harassment is still their fault? When will men on Indian streets understand that white women are not “loose”? Sexual assault is one of the most violent crimes that can be committed. When will Indian media understand that the victim needs to do nothing to provoke an assailant? When will they acknowledge that women have a right to live in peace and dignity?

Women are finally waking up to the fact that sexual assault does not rob them of their honour, it robs the assailant of his. It’s not a woman’s job to kill herself in order to protect her honour. It’s not a woman’s job to not wear jeans just because it sends out the wrong message. It’s not a woman’s job to keep silent and protect family honour. It’s the job of society to ensure the safety of every member.

It’s the job of the police to maintain law and order as defined by the constitution, not as defined by social mores. It’s the job of the media to report a crime and not judge the victim. It’s the job of the courts to deliver justice without judging actions of the victims of a crime. Who judges the victims of murder? Who judges the victims of kidnapping? If a man walking down the street was held up, robbed and killed, would anyone judge him for walking down the street in the first place? Does Indian media even realize how they sound when they prescribe conservative clothing and behaviour for women as a remedy for sexual assault?

People wonder what a bunch of privileged women in the cities have to complain about. They wonder if we ever think about women in the villages. And I say that we do know we are privileged. And as a privileged woman who is aware of her rights if I still have to worry about being judged or being silenced if I’m a victim of sexual harassment, then what hope does the poor woman have? If I have to worry about being labeled a slut or worse, what hope does the woman in the village have? If the women of Delhi fight for safer streets, does it not benefit all the women irrespective of class? If I set an example by refusing to be oppressed, doesn’t it give others hope? If I refuse to let myself be labeled because the men are insecure, does it not set an example for others?

The slut walk is not about “getting away” with wearing what I want. It’s not about being modern or scandalous or even looking for attention. The slut walk is about getting across a very simple message:

No. I did not ask for it.


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12 thoughts on “Slut Walk – Delhi”

  1. I am so glad you pointed this out:

    Who judges the victims of murder? Who judges the victims of kidnapping? If a man walking down the street was held up, robbed and killed, would anyone judge him for walking down the street in the first place? Does Indian media even realize how they sound when they prescribe conservative clothing and behaviour for women as a remedy for sexual assault?

    Loved these words too:

    “If I set an example by refusing to be oppressed, doesn’t it give others hope? If I refuse to let myself be labeled because the men are insecure, does it not set an example for others?”

    1. Thanks! I think it all boils down to the same thing. Women have no rights but all the responsibility for maintaining a facade of all being well in society. All is not well. And we refuse to play along anymore.

  2. “Women are finally waking up to the fact that sexual assault does not rob them of their honour”
    So true. All my growing up years I was taught exactly this. That I have to protect my honour. And that a sexual assault happens because women ask for it. So I was always covered from head to toe in lose clothes.
    I am so glad I have unlearnt that!

    1. I hear you. It’s hard to unlearn it. I credit my stay in the US for most of my increased confidence.

      I grew up hearing a Telugu saying which translated means “Whether the leaf falls on the thorn or the thorn on the leaf, it’s the leaf that’s ruined”. What do you mean by a woman being ruined? Is that all there is to a woman? Her “chastity”?

      It’s time we lose this obsession with virtue. It might have made sense before the availability of emergency contraception, abortion, treatment for STD’s, and anti-retrovial drugs. Today, a woman is no more a slave to her reproductive system than a man is. Oh wait, she’s less of a slave. A woman’s hormones never provoke her into assaulting anyone! (shrugs and waits for the inevitable remarks about “adam teasing”)

  3. A very convincing piece of writing. So apt – slut walk is not about getting away with wearing any kind of dress I want , its a very simple message ” no I did not ask for it” .
    This is so so true , and I really wonder how it is lost on our intelligent media?

  4. First time here and love it!

    AFAIK, there are thousands of women who desperately want to see other women out there making a statement, whether with a protest, or even simply by the clothes they wear everyday, the two-wheelers they ride, the cars they drive, the jobs they hold, the property and money they own, the free choices they make and what they achieve. Every woman who does something that challenges patriarchal control is encouraging more women and giving them that slight push they need. It’s a wonderful cycle and more of us need to remember that every step we take, eanbles more women to take that same step 🙂

    1. Brilliantly said. Yes, my maid wants her daughter to grow up to be like me – educated, employed, and independent. And for what it’s worth, I give her hope that it’s possible. Not just that, many of my friends and my mother-in-law pay for their domestic help’s kids’ education. My mother used to teach our maid’s daughter everyday while her mom worked. How would that ever be possible without us being educated and/or independent? What men tend to forget is that women tend to be more collectivist. And we would rather move slower and take everyone along than have anyone left behind.

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