Women of Delhi will strut the streets in the city's first "Slut Walk" in the last week of July to protest against sexual harassment and violence against women.
Slut Walk was first organised in Toronto, Canada, after a policeman addressing students of York University said, “women should avoid dressing up as sluts in order to not be victimised.” The protest soon spread to over 60 cities around the world.
New Delhi would be the first city in India to organise the event. India's capital city is notorious for its attitude towards women. Here, a woman is raped every 18 hours or molested every 14. A survey last year had found that about 85 percent of the city's women are perpetually scared of being sexually harassed.
The group organising the event says, "Although the concept has originated from the west, it holds a lot of relevance in our country, in our city, what with the rampant modernisation that comes with an ever widening gap in mindset."
The Facebook event page, at the last count, showed 5,146 individuals promising to participate in the event. The Slut Walk Delhi Page itself has about 600 likes. And those participating, are looking forward to doing so.
Preetika Nanda, a journalism student at the city's Kamala Nehru College, says, "Here in Delhi, we do not experience harassment just when we step out wearing so-called bold, revealing clothes. For us it doesn't begin when we assert ourselves by wearing what we want to. In fact, it begins when we are born. And from that very day our life is structured by the society and its overpowering 'values' and 'taboos'."
She continues, "Whenever we try to break away, we confront abuse -- physical, emotional, psychological. Forget stepping out at night, we feel vulnerable even in broad daylight. On the streets, in public transport. All of us have experienced the gazing, groping, grabbing, and so on. And it becomes perpetual because we don't question it the way we should."
Stuti Govil, another journalism student, talks of patriarchal attitudes, "The idea of ‘slut-shaming’ and ‘victim-blaming’ manifests itself in rather seemingly innocuous way. Nowhere is this more evident than in our patriarchal set-up. It doesn’t even have to be about rape any more. Women are made to feel ashamed of their bodies and themselves and to surrender to hegemonic control by the ‘owners’ of the woman."
Nanda echoes the views, "The problem lies with mindsets, in the deeply rooted patriarchal attitudes our society has harboured for centuries. And the belief that women are mere objects to be viewed through a misogynist lens." She describes the situation as "alarming" and emphasises the need for awareness.
Govil has a reason to participate in the event, "The feeling of revulsion at the sight of every news report regarding sexual violence, molestation and abuse has made me indignant. No girl wants to be raped/molested/abused. We don’t ask for it irrespective of what we wear, how loud we are, however expressive we may seem."
There are some pitfalls, though. Says Nanda, "I’m aware that this event attracts a certain class of citizenry due to the platform on which it was initiated and is thus being rendered as exclusive. But It is high time we come out strong, because to sit complacent and think that it won’t happen to us, will just prove that we are basking in complete ignorance. "
File photo: Slutwalk in the city.
Govil would like to stir up a debate, "For me, it’s not as much about being proud to be a slut as it is about sparking off discussions in a public sphere (with men and women of all age groups) about the kind of fear and horror we have legitimised in everyday society. While some have brushed off this event as being an elitist, upper-middle class driven idea where girls fight for the right to wear what they want to, I’d say it’s more than that.
"It’s not about clothes, we know that by now. For very long, the urban woman has been dismissed by various sections of the society as being too privileged. We forget that she is caught in the dichotomy of between who ‘she is supposed to be’ and who she could be, or wants to be. Negotiating the terms imposed by this dichotomy is scary, and I speak from more than just personal experience. There is a need for discussion and debate."
The organisers are still working on the nitty-gritties, and it is way too early to predict how many people will actually turn up for the event. The event may be too Western in concept, but given the attitudinal problems that women face in such a hostile city, Slut Walk Delhi will surely not go unnoticed.