We call Durga, our daughter, and celebrate her arrival as the biggest event of the year, yet on the other side of the spectrum, the daughters of our own houses don’t feel safe.

Image by Alessandra Ceja from Pixabay 

India ranks 9th in the least safe countries of the world. It’s the very country where female worshipping is a huge phenomenon. I think it would be better if we stop keeping the concept of female worshipping within the perimeters of our temples. I started this article by mentioning Durga puja and what it means to us, Bengalis. And this Durga puja begins on the day known as Mahalaya. The day on which Devi Durga arrives on the land of us, mortals. On this day, you can hear the voice of Birendra Krishna Bhadra reciting Chandi Path on radio, from each and every house of every Bengali along with the sunrise.

This year the day of Mahalaya echoed the screams of a woman who was brutally raped in my hometown, Burdwan. I considered my town to be a pretty safe place for women. But when I got to know that a woman was abducted from the train station (which is one of the most crowded places of the town), in a toto and was gang-raped by 6 men, it made me worried, not only about the women I know or am related to, but also for the female faces I see every day on the streets. It made me conscious about the fact that any day, anytime, any one of these faces can go through the same thing and end up in some corner of a gutter, in torn clothes, brutally injured, and gasping for life.

In India, out of 1000 sexual assaults only 310 are reported, only 50 reports out of those 310 lead to arrest, and only 25 arrests are incarcerated. That means, if you sexually assault someone, statistically, the chances of you being behind the bars is 2.5%. The chances of you dying on your birthday are 14%. In simpler words, you are more likely to die on your birthday than find justice in India, being a victim of sexual assault. At first, these numbers feel a bit too stretched. Our country can’t be that poor in terms of women's safety, right? After all, the representation of our nation itself is of a woman. But that isn’t stopping men from raping, assaulting, abusing, violating, and harassing women.

But what is the cause behind this scenario? Why are we failing to protect our women? Well firstly, women shouldn’t need protection in a civilized society. It wouldn’t take much effort to search through the internet and find interviews of random common people of our nation sharing their thoughts on women's harassment and rapes. A lot of the answers are enough to infuriate anyone who has even the tiniest sense of equality among all genders, present in them. There were a few reasons that seemed to be very popular among the masses, who like to think that the victim has a fair share of fault, which the law doesn't pay any attention to. Faults like, wearing short clothes, staying out late at night, partying, smoking and drinking, having male friends, some even reasoned that doing jobs like men which require frequent traveling is the reason behind increasing cases of rapes. When asked, “ Why do you think wearing short clothes causes rape?”. Some replied, “ It indicates they want it.” Clothing can’t be a contributing factor to this. Women have been raped in burkas, assaulted in sarees, her dignity has been violated even if she didn’t show any skin. Staying out late cannot mean she’s asking for it. Partying and enjoying cannot mean she wants to be drugged and sexually violated. “Aurat ko ghar se akele bahar nahi nikalna chahiye” (Women shouldn’t go outside alone), “Ek ladki ki ka dharm hai apne parivar ki maryada ka palan karna” (A woman’s duty is to maintain the dignity of her family), “Vo jeans pehenti hai toh lagta hai hint de rahi hai'' ( If she’s wearing jeans, it seems like she’s giving hints (to fornicate, obviously)), these were the words of some women, men and school students of Haryana. One phrase was heavily used by the orthodox-minded elderly people, “Ek haath se kabhi tali nahi bajti” (You can't clap with one hand). Implying that one cant rape you without your consent.

This is the level of victim blaming we take shelter behind, to hide the fact that it is us who have developed a society where the respect and dignity of a family is attached to the genitals of their women. A society where we, Indian men, will decide what kind of clothes a woman should wear, what is acceptable, and what is not.

To anyone who is reading this, where does the line exist? How can we determine what causes rape and what doesn’t? What is civilized and cultured and what is offensive and vulgar?

I leave it to you to determine. But whatever your answer is, one thing cannot be opposed under any circumstances. The fact that those who sexually violate anyone be it a man or a woman, are animals. They are the by-product of the cultured civilized society we have created. The only way one can assume that she's asking for it is if she does ask for it which she surely can.

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