Why do we need ‘Slut Walk’?

June 27th, 2011

Alright, alright. I know this one is going to make sound like a big prude. I’m just about getting ready to be labelled a holier-than-thou cow. But I’ve grown up on a diet of legends such as Mother Teresa, Matangani Hazra, Rani Laxmibai, Razia Sultan, Annie Besant, Sarojini Naidu and a whole lot of other women who did this country proud. I learnt about them in textbooks and comic strips, and marvelled at their achievements in movies, plays, puppet shows.
 
Which is why, I got really peeved when a friend called me up and announced excitedly that she was taking part in what I can only put down as an insanely mindless protest march — the Slut Walk.
 
The concept originated in Canada in reponse to a police officer’s suggestion in April this year, that women wearing provocative clothing were more likely to get molested or raped. The cop in question categorically advised women to ‘avoid dressing like sluts’, hence the term.
 
The Slut Walk has gained popularity in North America and Europe, although marches are also being India, Brazil, New Zealand and South Korea.
 
I am particularly upset with the way some Indian women have taken to emulating the West at the drop of a hat. I am not sure the so-called protests with achieve anything apart from generating television TRPs and big moolah for the organisers. And, of course, some cheap and possibly unwanted publicity for the participants.
 
If the objective of the march is to stir the collective conscience of the Delhi Police or the rapists/molesters for that matter, the participants are barking up the wrong tree. In any case, many of them, like my friend, seem to be in it only because it is fashionable to do so.
 
As a society, we seem to have missed the whole point. Rapes are on the rise simply because the rate of convictions is phenomenally low. What we really need is very strong anti-rape laws supported by an equally strong justice-delivery mechanism.
 
You wouldn’t ever see men do anything so stupid as a Slut Walk, would you?  When was the last time you saw a male cheerleader in any sport? Yet men still rule the world and will continue calling the shots as long as we women insist on showing ourselves in such poor light. Why do you think advertisements on Axe, Zatak or any other male grooming products end up showing women in such repugnant manner? 
 
Back in the 1960s and 1970s the so-called radical feminists ruined the image of womanhood with the famous ‘Burn the Bra’ campaign. The event marginalised feminism and silenced some of the more meaningful voices who would have otherwise fought a tough war. It trivializes the social-footing of a woman.
 
How on earth can we stop as hideous a crime as rape by holding such protest marches? On the contrary, such protests completely defeat the very purpose for which they were designed. Stop this nonsense in the name of ‘women empowerment’.

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We are all corrupt

June 21st, 2011

Remember that comedy of the 1980s Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron? While it evoked a great deal of laughter, there was a not-so-subtle message in  it as well — the very people we invest our faith in can be the ones who let us down badly. In the movie, that role of the so-called custodian of morality who succumbed to the lure of money was very ably portrayed by the late Bhakti Barve.

Fast-forward to the present times. I just couldn’t contain my amusement while simultaneously feeling sorry for what has become of our country. Like everyone else, I too want corruption to be eliminated from society once and for all. The question is, who is to be the torchbearer in the war against graft. Godmen or so-called Gandhians?  I am not convinced.

The Lok Pal Bill entails creation of an ombudsman who would, if Anna Hazare and his ilk have their way, have the power to question the Prime Minister of the country. And that ombudsman would be an academician, a scholar, a professor, just about anyone who commands respect in society. But there is a small problem here — who is to guarantee that newly-appointed keeper of the is himself corruption-free and has always done things legally?

It was different under British rule. At that time, we were up against a foreign power and there was a common thread called nationality that bonded people together and sacrifice their lives for the nation. Today we are fighting our own. And we don’t really know who the enemy is.

I have a bigger issue here: Aren’t we ourselves the enemy? If we are truly concerned about eliminating corruption and poverty, we could start by discouraging such practices individually. We could, for instance, contribute in our own little way by not bribing the passport officer to obtain the document or join an illegal driving school that promises to issue a valid driving license even before you learn how to hold the steering wheel.

The RTI Act has been around for a while. How many people you know have used it for genuine purposes? And how many genuine people really know how to file an RTI application? A colleague from Mumbai tells me he took a dip-stick and asked 10 fellow journalists knew how to file an application. Surprise, surprise… just one of the ten respondents knew, and that too because her father had literally made a hobby out of using the RTI as a weapon.

Call me a die-hard cynic, but I figure it will be the same with Lok Pal. There will be give-and-take, and while there will be celebrations galore once the PM comes under the ambit of the Lok Pal — IF at all he comes under its ambit — elimination of corrruption will remain a pipe dream if the ombudsman does another Bhakti Barve on us. Another question here. How will the ombudsman be chosen — and by whom?

***

This one is for you Babaji? If you were truly serious about your mission, you could have made your point by fasting in Haridwar itself. You had the media at your command, surely your campaign wouldnt have gone unnoticed. But since you decided a Chalo Dilli would be more effective, all you had to do was to court arrest when the cops came to Ramlila Grounds. Your running away from there and donning the garb of a woman only displays a lack of conviction in your crusade. Jai Ho.

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