As Indian women, we have had to deal with the constant reminder that we do not have control over our own bodies in this country, and that it is our responsibility as women to protect ourselves from sexual assault and harassment. When men leer at us or grope us, we are blamed for allowing this to happen, and not the men who perpetrate these crimes.
What happened to women in Bangalore on New Year's Eve was absolute horror. But listening to the comments of politicians like Mr. Abu Azmi and Mr. G. Parameshwara who either lay the blame on the women assaulted or bizarrely on western culture is a grotesque reminder of the acceptance of rape culture in this country. It is this insensitivity and victim blaming by those in positions of power that contributes to women hesitating from reporting these crimes. Worse still, it leads to perpetrators being as brazen as they are when committing crimes of sexual abuse against women. Many politicians, through their public speeches, have been actively encouraging the continuation of a hostile environment against women where women are blamed for attacks against them.
After December 16, 2012, we were told that action would be taken. Many of us work at the grassroots to effect a change in mindsets through systematic efforts. However, three years later, we continue to have leaders who blame women for sexual assault, disregard the right of women to personal agency and deny them control over their own bodies.
We refuse to accept this as the state of affairs in India and call on Mr. Azmi and Mr. Parameshwara to issue unconditional public apologies for the comments they have made in the media in response to the series of sexual assaults in Bangalore. It is high time we treat women's right to their bodies and to safe public spaces with the sensitivity that these issues require; and not with public soundbites that shame them further.
For more information on the national #IWillGoOut campaign and details on our gatherings/marches in over 20 cities on 21st January visit https://www.facebook.com/iwillgoout/