Wednesday, August 28, 2013

My head goes down in shame

I love my city Mumbai, the city where I was born and raised up. The city lives in my heart no matter where I’m in the world. The cosmopolitan culture in Mumbai has molded the way I look at things. The city has thought me to have an opinion on everything I see and feel, but at the same time to respect everyone else’s opinion. Mumbai welcomes everyone with open arms. It doesn’t take too long for a stranger to become a Mumbaikar in this city. The city grows on you. Despite the crowds, noise, potholes, traffic jams, and petty politics, I still love my city.

Having said all that, the recent gang-rape incident in the maximum city has swept the floor beneath my feet. Every metropolis faces problems of urbanization. With urbanization comes crowdedness, migration, pollution, concretization, traffic jams, and lack of greenery. Mumbaikars have learnt to live with the side effects of being a metropolis and has welcomed every migrant with open arms to live her dream. But Mumbai will never tolerate humiliating the dignity of women. Thousands of people have come out on the streets today demanding justice for the 23-year old photojournalist who was brutally gang-raped in Mumbai. What a shame!

Women today have careers that demands late night work. Incidents like the recent gang-rape force women to think before taking on late night assignments. Why should she be controlled by fear in pursuing her dream? Why should she lose out on challenging assignments because of a few sex-hungry men in the city? Rather shouldn’t the administration make the city safe for women? Mumbai has always been known to be a safe city for women…so what went wrong? Why are incidents like these increasingly happening?

Women don't need reservations in the parliament house, in local buses and trains. All she is asking for is freedom to move around safely in the city at anytime of the day. Every person knows what is right and what is wrong. The rapist committing the act knows what he is doing is a crime, but he still does what he wants to. Why? Because he is not scared of the law. It is high time we create fear in the mind of perverts and desperados around us. The perpetrators should tremble even before thinking of committing such heinous crimes. The nation needs a potent law. Above all we need to fast track courts and make sure perpetrators are punished quickly. Justice delayed is justice denied.

As soon as the incident occurred and with pressure from people protesting on the streets, the chief of the state administration decides to give special protection to journalists. He decides to deploy police protection to all journalists visiting unsafe areas that their job demands. Is that the solution? How are journalists different from women like you and me? Don’t other women go to isolated areas and travel late at night? Abrupt decisions like these only prove how incompetent the administration is. Women never asked for special treatment. She doesn’t want a bodyguard following her wherever she goes. All she wants you to do is guarantee all women a safe city.

I know writing and expressing myself in my blog will not solve the problem. But as a woman what else can I do. How do I tell my administration that they need to do something about this growing problem, before Mumbai becomes a den of such unafraid perverts who will continue to satisfy their cheap pleasures on the streets of the city.

Rape is not crime that happens only in Delhi, Mumbai or for that matter in India. Rape is a global issue. I live in the United States today, but I’m still afraid to travel late at night. As a newcomer, friends, colleagues and well-wishers tell me to pay attention to my surroundings and personal safety at all times. They tell me not to travel at night and if I go on an assignment, I inform someone in advance where I’m going. As a woman, why do I have to always be extra-careful at all times?

The bottom line is, it’s not really safe for women anywhere in the world. I have a dream that one day I’ll not have to look at the time on my watch before I step out of my house #IHaveADream.

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