The following bizarre incident, though happened years back in a small town, still haunts my mind and jolts my faith on the credibility of the law-enforcing agencies. I’m also intrigued by the misconceptions of the politicians since they think that the passing of the Women’s Reservation Bill in Parliament would give the fair-sex their much needed empowerment and dignity.
They were four of them. Young, but fragile. Must be in their twenties. The girls were standing squeezed between a portly Police Officer and a Constable, with heavy paunch, at the entrance to a Session’ Court. They had covered their faces with dupattas. The omnipresent Press was there, having already pitched in around the girls. There were crowds too. People who stood around the four were vying with one another to take a glimpse of the girls.
The media crews became restless over their long waiting. They, in a chorus, clamored at the Police Officer to make the girls to take off their veils and show their faces to the cameras. Twirling his mustache, the portly officer—he was already on cloud nine as if he had arrested a bunch of terrorists who were at large for a helluva time—started badmouthing the girls and slapping on their backs with his lathi to make the beleaguered girls to show their faces to the public.
Fearing further harassment both from the police and the public, the girls slowly, but reluctantly took off their dupattas from their faces. Mad went the cameras emitting interminable flash lights on the girls’ faces, making them blind for a while. The crowds too went into jitters; tongues started waxing profane about the girls’ looks, eyes swarming over their bodies.
The girls were embarrassed. They started crying aloud. With folded hands and, tears rolling down their cheeks, they implored the press not to take photos of them and ruin their lives. However, no one seemed to hear their pleas. Soon, the police got them remanded and took them to the Women’s Cell.
Later, one of my journo friends told me that the girls were innocent; they weren’t professional sex-workers. They were only the victims of circumstances. Having fled their homes to try their hands in the celluloid world, they were kidnapped by a mafia gang who sold them to a pimp.
That I’m narrating this story here does not mean that I’m defending sex-work though ‘devadashis’ were honored and glorified in epics and literature. What I’m concerned is about brutal taking away of women’s rights by some high-handed officials and fellow-citizens. I still don’t understand under what sections of the Sita 1956, a police officer can force an arrested sex-worker to show her face to the public especially to the press? Can any police officer or for that matter any journo force high-profile criminals or hard-core terrorists to remove their masks whenever they are brought to court? No one could dare to do that for retaliation. But, the poor girls had nothing to threaten their offenders except tears.
As is their wont, the press cannons fired their usual shots. They went the whole hog and published the girls’ photographs in their journals/newspapers with eye-catching captions. They did not, for once, mention that the girls were innocent and only the victims of circumstances. To my shock, I heard one of the girls committed suicide fearing a backlash from her family and friends for her alleged moral turpitude. Now, who is to be held responsible for the girl’s death and ruining the lives of the other girls?
The Constitution of India grants equal rights to women in various fields. Yet, women have to sail through rough seas as they’re either ill-equipped or not in a position to propel themselves out of a patriarchal society coupled with poor socioeconomic conditions. Most of them are poor, unlettered and insufficiently trained for suitable jobs. The society cherish keeping them so as it wants it writ to run large on them.
Women’s rights are being trampled upon in every threshold of life. Still having its thoughts riveted in 1800s, the patriarchal-society is yet to be kindly disposed towards women. Notwithstanding the passing of a series of laws, empowerment of women still remains a pipe dream. It’ll remain so if the aristocratic society’s misconceived thoughts about women as mere chattels are not rehabilitated and brought to bear realism.
“Blow the conch! Dance in joy! For women is sweeter than life itself. She is the protecress of life and creatrix too. She is the life of our life, and the soul of sweetness, dreamt Poet Subramania Bharati. Pitifully, women will have to wait for another millennium before making the great poet’s dream come true.
[This post was to be published in iDiya ISB’s National Social Venture Competition. Since I was busy fine-tuning my short story short listed for the ‘Get Published Contest’, I could not do so]
Image Courtesy: Google