Once Upon A Time Mumbai


Mumbai used to be one of the safest cities for women… in Mumbai women can stay out late without worries.  These are a couple of comments I have heard repeatedly on the near blanket coverage of the recent Mumbai gangrape story.  A 22 year old photojournalist out on an assignment with a colleague was violently sexually assaulted by five men in the early evening of a central Mumbai area, albeit an abandoned mill.

A wake up call or is there a collective selected memory loss?  I remember reading a Times of India news story many years back (around 2008) over Christmas and New Year.  A foreign couple had been celebrating together in Mumbai and were attacked by a mob who held the man and sexually assaulted the woman.  No outcry.

I then read stories of women being physically and sexually assaulted by the police and vigilantes in Bangalore and Mumbai simply for enjoying a drink in a bar.  Some of these women were dragged out by their hair.  No outcry.  No celebrity hand wringing.

I read another story of a woman being stripped naked, flogged and paraded by the local village judiciary just because a neighbour accused her of inviting an unrelated man into her house.  Again, no outcry.

Indian newspapers could run cover to cover stories of sexual assault and mysterious suicides.  What is the deal?  Whils it is undoubtedly helpful to debate and the Indian media is rightly pushing misogyny to a prominent position in their agenda how will the situation change for women?

Suggestions and solutions from the Indian public range from chemical castration to questioning the upbringing of rapists (although as we all know income and education is irrelevant). A prominent PR and communications specialist, clearly exasperated by the attacks on women, has quaintly started a whistle blowing campaign.  He is advocating women should carry whistles and blow them three times if they feel they are being molested in order to draw attention to the attacker.  I think this is daft.

A student in Chennai developed a bra that sends a GPS signal and text message to a relative in case of attack.  This is also daft. What is you’re being attacked by your relation??

The wackiest thing of all happened recently in Mumbai itself: Mumbai passed a law to ban mannequins that are dressed provocatively, i.e. bras and underwear as they are deemed to give men impure thoughts.

My own non-scientific observation since the December gangrape story is merely this:  Indian men have become fearless as the law is incompetent enough to deem it irrelevant.  The chance that they will get caught and prosecuted seems so slim to them that the risk is worth taking.  Is there hope?  Yes there is especially as men are as vocal against rape and sexual assault as women.  Men are as critical of the laws and execution of law and order as women.

However, in the mean time I think it wise that women beware.  No precaution is enough and I say this as a fearless and independent single female frequent resident in Delhi.




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