In the wake of the recent horrific incident in Delhi, some womenfolk have suddenly been stirred out of their impassivity into sudden sympathetic mode on the ordeal of their less fortunate sisters. Please don't misunderstand me, I am not being sarcastic and I am not generalizing women with my remark. But my observations and experiences in life have shown me that women themselves don't empathize with other women. Most of the time I have seen women, in group, either criticizing harshly the one woman who has taken a bold step in voicing protest against something wrong or playing the role of mute spectators, in a manner of complete indifference to something not concerning them, to the suffering of other women.For instance, take the rape case of Park Street in Kolkata. Who labeled the lady in distress as prostitute? A woman chief minister, who being a woman herself, can be expected to exhibit a minimum amount of compassion was the first person to put the victim's character under scrutiny. Just because the victim, a mother of two, didn't act by the rules demarcated by the society doesn't make her a prostitute. When the power holders of our country try to lessen the gravity of a crime by publicly calling the victim a prostitute, it sends the message loud and clear that rape on a prostitute is admissible and not liable to punishment. What is the definition of a prostitute? According to the dictionary meaning, a prostitute is a woman who sleeps with men in exchange of money, but in practical life the word is slapped on any woman not following the set of conventions drawn by the patriarchal society. 'Prostitute', a word of humiliation, is used as a very strong abusive word to denigrate woman.
One of my female friends in college had problem with another girl studying in the same batch. The reason for her hatred towards the other girl was unknown to me since both of them had studied in the same school and knew each other a long time before even I met them. Now my friend used to call the other girl a 'prostitute' behind her back, the reason she explained was that girl used to roam around with a lot of boys. Now though all of us studied in the same college, I never had the opportunity to know the other girl personally until I enrolled for masters in CU. We happened to study in the same tuition class where I got to interact with the girl branded a 'prostitute' by my friend. She was a very decent girl hailing from a good family and nothing in her demeanor would speak ill of her character. But there she was a victim of slander by her own school batch mate. It is a tendency seen among many women to damage the reputation of another woman they have rivalry with by throwing mud at her character. A woman's character is a soft spot very easy to be defiled in our society.
A woman I know went belligerent on Orkut when ditched by her long standing boyfriend for another woman, she posted pictures of both hers with her bf and the bf with the new woman in the same album exposing how the man had cheated on her. The number of people verbally abusing her far outweighed the number of people supporting her stand. Starting from the word 'prostitute' she was showered with malicious remarks and defamatory emails. She told me that her friends from school even refused to recognize her after that incident and yes, she studied in a girls' school. The man she was in live-in relationship with for more than couple of years chose to marry the girl his parents chose for him, the reason was utterly nonsense. A woman who could consummate a relationship before marriage is not worth marrying, according to his family. But what about the man who played the same role in the live-in scenario?? 'Shonar Aangti', a golden ring that's what an Indian man is, impervious to all blemishes. This attitude of the society in putting the blame on women for everything boosts up the confidence of men with ulterior motives. Coupled with that, the lack of security measures for women, blatant insensitive remarks by those in power and incompetent police force all contribute to emboldening the perpetrators of crimes against women. That's why the number of rape incidents keeps increasing every year by leaps and bounds. According to statistics most of the rape cases after languishing for years in court either are nullified on the ground of consensual sex or cancelled due to lack of evidence.
In most cases, perpetrators of sexual violence are granted acquittal upon which they live a normal life with family and children, while their victims bear the brunt of mental and physical trauma, social ostracism and a lifelong ignominy. In our country it’s very easy to dismiss a woman or suppress her voice by slinging mud at her character. Just prove her a ‘prostitute’ and the case is resolved. It is easier to put a rape victim’s character under doubt than proving the culprits guilty of rape. What are the factors that determine a woman of questionable character? Well, the parameters vary from people to people. For some, a woman going out without shrouding herself in burkha or veil is a ‘prostitute’. For some, a woman going out or mingling with boys is a ‘prostitute’. Any woman acting beyond the set of boundaries imposed by the society or a woman questioning the restrictive and regressive social practices is a prostitute for some. As I said, it’s easier to label a woman as prostitute than proving a culprit guilty and since many power holders with their remarks make it obvious that physical assault on a prostitute is an allowable offense, not liable to punishment, if a situation comes when me or you might have our characters put on trial just like the Park Street rape survivor, you or me are likely to be branded a ‘prostitute’ and face the world with the stigma awarded by the government.
So ladies, before we talk about changing the outlook of society towards women, please keep this in mind next time when you bitch ugly about a woman friend of yours. It's the lack of unity within us that is always taken advantage of. Please next time when you see a woman being unnecessarily heckled by people just because she has taken a stance to protest against a wrong done to her, instead of joining the group hurling a volley of aspersions to the woman, please extend your moral support to bolster her voice. I know there are a lot of great women in the world, who continue to give us inspiration through their courage and undying spirit, but this article doesn't address them, it addresses that section of women who are first on the line in pointing finger at another woman.