Unless you are living under a rock, you must be very well aware of what’s happening in the country.
Not a day goes by that you don’t hear news of rape. It’s everywhere. From newspapers and TV channels to your Facebook newsfeed. From girls aged seven months to old women, no one is safe. Our girls aren’t safe in their homes, at their friend’s, on the streets, on public transport -- not anywhere.
Ask any girl what she faces every day when she goes out. Stares and comments and all sorts of verbal abuse. It doesn’t matter whether you’re wearing shorts, salwar kameez, or a burkha, you’ll be stared at and commented at, nonetheless.
There is no escape.
It did not happen overnight, though. It’s not like a group of men sat one night and decided to go on a rape spree. It happened slowly. It unfolded right in front of our eyes. It started out small. We ignored the first signs of the plague. And now, the plague has spread like wildfire, and there is very little we can do about it.
And, the worst part? We have let this happen -- you and me.
We let this happen every time we denied or ignored the fault of men when girls complained about eve-teasing. Every time we blamed the girls for being victims of sexual assault and abuse. Every time we asked girls to dress modestly and talk softly. Every time we spared the men in the name of patriarchy and religion; and in moments when we said it takes two to tango, we let this plague consume us a little more.
We saw the signs. In our movies, our literature, our society, systems, and our customs. We taught our boys that women are a separate species. We taught them that we, men, are superior to them. We taught them that it’s usually the girl’s fault. We normalized the culture that women and men are different.
It is time to apologize for what we’ve done and to speak up. To reform. To re-educate
We called a boy “player” if he dated several girls, but a woman a “slut” if she dated several boys. We put our faith in our boys when they stayed out late, conveniently ignoring the fact that he was probably getting totally drunk. And once again, we called our girls names if they did the same.
We let our men think that they can get away with anything, and that he has the right to own whatever he wants. We tabooed sex, we tabooed love, barred any sort of sex education -- and then we expected them to behave nicely with someone we have taught them to objectify.
What were we thinking?
And among this filth of a system that we’ve created, a number of women have risen, like a phoenix from the ashes. These are the women who crushed the norms, and broke free of the shackles that the society so casually puts on them.
They wore jeans, they drove, they worked, they smoked. They studied and became top officials, CEOs, business heads. They had opinions and personalities that intimidated the men. But our men couldn’t really accept this defeat. The male ego was bound to perish because of the striking aura of our women at work.
And so, we incubated our predators and we kept silent all along. We knew what was happening, where we were headed, and ignored it for far too long. And now, we are faced with a group of men and women who are a significant part of this country, who think it is normal to sexually assault a woman because of her clothes and her lifestyle.
For far too long we have let this happen, and perhaps it is now time to stop. It is time to apologize for what we’ve done and to speak up. To reform. To re-educate.
Teach boys to respect women. Teach them to work together. Normalize co-education. Modify our systems and customs.
We need to put an end to rape. We need to stop all sorts of sexual abuse and violence against women. We are all we have -- and it is not too late, not yet.
Zarif Faiaz is a freelance contributor.