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Damsels in distress to iron maidens how women react to public molestation

From Gauhar Khan to the Rohtak sisters, we ask: why are men so obsessed with women’s bodies



When Bollywood actor and 2013 winner of reality TV show Big Boss Gauhar Khan appeared on the sets of India’s Raw Star finale looking stunning in a short, silvery outfit, she had no idea that this would result in getting her beaten up. But on Sunday evening, during the shooting of the reality show with a live audience in a studio in Film City, she was reportedly first provoked by a man in the audience, which led to an argument between the two.

Reports differ on when exactly the security got involved, but neither the police nor the supposedly 200 bouncers were able to prevent the man from slapping her. Reports say they stood frozen as the man slapped her two or three times. Later identified as Mohammed Akhil Malik, aged 24, the man justified his actions on the grounds that Gauhar was not supposed to wear short clothes or dance to racy numbers because she belonged to the Muslim community. Poor logic, especially since producers of most shows are the ones in charge of picking outfits for the hosts, rather than the hosts picking their own clothes.

As the show was semi-live, Gauhar took about an hour to compose herself before returning to the stage to announce the winner as Rituraj Mohanty.

Let’s take you to the other recent incident where the Rohtak sisters made headlines with their proactive solution to molestation. Pushed to the limit, one of the sisters took out her belt and began to attack the three molesters when they threatened her and her sister.

While the sisters’ molestation incident took place in a crowded bus in the industrial city of Rohtak around 70 kilometers from New Delhi; Gauhar’s assault and supposed molestation took place on a glitzy stage in film city in suburban Goregaon. However, the two incidents reflect the reactions of India as a country to molestation and assault of women in public places.

Though the sisters were stuck in a crowded bus and were openly molested, none of the passengers, nor the driver or conductor did anything about it. Finally, the girls had to take it upon themselves to stop their molesters and resorted to violence. This is when a pregnant woman took a video of the incident, which has now gone viral and pushed this issue into the limelight.

On the other hand, Gauhar was in a studio with 2,500 audience apart from the security force when a man came up on stage and beat her up. Some reports also say he might have touched her inappropriately. Only after getting a few punches in and after Gauhar
moved back did the guards take action and restrain the 6 foot hefty man.

We don’t understand what it is about men that make them want to act out against women. It may appear to be eons ago, but the incident where the leading daily Times of India showed a close up of actress Deepika Padukone with the caption ‘OMG Deepika’s cleavage show’ and the other one in which Hollywood actress Emma Watson was threatened by cyber nerds who said they would release nude photos of her because she claimed to be a feminist occurred only a couple of months ago.

Sometimes it seems to one that being a woman itself is a crime, and be it under the guise of culture, religion or morality, men take it upon themselves to put women in their place. Urge men to be feminists? We’ll leak nude photos of you. Appear in public with a bit of accidental skin show? We’ll zoom into that very area and point arrows and make sensational remarks. Travel in public? We’ll molest you. Wear a short outfit and dance in a TV finale shoot? We’ll beat you up with everyone watching.

Why are men so concerned about the female body? The problem, as we see it is part societal and part individual. You can blame it on patriarchal society, men’s’ need to control or subjugate women or even sexual deprivation. However, we must also blame it on the man who after all has been empowered with the basic premise of free will and common sense. After all, while one side of society may agree with the moral reason behind what these men do, an equally, if not more forceful side will violently oppose them. The individual presumably is equally exposed to both sides and chooses to act the way he does of his own volition.

It may seem a bit too simplistic to break down and list the reasons why men do what they do in this article, so we will not attempt it here. We will say, however, that like the Rohtak sisters, women have to take charge of their own selves and body, instead of being the iconic damsels in distress, waiting for lawyers, police men and male onlookers to rush to their assistance.

This statement doesn’t only apply to women who are currently being targeted, but also to other women around. And the ways to fight back are not only through violence. Look at the small but significant part the pregnant woman played in the Rohtak incident, or Deepika’s angry reaction to TOI. The roadmap to a solution can be found in Emma Watson’s cold defiance of the hackers and also in Gauhar’s decision to continue with the filming after being assaulted.

It is time women take charge of their own bodies instead of parents, siblings, educational institutions or even random strangers making the choices for them. Click here to read more.

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