When a woman is abused, molested, and/or, raped, people are really quick to cluck their tongues with questions about the victim(!). Some of their fatuous and irresponsible inquiries include:
What was the victim wearing when this happened?
What time was it when the incident took place? Was she inebriated?
Was she with men? etc. etc.
Everybody sits down to assess (assassinate?) her character. And soon, based on their ‘observations,’ they roll out their judgement:
“She was asking for it.”
“She should have seen this coming.”
“Boys will be boys.”
“This is the effect of westernization of our culture,” and so on.
No one talks about the assailant, about the molester, about the one who acted like a beast, about the one who thought women “like these” need to be taught a lesson. And since you don’t talk about the boys, you do not address the issue of punishment; rather, you tell the girls to not wear western clothes, to not stay out late, to not drink, to not smoke, to not color their hair, to not “be friends” with men, to not wear “too much makeup”, to not wear “too little clothes”, all because men might rape them. And what’s more troubling is that people in power too, lend such a response to rape.
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We have seen Chief Ministers blame rapes on men and women interacting freely, on the absence of child marriages, on women carrying mobile phones, on consumption of chow mein, and so on. The whole country tells half of its population a number of different ways to not get raped, but does not warn its boys to do just one thing: NOT RAPE! It is like letting criminals loose, and asking innocent people to lock themselves in their homes because the criminals might commit a crime against them!
Calling out this double standard is actress Saloni Chopra, (portrays Isha Jai Singh on MTV’s Girls on Top) who has never minced her words when it comes to voicing her disapproval for the way women are treated in our country. Saloni recently wrote an open letter addressed to Dr. G. Parmeshwara, the current Home Minister of Karnataka, who, in response to the infamous New Year’s Eve mass molestation incident of Bangalore, blamed the women and said,
“During days like New Year or Christmas Day, there are women who are harassed or treated badly. We take precautionary measures. But unfortunately, on days like New Year, a large number of youngsters gather on Brigade Road, Commercial Street, and MG Road. And youngsters are almost like westerners. They try to copy the west, not only in their mindset but even in their dressing. So some disturbance, some girls are harassed, these kinds of things do happen.” (sic)
Saloni posted this picture of her in a bikini in Phi Phi, Thailand, and wrote,
“Some disturbances? Some girls? Bound to happen? Excuse me, sir? If that statement right there is what our Indian culture is, then this is me officially resigning myself from any cultural associations hereafter. If the mass molestation, humiliation and harassment of women (who weren’t even “shamelessly naked” like I am in the picture) who were out on New Year’s eve in skirts or jeans, celebrating a common festivity, is something that “is bound to happen”, then I am deeply sorry but I’m beginning to not see any beauty left in my culture. You blame it all on “The West” even though in “The West” is where people are more free to dress the way they want, be comfortable in their own skin – and not be raped for it.” (sic)
Saloni goes on to say that in our country, women need to choose between freedom and safety, and that right there, exposes the flaw in our system and the way we look at our women, pun very much intended. She says that if our culture endorses an idea that it’s normal when “these kind of things do happen,” then she thinks there is nothing to love about this culture. In her words,
“Does my culture say that when a girl’s midriff in a Saree is showing she should be raped? Or when she wears a lehenga every boy on the street has the right to touch her stomach? In my culture, a man has the right to squeeze my breasts, forcefully shut my mouth, pull my hair, rip my blouse, bruise me while I scream, and put his penis inside me just because this morning I wore a pair of shorts and my legs were visible? With all due respect Sir, what’s then there to love about this culture of mine where women are put on such a high pedestal that if we ever choose to take a step down from being goddesses to becoming human, we fall straight to the ground onto mass molestation?…
Every day, I am struggling to fight for the women of my country, every single day that I spend trying to inspire young girls to be comfortable in their own skin and love themselves and stand up for themselves – is going to waste. What good are my words, if their decision to be themselves ends up in sexual harassment? Our women are being molested, burnt alive, killed at birth, raped, murdered, and that’s not ‘some disturbance’, these things aren’t ‘going to happen’ – because they shouldn’t.” (sic)
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This is not the first time that Saloni Chopra has extended her staunch support to the cause of women. People who follow the actress on Instagram, know all about her photo series, and about how boldly she speaks about issues that other people from her industry duck. In such a space, watching Saloni lash out at stereotypes, through her posts, is so emboldening.
6 months back, Saloni did a five-part photo series where she documented agonies of being a woman in India; its complications and constrictions. She spoke of abuse: verbal, physical, and sexual. She spoke of the shame that we, women, are put through when abused. You can have a look at the pictures and excerpts of her posts here:
“I AM A VIRGIN”
“I am a Virgin. I may not look like one, so what? What’s a virgin girl suppose to look like anyway? Am I not suppose to dye my hair, just because I’m a virgin? Should I not open my legs, or smoke a Cigarette? Sure, smoking is injurious to your health, but don’t say it like it’s injurious to only “women’s health”. I am sick and tired of being judged. You see me walking by, and you think i’m the kind of girl that’ll flirt with you, or i’m high on drugs, or that I’m a lesbian (which is none of your business), just because of the way I look. So I like making a f*cking loud statement, what has sex got to do with it? Yeah I’m a virgin, and maybe I will lose my virginity tomorrow, or maybe I won’t for the next 5 years. But i’ll dress the way I like, and I don’t give you the right to judge me for it.” (sic)
“I AM AN INTROVERT”
“You want me to cover myself up all the time. Even though your mumma’s got the same things I do, but why is it that when you see me you get aroused without reason? Do you feel weird seeing me in my underwear? Would a bikini be okay for you? Why is it that you assume, when you see a girl like me, in clothes too small (but one’s she’s happy to be in) you automatically assume that I’m a slut. You assume that it’s okay to touch me, and tease me. You want to teach me a lesson. You call me characterless, a slut, or a whore. Firstly, no girl, even if she does do the things you disapprove of, is a slut or a whore. It’s her body and her choice. Secondly, my clothes don’t define me. I am an introvert. I am shy as fuck. I can’t start a conversation with a stranger at a party… that’s not me. And it bothers me, that you think I have no character, just because you can see my underpants.” (sic)
“I WANT TO EXPLORE MY SEXUALITY”
“Because I like the act of sex. There are still places where I could be killed for saying that out loud. Definitely be looked down upon. But why is it okay for me to have sex just to please him, but not want to do it when I am aroused or horny? What about my hormones? What if I am not just this body of mine? I don’t even know if it is men, or women that I desire. And I will never know, because I’ve always been petrified to find out. I am too scared to ask. I am shunned down from it. Who am I? What if all I want to do is travel the world, work in villages, help people, and explore my sexuality as I go? I don’t think I want to have kids, or to ever cook again. I do not want to lie down under him for the three and a half minutes that I do, I want to moan and scream. I want someone to explore not just my body, but my mind and my soul. I want to be touched, without being entered. I want to learn everything there is to learn, outside of what I know. I don’t want to be his trophy, or his slave. I want to be me. And I don’t want to be ashamed of telling you that I want to have org*sms. This is who I am. My culture, or my history will not change that. I am proud of where I belong, it’s not the place, but the people that are bothered. If The Kama Sutra can emerge from our Culture and History, then why can’t I? Give me the freedom… to be me.” (sic)
“I AM A RAPE VICTIM”
“But my rape doesn’t fucking define who I am. I am beyond that. I am more than just the act. I am fucking wonderful. I love strangers bcos they don’t look at me as the girl who got raped. They look at me & they see my smile. They see my shining eyes. They see me flick my hair, they hear me laugh. They ask me about my dreams & goals in life. There is much more to me than just that one night. I am not ashamed of being a rape victim, I am not scared & on most days, I am not sad either. Why should I be? I’m not the one who did it! I am going to live my life to the fullest & enjoy every moment like it’s the last, bcos I deserve the best. And one day, I want to be able to walk into a crowded place & admit that I have been raped, without being judged or labeled. Without your pity.” (sic)
“I DON’T DESERVE IT”
“I am an individual. I am strong. I am every girl that has ever been touched, teased, slapped, abused or raped. I am also every girl that is scared of being alone on the streets, because I am scared of being objectified. I am a goddess, you say. Then why am I so scared of your presence around me? Why am I not safe? Why am I not… Independent?” (sic)
Ironically, the actor has been slut-shamed quite often on Instagram, but that does not stop her from speaking what is the truth. She writes fearlessly on topics that are considered a taboo, and team NLT salutes Saloni Chopra for that. More power to you, girl!