Slutwalk is the global concept/event that –if you haven’t been living under a rock somewhere for the past few months- you’ve most probably heard of. Ever since a Toronto cop publically declared: . “…Women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized” at a lecture at York University (CA) the movement was spawned by those who had attended the lecture to reclaim the word ‘slut’. Language is one of the most cutting and powerful means of reflecting society. Im not gonna go into some feminist diatribe about feminist linguistics (Hir, Squee etc) though I don’t mean ‘diatribe’ as necessarily negative.

Living in Delhi (India’s Rape Capital), I have been amazed and encouraged to see a ‘Slut Walk’ being organized here (31st of July!). The message is the same: No more victim-blaming. Whatever our actions/dresscode: we, as violated women, are not at fault. The rapist is. Full Stop.

What has been a more recent development is the recent re-naming of Slutwalk (with all its orginial associations, i.e. Lets dress in skimpy clothes and own it to show this is not an invite to sexual harassment. Slut is not a dirty word. Etc.) to include the ‘post-script’/Hindi name: ‘Besharmi Morcha’ (Shameless Front).

During research of my postgrad thesis I came across a lot of stories of rape associated with shame during the Partition ( into Pakistan and India in 1947). Of course this is nothing new and nothing that is only bound to anything India-only. In Rwanda, during the genocide/civil war, sexual violence was used as a weapon of war -Hutus and Tutis aiming to shame the other population by using sexual violence (one of the uses at least) to bring shame on the other.

It is just that I am thinking in particular of the important implications of the meaning of Shame/Honour in the Indian historical context. My mind gets stuck in a story of Hindi women sexually violated by Muslims during Partition and some of these women freely joining their rapists as wives in newly created Pakistan because their own families would have rejected them because of this ‘shame’ and they had nowhere else to turn.(I am by no means saying this only applies to Hindi traditional thinking or that Muslims are the only ones to be blamed for violence in those times…Im mainly thinking back on what stuck in my mind at the time of reading into this history)

It makes me think of some families drowning their virginal daughters in village wells upon the approach of, let’s call them ‘enemy’- troops/mobs, because it would be better if they were dead than violated by the opposite civil/religious group. Don’t get me wrong. I have luckily (knock on wood!) never been raped or gotten close to it but I also understand that some women who do get raped and tortured wish they had died because of the extreme trauma associated with this violence. But someone else making the decision for them (or, let’s be honest, also/probably mainly to keep their family honour intact) is not comparable in the least.

I know I should be quoting my sources of these historical events and all that, but this isn’t my thesis or any official thing Im writing. You just gotta trust me, I guess.

So I get it, I think the organisators of the Delhi Slutwalk have chosen well, making use of a word that makes much more sense to the majority of Indian population than the word ‘Slut’. I think it’s great because the word and association really only makes sense in more educated/wealthier parts of the population.

It aims to be a most-inclusive movement-to speak to everyone. Furthermore, this capital-of-sexual-violence’s problems are not down to women dressed scantily. To quote one of the organisors, Mishika Singh: “Women in Delhi are harassed irrespective of what they wear. A girl in a salwar kameez is sexually harassed as much as a girl in so-called ‘revealing’ clothes. There is no dress code for the SlutWalk in Delhi. Women can wear what they please.”

But lest we forget, Dress and Behaviour of the victim is also used by those entrusted to enforce the law as well who are perpetrating the crime to victim-blame…

From: Rediff.Com. “Delhi SlutWalk: ‘Men don’t own the public space!” by Sahim Salim:

In 2005, after a girl from Northeast India was raped in Delhi, the Vice Principal of Kirori Mal College in Delhi University said, “There should be a separate dress code for Northeast students, particularly girls”, hinting that the victim’s dress was the reason for her rape. The Vice Principal also stated that “revealing dresses” worn by girls from India’s Northeast triggered “angry responses” from men.

Add to that a statement by the Chief Minister of Delhi, Sheila Dixit, after a female journalist was attacked and murdered when she was on her way back home after work: “All by herself till 3 am at night in a city where people believe…you know…you should not be so adventurous.””

Yeah. Nice.

Personally I am all revved up and ready to go. I probably will go a bit skimpy and slutty because I actually miss it a bit. And that is the one time I’ll be able to feel proud and not insensitive to the local culture, gagging for someone to make a horrid comment or try a grope so I can kick some sleazy ass. Watch out, Men of Delhi: On the 31st, or so I hope, Delhi women are fighting back!

[1] Umang Sabarwal as quoted in Google News: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jv8FaTJsIOBQfBpa8XZdDNz92vxw?docId=CNG.ef1c7c770974119914bcce3c947a061d.3f1

Advertisements