Stares, comments and inappropriate touches are actions that have become a part and parcel of the everyday life of a woman. Often, they are blamed for inviting reactions from men, and made to believe that “they asked for it” due to what they were wearing. And they will remember those clothes forever.
In order to create awareness among the public regarding the issue of sexual and gender-based violence, over 15 youngsters came together on Saturday to be a part of the ‘I Never Ask For It’ walk initiated by Blank Noise in Bengaluru. They formed two separate lines and walked on footpaths from Residency Road to MG Road in Bengaluru, carrying clothes that they were wearing when they were sexually harassed.
While the initiative was focused on sexual harassment and crimes against women, men too joined the walk as a symbolic gesture of sharing responsibility of the issue.
“I identify myself as a queer individual. I feel that the time has come for all of us to speak up. I could totally relate to everything that people spoke of regarding their experiences. I felt that this would be a comfortable space for me and that there would be people to hear me out as well,” said Pratik Chakraborty, a college student in Bengaluru.
Walking in pairs, each couple carried a rod on their shoulders with clothes hanging between them. “In this initiative, the garments are walking with us. We are walking with the memories of the sexual assault or harassment we experienced. People carrying others’ clothes are sharing the responsibility with them,” said Jasmeen Patheja, Founder and Facilitator of Blank Noise, a not-for-profit organisation working towards women's rights.
One of the participants, who led the group from the front, carried a white board for people to write down their bitter experience of sexual harassment. They also had a space to mention what they wished for in the future.
The group halted at several points, including in front of MG Road metro station, allowing people to come and have a closer look at the board and write down their experiences on the board. They also distributed letters, which explained the whole idea behind the mission, to the public.
Speaking about the origin of ‘I Never Ask For It’, Jasmeen said, “Whenever I spoke to women regarding the issue of sexual harassment, I realised that the blame was so deep-rooted. They were always silent when it came to these issues. But, I realised that they remembered what they wore when they experienced it. Why do we remember the clothes? Those garments are the memories we carry around with us.”
Many women and men joined the group en route. The two-hour-long walk came to an end with the participants sharing what they felt after being part of the initiative. While everyone seemed to be content and happy with having been together, looking at the world outside, they realised that there is a lot more that needs to be done towards the issue.