Every woman has a ‘rape clock’, say the two women, who narrate their harrowing night out.

Gurugram molestation survivors speak up on rape culture blame patriarchy its a must watchScreenshot
news Gender Friday, June 23, 2017 - 14:22

On June 16, another harrowing incident from Gurugram came to light: two women who simply wanted to get a few drinks at night, after their exams, were cat-called as sex workers, groped and molested. On Wednesday, CNN-News18 aired a discussion with Saba and Adya, the survivors, on their experience of that night and what they made of it later.

There are several reasons why this discussion is a must-watch. For starters, the women don’t limit the discussion to how all-prevalent patriarchy and rape culture are, but also acknowledge their privilege and the access it gives them to the media and the means to get justice.

“We both were fairly rattled. The two of us are really privileged,” Saba says. “Dalit women, Muslim women… when these things happen to them, they don’t get the privilege to seek justice. They don’t get a hashtag devoted to them, whereas we are sitting here in this studio, having all that,” she adds.

This is important because many times, when sexual or gender violence survivors come forth with their stories, they are questioned on why they didn’t open up earlier or why they didn’t do something about it at the time of the incident. The culture of silence, Saba and Adya say, is something that even they had to unlearn.

“[My parents] also learnt about it (the incident) through the news,” Saba says, pointing to how she and Adya probably felt ashamed to inform their parents about the molestation – an incident which happened with no fault of theirs. “Despite all of our privileges, it is difficult to be here [talking about it],” Adya says at another point in the show.

Public spaces too, the young women point out, are not free of gender biases. In their case, the incident took place on MG road in Gurugram, in front of Sahara mall. The women say that there were ice cream vendors and auto drivers also in the vicinity, but all of them chose to be mute witnesses. One of the auto drivers even laughed when the women were groped, they say.

Referring to them being referred to as sex workers that night, Adya talks about how the men on the street thought that it was okay to touch them because they were out at night. “It was assumed that there are women who are out at that time in the night, they were sex workers and it was okay to touch them,” Adya says.

There is plenty of existing literature on how sex workers’ agency over their body is not taken into consideration, simply by the virtue of their profession. And that only ‘immoral’ women, what sex workers are presumed to be, are out late at night. This incident, as Adya and Saba point out, is a testament to the same.

It is also a manifestation of what Adya refers to as a ‘rape clock’. “I know the rape clock. I have it at the back of my mind. That you’re not supposed to be out of your house alone after a certain point of time – everyone knows it,” she says. “But like we have normalized being stared at and leched at, how do you normalize women being there in the ‘after hours’ unless women actually go out there,” she questions. In a previous point in the show, the women admit that they felt they had done something wrong by venturing out to buy alcohol at 9.30pm in the night, on a well-lit street.

An important point Saba and Adya make in the video is about doing away with the class bias when it comes to perpetrators. The stereotype that only men from a particular background, religion, caste or from a lower class could be criminals.

“The man who molested me, looked well-dressed. They were well-dressed. I think they had enough money and cultural capital to be roaming around in this fancy area. There were men in cars [too],” Saba argues. She adds, “The problem is not caste or class. The problem is patriarchy that we need to address here.”

Finally, the women talk about how they felt responsible for coming out and speaking about the issue. Quoting something she had read, Saba responds saying, “If not now, when, if not us, who?”