IWillGoOut: Bengalureans march to protest restrictions imposed on women
The shocker that Bengaluru woke up to on New Year’s Day triggered citizens in the city to carry out a march protesting not only for the right of women to be free in public spaces but also the impunity with which they are considered fair game.
People from all walks of life gathered at the Sangolli Rayanna Railway Station and marched up to Freedom Park shouting, “It’s a dress, and not a yes” and “I will go out”.
Drummers led the way as men and women held the #IWillGoOut banner. As people marched towards Anand Rao Circle, women danced to the drum beats and led the crowd.
“I am here to reclaim my right to be free on the streets, to not always be suspicious of my surroundings. I want to be free to choose what I want to wear and stay out as long as I want and feel safe. This is about protesting victim-blaming. The only solution people seem to offer for crimes against women is to advice women to stay indoors. I am here to protest against all those who interfere with giving me my sense of freedom,” said Sruthi Bhat, a 24-year-old student.
Not only Bengalureans, but women rights activists from Washington had also joined the protests with posters that read, “Women of Washington for Women of Bengaluru”.
“I read about this on social media and my entire family is here to support the cause. My husband works in Bengaluru and hence we moved here seven months ago. My house help’s husband physically assaults her and she is scared of lodging a complaint. She fears her husband will beat her even more.,” said Sharon Otmar, an expat from Washington.
Susan had also got her house help along to participate in the protest. “I wanted her to know that it is okay to speak up,” Susan said.
37-year-old Teddy, a techie from Ramamurthy Nagar was seen waving a flag and shouting “reclaim the streets”. Teddy urged many of his friends and family to participate in the protest, failing which he decided to come on his own.
“It’s time to begin having this dialogue with our families first. I might have failed in the beginning, but change has to begin at the grassroot level. I will go home and tell them about the march and I will have this dialogue with them again,” said Teddy.
Upon reaching Freedom Park, protesters signed a petition addressed to the Commissioner of Police, calling for the implementation of practical measures for women’s safety.
Protesters demanded for stricter punishment for crimes against women, and an easier complaint redressal system, compulsory gender sensitization workshops for police personnel while handling cases of abuse and to stop moral policing while investigating cases. Installation of CCTV cameras in all public places, gender sensitisation workshops for drivers and conductors of buses to ensure safety of women and LGBTQIA were few of the other demands.
“We are here to protest the many instances when young girls are stopped from going to school, from the time when they begin menstruating. To protest the abuse homeless women face and the self-regulation women are subjected to avoid being raped. We are here to highlight the violence that is inherent in imposing restrictions because of fear,” said Maytreyi, a social worker and member of #IWillGoOut.