In Mumbai, outside the JW Marriott in Juhu, two women are groped and felt up by a mob of 70 men on the open street as their companions look on helplessly.
In Patna, more than 15 male students of the Nalanda Medical College and Hospital enter the girls’ hostel and ransack it when the girls refuse to celebrate New Year with them. The boys break windowpanes and furniture and try to molest the girls, who have to lock themselves up in their rooms.
In Pune, some men barge into a nightclub, pass lewd comments at women and get aggressive when others around them try to intervene.
In Kochi, a 15-year-old Swedish girl is molested by a teenaged boy — as her father is giving sound bytes to a TV channel on how incredible India is. “While we are standing here and being interviewed by you, telling you of all the wonderful experiences that we have had in India… a young man grabs my daughter from behind. If you want people to visit your country, there has to be respect… for women,” her father said later. — Dec 31/Jan 1, 2007-08
Even as India enters a new year, hoping to make it to the superpower league, there seems to be something superbly uncivilised about the way women in our country get treated — by our men. To get a better fix on the scenario, HT decided to talk to the young ones — the boys who will be men.
How will they treat women in a New India — one that dreams big and flies high?
Let’s find out.
Himanshu Tanwar, a Class XI student at The Adarsh School, Kirti Nagar, Delhi, has it all worked out in his mind. “Girls should not party or drink. The ones who do cannot be decent.” Not just that. “Girls,” he adds, “cannot be boys. They’re better off at home. After all, they have to get married.”
Nineteen-year-old Hardik Jindal, a political science student in Mumbai, says, “Girls who wear tight or revealing clothes, hang out with boys and like to party are inviting trouble.” It is, however, okay for boys to hang out with girls, smoke, drink and party, he says, “because our society allows boys such freedom”.
Often, boys treat girls the way Indian women are treated and looked upon in their homes, says Suruchi Gandhi, principal of Bal Bharati Public School in Dwarka. “In most cases, parents — even educated ones — have double standards in raising boys and girls,” she adds. “Boys grow up considering themselves superior to girls, and think it’s their right to take advantage of them. Which is why the onus to protect themselves remains on the girls.”
There are, however, boys like Vivek Bathla who are willing to take the initiative to make India a better place for women. A Class XI student of Silver Line School, Ghaziabad, Vivek says, “We can sensitise boys towards girls by enacting the Mumbai incident — and other such terrible happenings — to bring out the girls’ trauma.” But he also realises that given the socio-economic diversity, not every boy from every family will respect girls.
“A lot of these boys think it’s most natural to pass lewd remarks or ogle at a girl, even if she’s standing with her mother,” says Lavleen Johri, a first-year-student. “Given half a chance, they’d grope her.”
“Come to a school conti-party and you’ll see how bad it is,” says Anandini Kapur, a Class X student of Springdales School. “Every boy turns around when a girl walks in. They check her out top to bottom. You feel like an object.”
If that’s bad news, here’s worse: Dr Deepak Gupta, child and adolescent psychiatrist at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, says that young people are losing their inhibitions — both in language and actions. “They do not know where to draw the line. Often, unwanted sexual behaviour in boys is mistaken as part of growing up,” he points out. “If unchecked, it can become a part of their personality.”
Runjhun Goel, a Class XII student in Mumbai, couldn’t agree more. “A lot of people dismiss it by saying, ‘Boys will be boys’. That’s as bad as saying, ‘Rapists will be rapists’.”
(Some names have been changed)