The global Slutwalk campaign, where participants protest against explaining or excusing rape by referring to any aspect of a woman's appearance, came to Delhi. The activists were joined by a few like-minded organisations. Delhi, India. 31 July 2011
Slutwalk Delhi finally happened. Its name was enlarged to Slutwalk Delhi Besharmi Morcha (shameless protest) and the word slut made simpler by the addition of Hindi words Besharmi Morcha. The activists, most of them students, took out a small march amidst heavy police security and held a street play. The event that lasted about two-and-a-half-hours was supported by Nafisa Ali, an actress and activist as well as different groups.
The venue of the protest, Jantar Mantar in Central Delhi was a crowded place. It would be no exaggeration to say that the Slutwalk Besharmi Morch activists were outnumbered by the media and hobby photographers. The international campaign, that took off from Canada, has been widely covered in the Indian media with a great stress on the provocative dressing by the international women slut marchers. The Delhi protest was subdued in terms of provocative clothes comparitively but the protest succeeded in generating a lot of interest.
Delhi newspaper The Hindustan Times even started a special campaign called 'Walk Like a Slut'. Another newspaper The Times of India had two stories today (July 31) on the Delhi Slutwalk, one of them as a front-page anchor.
The strong police presence had a large number of women too and many of the women police were overheard discussing women's clothes and feminine attitudes. Over the last couple of years, women in Delhi have been dressing down with large numbers of college students taking to wearing shorts and small skirts - a trend that shows just how fashion conscious the women/girls are in the city.
The organiser of Slutwalk Delhi Umang Sabharwal, barely 20 years and a journalism student, was much sought-after by the media but she was stumped for answers when asked, "what after this? how do you plan to continue the campaign?" She agreed that the present campaign has helped focus on women's rights and it should be followed by something else as well. "Maybe we will plan something later but as of now we have not decided what to do after today's event."
The Delhi event had a lot of men participants too apart from some young mothers who had brought their children in tow. The slogans that were put up on various walls or hung from the trees were provocative and well-thought out. Theatre group Asmita, those members wore black kurtas (long Indian shirts) put up a street play and the members of Delhi Drum Circles played their percussion instruments. Both these organisations were there to support the cause.
Ruchika Sharma, a professor of History at the Delhi University, was there to walk with the activists. She spoke strongly about the continuation of the patriarchial society and also the fact that women in the West too faced similar mindsets as in India - a refrain echoed by European participants as well.
Delhi, India's capital city, is notorious for its attitude towards women. Just last week, four young men from Delhi's prosperous neighbouring rural belt had almost kidnapped a young woman after stopping her taxi and beating up her colleagues and the taxi driver. A hot chase by the police, after a complaint by the taxi driver, helped rescue the 24-year old woman and led to the arrest of some of the kidnappers. The city witnesses many cases of rapes in which women are abducted, raped in a moving vehicle and is let off after threats. Many such cases over the last few years could not be solved.
It is a common complaint by women office-goers that the men in Delhi think that all women who wait to go back home in the evening at bus-stops and taxi-stands are soliciting customers. It is this attitude that the Delhi Slutwalk Besharmi Morcha campaigners want to change.