Being a woman, in India, in 2017 is not easy. The country has been perennially unsafe for women for years but there are few logistical problems which are simply not looked into. Because what bothers half the nation’s population still, doesn’t perturb the entirety of it masses? Because we are not taught about our bodies, to understand its evolution, how to take care of it. The shame then rises from our ignorance, and then it refuses to subside.
A year ago, in the sweltering July heat, I had to take several rounds of Delhi’s Connaught Place, to find just one medicine store where I could buy pads. The discomfort of cramps was shrouded by the fact that I was wearing light blue denim which would have to bear the brunt of me always forgetting my dates. Yes, it was my fault. The men in the shop scanned me for a few minutes while wrapping the pads carefully in several layers of newspapers and plastic packets. Ah! The secrecy of it all. I felt like a ninja in action.
2. Public Toilets
Or their lack thereof. The very few that crop up every now and then are far from being sanitary, with leaking faucets and pots reeking of urine. And even then women are expected to pay for every trip to the loo and men aren’t? The justification being women’s toilets need more resources and men’s don’t and yet why is the hand dryer never working and where is that pad vending machine which would make our life so much easier.
My brother’s sweatpants have pockets and mine doesn’t. His formal trousers have pockets and mine doesn’t. I remember how an ex’s denim jacket had pockets inside and out and mine had none? The slits and rips and the bling are okay, but dear fashion industry, let’s go back to the basics. Give us more pockets. I sure as hell need one while listening to Lena Dunham’s podcast and pretending to exercise.
4. Room Temperature
Offices are too cold for women because they are adjusted to the preferences of middle-aged men. According to a report in Daily Mail, researchers from Maastricht University, Netherlands, have found that women prefer warmer working temperatures, favouring a room of 25C (77F) compared with 22C (72F) for men. Air Conditioning standards are still following the research from the 1960s which suggested room temperatures after recording the metabolic rate for men around 40 years of age. Not considering the fact that the typical rate for women is 35 per cent lower.
5. Public Spaces
I am talking your neighbourhood, and mine. Our streets and alleys, our malls and our playgrounds. Public transport. Where what we wear is incidental, where personal boundaries are not tampered with. Our bodies are not sexualised and fetishised and a minister doesn’t have the gumption to fester bogus ideas that of course, men in pants can molest women in skirts. Every day is a struggle to shrug off a bad touch but what if young boys were brought up with zero sense of entitlement?
Dread and hurt and anger is an understatement to describe how I felt on watching the CCTV footage of a woman being groped and molested on New Year’s Eve in Bangalore, barely 50 metres from her house. How have we made a habit of letting our women down over and over again? This vital issue of personal safety is more an impediment than a challenge, which stares us back in our face, stronger than ever, as we turn a new page and begin a new year of our lives.