Our morals don't need policing but our streets do
We're so busy asking what the girl was doing there, we forget to ask why that space wasn't safe.
- Total Shares
First, an average paraphrasing of one of the staple jokes of comedians visiting India from abroad:
"Bollywood movies are great, nobody ever has sex, and yet somehow there are 1.3 billion people in this country!" The audience laughs because that's what they paid to do and "hum toh aise hee hain bhai!"
In between being beaten up at cafes on Valentine's Day in Mangalore, being dragged out of their hotel rooms in Mumbai to doing squats in Allahabad - the average Indian couple on a date now knows not to book a table at a hotel because thappad toh khaane ko mil hee jayenge. No one is saying that everyone should be able to fornicate on the streets (Imagine the traffic, it's not even practical), but physical and mental abuse at the hands of the state in a direct violation of our rights is not the answer to protecting our public decency either. As an average citizen and innocent bystander caught in the line of fire of the moral police we have no legal recourse/compensation for the trauma we suffer. This is just, we are told, an unintended consequence of the protection of our "public decency".
The simplistic argument behind this moral policing - "We are trying to keep our women safe so we must dole out peremptory beatings just to keep people on their toes." Maybe if we focused on keeping our spaces safe we wouldn't have to swaddle our women in state generated fear. We're so busy asking what was she doing there, we forget to ask why that space wasn't safe.
Sadly enough - every child growing up in India as already had their first public "indecency" thrust upon them MUCH before we see someone holding hands on a park bench. I shared my first public "indecency" on Twitter - a person who masturbated in front of a whole bus stop, full of junior college girls, with a hair-raising grin on his face. There was an overwhelming response under the hashtag #MyFirstPublicIndecency by men and women who were subjected to very similar acts at a heartbreakingly young age. Initiatives like "Why Loiter" are aimed at reclaiming public spaces for women and are already doing great work in that regard.
It drives home the perverse relationship that a society as diverse as India has with sexuality. Due to that very diversity- let us all accept that that coming to a consensus about what qualifies for "morals" and even "privacy" will always be in a state of flux. Instead of beating it into public conversation, opening safer more considerate spaces into which our women and children can walk safely and participate in public life. That will definitely be less offensive to our public decency.