On January 24th this year, when police officer Michael Sanguinetti addressed the subject of crime prevention to a group of students at York University in Toronto, he had little idea of the notoriety that was to follow him. When he commented informally that “Women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized,” he had no inkling that his words would trigger a global feminist movement. The implication of his words was that women are responsible for sexual crimes and are victimized because of the way they are dressed. This has given rise to an impassioned and angry protest that has spread like wildfire through Facebook and Twitter. The same language used by Sanguinetti was picked up and SlutWalk was born as a grassroots initiative to fight against damaging ideas surrounding sexual violence in Toronto. The ‘SlutWalk, Toronto’ took place on April 3 2011 with over 3000 people on the streets. The movement today has gained unfathomable momentum across nations, including Argentina, Australia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, the UK, the US, and across the Middle East.
The movement is now uniting millions of people across incredible diversity. It is not just women or survivors who are joining but anyone who is impacted by sexual violence and has a stake in this fight. SlutWalks are now happening in different languages, cultures, political climates, and communities. Here in India, the movement has garnered quite a response as well. Slutwalk Delhi, also called Beshrami Morcha, is an initiative by 19-year-old Umang Sabarwal, a student of Kamla Nehru College, Delhi, has been the topic of much debate and discussion. In case you are speculating if a country like India is ready for a movement like this, you couldn’t be further away from the truth. Fresh in our memory is the news of Gul Panag being molested while running for the marathon in Delhi. The item made it to the news because she is a well-known celebrity; one shudders to think of the predicament of ordinary women who deal with unreported, sexual crime in various forms on a daily basis.
As Delhi-based photographer Meeta Ahlawat puts it, “Delhi, as we know, is the rape capital of India. Women are not safe in Delhi. They are not free to wear anything they like without being stared at or getting obscene comments. The attitude has to change. Till when will we say, oh, Delhi is not ready? Bullshit! This city is more than ready for a makeover – not just for Commonwealth Games – but for people alike.” Anjali Kirpalani, a writer from Mumbai, wholeheartedly agrees: “I think the SlutWalk is a great initiative. Being an Indian woman, I’ve always thought that India is still a very male-oriented society. If men and women are equal, surely we can wear shorts like they do and not expect to be thought of as slutty or ‘asking for it’?” The question remains: will the SlutWalk be successful in changing a mindset that has been prevalent over centuries? It has successfully sparked off a debate about a subject often pushed under the carpet across the country, which is the first step towards progress!
Heather Jarvis, the cofounder of Slutwalk Toronto, says emphatically: “Studies, research, and statistics indicate no correlation between a target of sexual assault and what someone wears. Most rapists never remember what their victims were wearing. Most sexual assaults are committed by someone known and previously trusted by the victims – a family member, a friend, a partner, or an acquaintance – and not some “mentally deranged psychopath” stranger in a dark alleyway or park. Most sexual assaults happen to women and men before the age of 18 so a lot of this blaming and shaming is directed towards children & youth. The idea that there is a type of outfit that makes one more likely to be assaulted and therefore, also a type of outfit that can protect someone from being assaulted, is dangerous & unfounded.”
Volume 1 Issue 2