A sexist comment from a Toronto police officer has sparked off an international protest. With the Delhi SlutWalk expected to be held next month, we bring you a breakdown of the controversially-named march that's been making headlines and diving opinion
If you see a procession of women, carrying placards that make tongue-in-cheek proclamations of being a slut on Delhi's roads next month, it is because they'll be participating in the India chapter of SlutWalk, a protest march that originated in Toronto, Canada on April 11, and has since moved to London, Chicago, and Sydney, among other cities. The SlutWalk Because We've Had Enough, originated in response to a statement made by a Toronto Police representative on January 24. He said, "Women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimised".
Outraged women and men decided to protest to make a statement about how sexual assault is not related to how they are dressed, and to reinforce the fact that women cannot be held responsible for the violence they face. The Toronto chapter of the movement says, "The Toronto Police have perpetuated the myth and stereotype of 'the slut' ¦ With sexual assault already an under-reported crime, survivors have now been given even less of a reason to go to the police, for fear that they could be blamed. Using a pejorative term to rationalise inexcusable behaviour creates an environment in which it's okay to blame the victim."
Delhi, notorious for being one the country's most unsafe places for women, hopes to take the movement forward and reclaim women's right to wear and act as they please without being judged. Originally slated for June 25, the protest has been pushed to July by organisers to rope in more supporters and create more time for organisation.
Criticism has poured in from many quarters though, as some find this exhibitionism problematic. Lawyer and social media consultant Sanjukta Basu says on her blog (sanjukta.wordpress.com), the average Delhi groper might actually be titillated by the walk and sexually assault the women he meets after. "This campaign will create a class divide within the feminist movement, because it is not inclusive. It is meant for a niche group of urban, English speaking upper class girls. Call this same campaign a Randi Morcha and very few girls would join it. If it's about reclaiming a word, let's reclaim the more common words," she says, over email.
"You take a message to the streets so that the common people get it. If you carry posters about something they don't understand, they simply will not get any message."
To know more visit slutwalktoronto.com
The guys give their verdict
Kushal Kumar Brahma, 24, engineer, East Delhi resident
"Yes, I have heard about the SlutWalk and I'm all for it. I think it's a great cause. Yes, it may not make a big difference, as critics say, but it's a good idea to talk about the issue and such proactive efforts need to be encouraged."
Akshay Raj, 30, stockbroker, Andheri resident
"I'm not sure if the walk will work in Delhi, because the average pervert there will ogle at the women instead of reforming his ways. At the same time, it's a way to talk about the issue, which is great. If the walk were taking place in Mumbai, which is far more sensitised to women and hosts a number of women who travel to work every day and are not afraid to fight back, it would make more sense."
Nikhil Udupa, 27, digital brand manager, Oshiwara resident
"I don't think the walk will achieve anything. It seems like a misguided attempt at proving something that doesn't need to be proven. Making a public spectacle out of a serious issue trivialises it. Instead, I'd rather we focus on better safety and security, and on changing the mindsets of people targeting women."
Also read: SlutWalk could be the start to a solution