A motley crowd of men and women gathered near Bengaluru city railway station, braving the evening chill, and marched to Freedom Park to highlight the need for safe public spaces for women
As millions of women marched in Washington DC on January 21 to ensure that US President Donald Trump does not take women’s rights lightly, there were sister marches across the USA and the rest of the world.
In India, the #IWillGoOut marches were held in various cities across the country – Kolkata, Puducherry, Bhopal and Silchar, to name a few.
There was a sense of positivity among the motley crowd that had gathered in Bengaluru braving the notoriously sluggish evening traffic and evening chill. The group started from the city railway station and walked a few kilometres to Freedom Park, the venue which symbolically matched the aspirations of the group.
There was a sense of satisfaction at being able to vent out some of the cumulative frustration felt after the mass molestation that took place in the heart of Bengaluru on New Year’s Eve and sent shock waves across the country.
YourStory spoke to Sherein, one of the participants of the march, trying to understand her reasons for joining the event. She pointed to her dress, an outfit of modest length with the hem reaching below her knees, and explained, “I almost decided not to wear this dress since I was stepping out of home alone and opted for a pair of jeans and top instead. But then I decided to wear this rarely worn outfit since I felt today was the best day to stop second-guessing what we girls should wear and where we should go.”
In a society where victim blaming is rampant, women still find it tough to stop second-guessing every little thing they do and get out of the censuring themselves mode.
The IWGO march was, therefore, a timely initiative to raise awareness about fair and equitable access to public spaces by women and other marginalised communities. The Bengaluru event was organised by a group of individuals affiliated to various organisations. Divya Titus, Soumya Bhat, Tara Krishnaswamy, Priyanka Srinivasa, and Ramkishan Singh are some of the names who painstakingly organised the march. Organisations like Blank Noise, Vimochana, Fearless Collective, and Jhatkaa lent their support to the march.
The event in Freedom Park saw book and poetry readings, music, and was a platform for women to talk about their experiences and hopes for a safer city.
Tara Krishnaswamy, one of the organisers, said:
“After much running from pillar to post, #IWIllGoOut Bengaluru Chapter was able to secure police permission for the first march of 2017 for women in Bengaluru. A group of policemen and women were there with us to ensure we felt completely safe.”
Ruth Manorama, renowned Dalit and Women's activist, Dr. Corinne Kumar, founder of Vimochana, Jasmin Patheja of Blank Noise, actor Suman Nagarkar, renowned journalist and author Ammu Joseph spoke at the event. Performances by musician and graphic designer Bindhumalini helped maintain the tempo as the day melded into dusk, and lights twinkled around the venue.
Poems of Kabir, excerpts from The Vagina Monologues, which spoke of the sexual violence that is often a part of being a woman and a light-hearted but meaningful talk about the Indian obsession with fair skin and dislike of ‘dusky’ skin tones, were some of the themes that were explored by the participants.
In such an atmosphere of hope and positivity, this YourStory reporter found herself daring to dream of safer cities becoming a reality for women.