Eat my chaddis man

What’s the proper response to nasty and violent attacks on women who were daring to go to a bar and drink with their friends? A demonstration? Letter writing campaign? Call for police investigations?

Amnesty regularly uses all these old favourites but we’re always open to new campaign tactics – for example sending the offender your pants, which is exactly what a group of Indian women and men are doing.

Following the attack on women drinkers in a bar, which made headlines last month after it was filmed and broadcast on TV, women in India are fighting back by getting organised on Facebook, collecting pants and sending them to the leader of the rightwing vigilante group responsible for the attack for Valentine’s Day, something else he doesn’t like.

This is excellent, and in so many ways the best response to a group who would restrict women’s freedoms given the opportunity. But it also draws our attention to the fact that in India women ‘who would be free’ are facing resistance from many quarters. In Delhi the gang rape of a college student and the arrest of her alleged attackers has sparked outrage and some say highlighted the enormous differences between so-called urban and rural dwellers. While the residents of the upmarket suburb where the attack happened are outraged and want to see the perpetrators brought to justice, others who live in the village the alleged perpetrators come from, which is on the suburb’s fringes, are reportedly angry about the way young city women behave, and deny that a crime as serious as rape can have happened.

And it’s not only in India that such anger over women’s behaviour exists. A truly disturbing incident took place last week in sierra leone – four women journalists who had been conducting interviews about female genital mutilation (FGM) were kidnapped and then at least one of them forcibly stripped and forced to walk through the streets. This ‘punishment’ was perpetrated by women members of a ‘secret society’which practises FGM.

Why this violence against women who challenge restrictions on their freedom? Because there is enormous fear from those opposed to women’s equality that if women and girls are able to do what they want – to socialise with each other and with men they are not married to, to choose their own partners, to drink alcohol, to keep their bodies unmutilated and have the possibility of sexual pleasure – then all of society will collapse. There will be chaos.

While this battle for freedom rages we will see more violent responses. We will respond with every tactic available – including collecting and mailing our knickers.

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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