I used to take the DTC bus to go to college, and it was a nightmare! Men pushed against me and tried to grope me. I can still feel the rage and humiliation!
I saw the 2010 Egyptian movie 678, written and directed by Mohamed Diab, recently on Netflix. It was a throwback to my college years in Delhi. The controversial movie is about the sexual harassment faced by women in Egypt in public places.
It took me back to 1982-85, when I used to commute for two hours in a crowded Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) bus to go to college. How can I forget the daily molestation that thousands of college girls like me endured in our bus trip to Delhi University? I can still feel the rage and humiliation.
My daily commute was a nightmare, like Fayza in ‘678’
One of the three protagonists in the movie is a lower income woman, Fayza Maksoud, who works as a clerk and has to commute by bus no. 678 each day to work. The journey is a nightmare for her as she is groped and molested in the crowded bus. Neither her head scarf, nor the baggy clothes she wears make any difference.
Fayza joins a class that teaches women to defend themselves against sexual harassment. That’s when she becomes a vigilante. She starts piercing the men who molest her in the bus in their genitals with a veil pin or some other sharp object. In one dialogue, she asks: “Everyday I ride the bus and everyday I get harassed. How, after all that, do you want me to be rational?”
The movie depicts how such crimes are hushed up as it is a question of ‘honour’. The girls and women are made to feel ashamed, instead of being urged to report the incident to the police and seek justice. Also, young men are rarely chastised by their family members for molesting women.
I can still feel the rage and humiliation!
678 is about how the film’s three woman protagonists decide to take the matter into their own hands. “I made this film to break the silence of women,” Diab has said. “The short term solution for sexual harassment is that women should not feel ashamed when they get harassed and should speak out.”
How this movie resonated with me! It took me back to 1982-85, when I used to commute for two hours in a crowded Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) bus to go to college. On countless occasions when I had to stand, men would push themselves against me and try to grope me. Because of the crowd, it was sometimes difficult to know who the perpetrator was. If I could make out, I remember glaring at the person and trying to move away.
Sad to say I did not have the gumption to create a ruckus in the bus. Nor did anyone – male or female – speak up for me or any of the other girls/women who were being molested in buses on a daily basis.
Have things changed for women?
The horrific 2012 ‘Nirbhaya’ gang rape and murder brought the issue of rape on a Delhi bus into the spotlight. But have things really changed for women in buses and on the streets, not just in Delhi, but across the country?
Lack of respect for women in a patriarchal, misogynistic society and sexual frustration of men are the reasons behind this harassment. Blaming women for how they dress or for exercising their freedom in any other way is the typical regressive reaction.
I have not lived in Delhi for many years. I hope that in the past 36 years, things have improved for women in the national capital. One heartening piece of news: According to a 2019 news report, when a woman was molested in a DTC bus, co-passengers come to her rescue. The perpetrator was caught and handed over to the police and booked for molestation and assault. Some light at the end of a very dark tunnel!
Now things have changed and women have started carrying self defense tools like devil will cry self defense spray from www.devilwillcry.com .
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