Posted By Archa Renu
I’m a student doing my fourth year of law school in Kerala. Kerala, as most of you might know is right on top when it comes to literacy and Human Development Index. Above all this, we pride ourselves when it comes to gender equality. All this is until you have to personally engage in a conversation with any of the government employees or law enforcement officers. I’m writing this, because I recently endured a traumatic experience at the state capital, Trivandrum. It was when a drunk man decided to catcall me and pass lewd comments, while I was travelling with my friend. I’ve had my fair share of catcalling, and this was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I chased his vehicle and took him to the traffic police stationed nearby.
As I was recounting the incident, the assaulter started threatening me with physical assault. The traffic police officer did absolutely nothing. Instead, he tone-policed me. Other officers had now arrived and the culprit started narrating a completely different story based on the “she was asking for it” narrative. Do remember, this is all taking place in broad daylight in the busiest part of the city. I was directed to meet them at the police station as they took the culprit into custody. Upon arrival at the police station, I could see just one lady officer minding her own affairs. I had to speak to male officers about the whole incident. Suffice to say, they did everything in their power to see something was done about this.
I left the station feeling unsafe and alone and the scariest part is, I know I am not the only one. There are many women complainants facing the same issues.
The whole time, not a single person asked me if I’m alright. I was asked to sit in a corner and draft a written complaint. As I was leaving the station after the whole ordeal, the dreadful sight I saw was other police officers engaging in a nonchalant conversation with this drunk man who had just been accused of sexual harassment and verbal assault. I could hear him telling them a completely fabricated story again. When I intervened, they started shouting at me. After this whole debacle, the officers seen talking to him was downright hostile and passive aggressive towards me. One of them even tried to character assassinate me before I left asking me a lot of uncomfortable personal questions that in no way helped our case.
When I was finally leaving, the accused man looked at me and shouted, “I WANT THE GIRLS NAME AND ADDRESS!” in front of all the officers, not a single law enforcement officer reacted. They asked me to leave when I turned around to react. I reported the incident hoping I would feel safer, instead I left the station feeling more scared and alone. I had to summon up all the courage I had to step into the police station alone even after numerous incidents of alleged police negligence and victim blaming only to see the police officers making small talk nonchalantly with my abuser.
I always wondered why women just won’t report sexual crimes. I understood the plight of women complainants.
When people whose very duty is to protect the citizens, fail to do the basic minimum, who do I turn to? I am writing this as I genuinely do not know. I am a woman who lives alone, I left the station feeling unsafe and alone and the scariest part is, I know I am not the only one. There are many women complainants facing the same issues. My friend was asked if she “learnt her lesson” when she reported sexual abuse by a stranger. The lesson being not walking alone at night. I do not know if this will fall on deaf ears, I certainly hope not. Even after bragging about numerous police reforms in Kerala, there seems to be a gray area when it comes to women victims. We are asking for the bare minimum here.
The police thought this was a trivial case, maybe it was; for them. But, it wasn’t trivial for me, a 22-year-old woman living alone, threatened twice by a man in the presence of law enforcement officials. I just want to come home safe and not worry about someone attacking or murdering me. I always wondered why women just won’t report sexual crimes. I got my answer two days ago from the capital of the so-called progressive state that prides itself in gender equality. I understood the plight of women complainants. The police ought to take a more professional and ethical approach especially when we have one of the highest crime rates, 10% of which is against women. Kerala Police, your internalised misogyny is showing.
Archa is a fourth-year law student keen on pursuing human rights and criminal justice law after graduation.
Featured Image Source: Mathrubhumi English