No means no, in Paris or Delhi

But a woman's sexual autonomy is respected in one city, and disregarded in the other

Delhi, our capital, also has the dubious distinction of being India's number one rape city. Women are molested and raped with almost clockwork regularity, the latest being the gangrape in a moving vehicle. So, while most Delhi-ites are eating, watching television, sleeping or just going dully about their humdrum lives, there is a woman out there who is struggling to scream and fight off a group of men who await their turn to satisfy their lust.

I lived in Delhi most of my life. I've had my breast squeezed by a passing cyclist who pedalled off at a frenetic Tour de France pace afterwards, been groped in crowds, felt a guy's erection as he pressed against me in a DTC bus, had a man spit a mouthful of bright red paan on me, been the target of many a lewd remark or gesture. In India, we even have a term for this kind of behaviour, "eve teasing". But that was then, Delhi in the 1970s.

Delhi of the 21st century is different. Now, as traditional, patriarchal "won't let my wife/ daughter work" attitudes are slowly dissolving, more and more women are joining the work force, working late hours, even the graveyard shift. Women are thankfully no longer confined to their homes but are earning a living alongside men, commuting to and from work in autos and public transport. The new, young, urban Indian woman goes out to malls, movies, parties, on her own or with her boyfriend; is more sexually liberated, lives in a flat-share or maybe even has a live-in relationship. She is on her way to becoming an equal partner and financially independent. She is acquiring a voice at last.

But all this, of course, makes women more visible, more accessible. And there's a new breed of frustrated men out there that feel they're entitled to help themselves to a slice of the cake. The "cake" being this new Indian woman who is smart, who dresses as she likes, who works late and plays till even later, who is independent and doesn't give this kind of macho, uncouth male a second glance. So, what's a guy to do? He has to go out and get what he wants by force. But coward that he is, he does not dare do it alone. He ropes in a few buddies. Numbers lend enchantment to the game.

... contd.

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