There can be no excuse for sexual violence at anytime. The blame is so deep rooted. Women are always blamed for being the instigators. As little girls we are brought up in an environment which repeatedly tells us to be careful all the time. Women slowly learn to internalise the blame and feel guilty for even being violated.

 

Mukesh Singh, one of Nirbhaya’s rapists was interviewed as part of India's Daughter, a BBC Storyville documentary and his comments laid bare the actual social mindset that envelops India as a whole when it comes to giving rape victims justice.No one asks for the rape victim’s defence, all they want to know is a rapist’s defence for having done a heinous deed. 

 

Three comments by Mukesh Singh which were a stinging slap to our faces:

 

  • “Women who go out at night have only themselves to blame in case they attract attention of male molesters.”
  • “While being raped, she shouldn't have fought back. She should have just remained silent and allowed the rape.”
  • “A decent girl won't roam around at 9 o'clock at night. A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy is. Boys and girls are not equal. Housework and housekeeping is for girls, not roaming in discos and bars at night or wearing wrong clothes. About 20 per cent of girls are good.”

 

Two disturbing comments – ‘A woman is asking for rape when she goes out at night’ and ‘ A decent girl will not wear wrong clothes’ . Her presence at any place in the night is equivalent to an invitation of rape and her choice of clothes as well.

 

This what Blank Noise aims to disprove vehemently through their campaigns that speak volumes - I Never Ask For it (INFAI) and Walk Alone.

 

Blank Noise was founded by Jasmeen Patheja, in 2003. Speaking to Asianet Newsable, she told us more about  Never Ask For It which emphasises the truth that women are not asking to be raped and secondly, that ending victim blame is one of the most important steps towards eradicating sexual violence. The mission, when launched, was a response to street harassment but now is growing into an iterative campaign is now connecting spaces of violence and the attitudes of victim blaming that permeate spaces and at sexual harassment across interconnected spaces inhabited by women be it marriage, schools, courtrooms, police stations, buses, home workplace or others.

 

“When you warn, you blame. When you blame you justify violence. Women have a right to freedom from fear. To a life without warnings. There is no excuse for violence. Walk Alone, Meet To Sleep affirm that INAFI creates a safe space,” explains Jasmeen.

 

#INeverAskForIt is  aims to build testimonials through garments. Women are asked to send in testimonies of clothing worn at the time of experiencing sexual violence. The garment is memory, witness and voice. 10,000 garments will be installed in sites of public significance in 2019. Most survivors, women and girls can recall with precise details the clothes worn at the time of rape and it could be a school uniform, a saree or a pair of shorts.  

 

Walk Alone as the name suggests is campaign where women are being asked to walk alone to places they have never visited, or have been warned about. It is a move to reclaim women’s right to be public places at any time of the day or night and feel safe like the men can do.


Here is an example of what women have written in:

 

Action Hero Neha Khandelwal wrote on the Blank Noise Blog

Walking home from friend's place in Yelahanka 4th Phase, Bangalore at 10.30 pm

I have walked alone a few times in Yelahanka before but I have preferred to have male company accompany me. It is difficult to stop practising prevention when you have experienced street harassment all the time. This time when I took the walk I was really conscious of my surroundings. I did not even stop to take the picture because I did not want to stop. But I came across a family of 4, a mother with her two kids walking their dog and that immediately made me let go of my fear. I felt as if that is what was the solution. For women, children to occupy the roads, to make it the norm so that it does not stay an exception. Kudos to the women walking the streets in the night. I urge them to continue as will I,even though it still scares me!

 

 

BN has been committed to attitudinal change. Post 2012 they started looking at the interconnected of spaces of violence. “Safe City Pledge was launched in 2012 as a response to Delhi gang rape, every individual across gender and nationality has the capability to build a safe society. So this pledge dealt with people being asked what was the one thing they would do to make the city safe. Small steps can create a big change, what can you do as a doctor, as a brother, as a mother, as a policeman to make the city safe for women and others,” Jasmeen said on the nature of BN’s work, post Nirbhaya.

 

Here are some examples of pledges

 

Blank Noise is a community of Action Heroes and volunteers i.e. citizens and individuals who step in to create eradicate sexual and gender-based violence. Blank Noise community of Action Heroes is diverse. They are connected through varying degrees of personal experience. Action Heroes believe in their ability, capacity and power to influence a safe space. A small step can create a big change. Each person/ Action Hero has that potential.