n 12 March, a group of intoxicated men dragged a 23-year-old woman out of her cab at 2.45am in front of the Gurgaon's plush Sahara mall, and raped her at an undisclosed location. This and several other cases of sexual assault on women are reported everyday in newspapers and media channels. Infuriated and frustrated by this rising crime rate, a group of women in Gurgaon have launched Gurgaon Girlcott, a protest to combat the dangers posed to women.
"Initially, it was my outrage after reading the Gurgaon administration's limited reaction to the Sahara mall gang rape. While I understand that the deputy commissioner was invoking an existing law, it still seemed too little too late. And what fed into the girlcott was the question 'What can we do beyond just protest this? Is there something that we can do to create pressure beyond a demonstration?'" says Richa Dubey, a communication consultant, who came up with the idea.
Scheduled from 13-15 April, the girlcott targeted the private sector, and urged women to not spend money on the weekends. The demonstration on Friday evening at galleria Market was accompanied by various NGOs including Let's Walk Gurgaon, a drumming session by the Gurgaon Drum Circle, a street play, Dastak: an awareness campaign against atrocities on women by Asmita theater group and a performance by well-known violinist Sharat Chandra Srivastava.
But instead of mall owners and private merchandisers, should the protest not be against the city administration? "No, because Gurgaon was founded on commerce. Most of the development here is private. The ratio of police to private security in Gurgaon is some 3,500 to 1,50,000. And even then, the attitudes of the law enforcement agencies are shameful. Women's safety is a collective responsibility. By girlcotting expenditure, we are also hitting the administration which loses out on excise. The very fact that we are protesting in this manner should hit the administration as well," Dubey explains.
She further adds that Gurgaon Girlcott is a wake-up call to say that "we can and will exercise our right to safety peacefully and constitutionally. And our way of doing that is saying 'no safety – no money'."
||Gurgaon was founded on commerce. Most of the development here is private. By girlcotting expenditure, we are also hitting the administration which loses out on excise.
— Richa Dubey
"We've been told that no one is ever 'directly to blame'. Not the women who question women on their behaviour and blame them for getting molested and harassed, or the police which asks you degrading and irrelevant questions instead of taking your report factually and correctly, or even the shopkeepers or mall owners who turn a blind-eye to what happens just outside their premises because it's 'not their job or responsibility'. So I have just one question — whose responsibility is it then and why are they not fulfilling it? It is not merely by non-participation in harassment that you are absolved from responsibility. Turning a blind eye makes you equally culpable," says Dubey.
For Sehba Imam, founder of Let's Walk Gurgaon, a local hobby walkers' group which has been protesting the recent rape case, the Girlcott is a much needed initiative. "As citizens of Gurgaon, we need to make it liveable. So, we joined in and asked people to join us in our march to provide safety and security to the women in Gurgaon," says Imam, who has been living in Gurgaon for close to a decade now.