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It was half past ten in the night and I was in a bus, staring blankly at the cold and bleak night sky. The bus halted at a place unknown to me and my co-passenger was awaken by the sudden brake applied by the driver. As I tried to peep through the window to trace the location, my co-passenger drew my attention to a “strange” (her word) sight.

There was this tall, slender, fair girl with perfectly straight brunette hair, dressed in a short skirt and a top with stilettos adorning her feet. Given the youthful stage of life she was in, it’s easy to predict her being a regular follower of a good fashion magazine and hence, ‘that’ gorgeous makeup.

So, what was “strange” here???

Advancing a theory nowhere close to that of a scientific one, my co-passenger, a woman, proceeded to state - “There’re three things which are strange. A girl, her gorgeous getup, and the timing. When all the world is sleeping, why the hell is ‘she’ awake and on the road with such loud colors and clothes? Hence, she is “obviously” ‘inviting’ rapists”.

After recovering from a state of absolute shock, that I had receded into, following this insight into the ‘strange theory’, I couldn’t resist but question my fellow passenger - “what would you say for a man who chooses to dress according to the current trends and walks on the road after hours past midnight? What possibly is he trying to invite?”. To this, she replied - “Why would a man invite anything ever? Clothes or time aren’t factors that a man has to worry about”.

Look at the pace, propensity, and plausibility of one woman’s argument where she very simply predicts another woman to ‘be inviting’ solely on the basis of her own ‘strange’ definition of what is ‘strange’. I personally neither know either of these women nor their occupations/lifestyles but all I see is a very crude and contrasting parameter used to give a ‘character certificate’ to different genders in the same situation. The same loud clothes, the same dark, late hours, the same desolate road but different genders and hence, one becomes ‘inviting’ and the other has nothing to worry about.

To me, the ‘strangest’ thing here is the venue. It is Bhubaneswar, the ‘capital city’ of Odisha (a state in India) and the “1st smart city of India”. Is this how you expect ‘smart’ people to think and speak?? Or, is this how urban dwellers react to a woman’s choice of dressing ‘her very own self’? On a personal note, I am a ‘complete stranger’ to this ‘ultra modern and urban’ mindset, cultivated in ‘cheap and degraded’ thinking, which is so fundamentally judgemental and orthodoxic (and to a degree, raises a caveat against women’s liberty and rights).

Not only do some people say that the way a woman chooses to dress may be ‘inviting’ but also the way a ‘woman’ chooses to walk, stand, talk, sit, or gesture may be and mostly is, perceived as ‘inviting’. If a woman puts her hand on the shoulder of a ‘friend’, who is of the opposite sex, then, ‘they’ say, she is ‘inviting’ other guys to have the same expectations too. If one guy could earn the trust of a woman to be her friend then, why do all that ‘a few’ other guys perceive is sexual invitation? It is “actually” all in the mind.

Also, let’s for one second consider that she has chosen a particular guy to be her ‘sexual companion’ then, what makes other guys feel entitled to the same kind of liberty and/or to comment/touch her inappropriately? It’s an individual’s personal choice - who s/he would like to share her/his personal/intimate space with but one’s expectation or choice also do not oblige the other party to agree to share the same level of intimacy with the former. It does and always will matter because for any social relationship to be called legitimate and uncoerced, there should and must be ‘consensus ad idem’. As the Greater Manchester Police had stated in an ad they’d put on Twitter: ’Drinking is not illegal. Rape is. It doesn’t matter what she’s wearing, how much she’s had to drink or whether you’ve kissed . . . sex without consent is rape. ‘If she’s too drunk to consent she hasn’t given it. #NoConsentNoSex.’ That’s the message we need to put forward in the 21st century, making it plain that a victim is not the cause of her own violation.

Recently an opinion piece on a news site said: “You may slip on the road if it is wet! Will you then blame the road because it is wet?” Then we had the opportunity to hear Abu Azmi, who said, “And if there is sugar, ants will come automatically to it.”

In that case, if invitation is all that you need to be sexually harassed or exploited then, what about the men who choose to pee in the public? What do they intend to ‘invite’? Uh oh, the scales of justice remain imbalanced with the ‘gender biased definition of inviting gesture’ where a man invites absolutely nothing even if he pees in the public and a woman invites rapists and perverts even if she is in a burqa. Similarly, if invitation is all that is required to get sexually abused then what about the little kids who get raped at ages as early as 5? How do you possibly think they ‘invite’ rapists? By their innocence? Paedophiles, perverts, and rapists do not need any invitation. It is the sign of a sick mind and sunken morals. All they need is psychiatric help, not invitation.

It’s, therefore, ludicrous to look at such a serious issue through the lens of triviality. So, think before you apply irrelevant ‘wild/inanimate’ principles to the ‘human’ world. (If you don’t know then, women are also humans!)

One more allegation that one would frequently come across is “because some girls wear revealing clothes, they ‘invite’ troubles for other girls too”. If one girl contaminates the mind and morals of a guy and hence, makes other girls vulnerable then, the many ‘gentlemen’ who, despite not knowing the many ladies around them, regularly hold doors for women, leave seats for ladies during transit, or even better, offer protection to a vulnerable woman, must be able to inspire at least one man. But that doesn’t happen practically. Why?

Because you “chose” to resist the ‘invitation to learn etiquettes’, but “chose” to succumb to the temptation to look for hallucinated sexual invitations. Hence, determine to be conscientious and eliminate your overwhelmingly fallacious desire to look for sexual invitations anywhere and everywhere.

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