So, who do public places belong to? The sheer absurdity of this question would have most of us taken aback and the answer ‘of course to everyone’ would be ringing inside one’s head. Even though one cannot deny that by basic definition of the term public places belong to everyone, whether or not women are yet taken into the ambit of ‘everyone’ is a question waiting to be answered.

While there are barely any public places women are barred from inhabiting, their safety at such places is questionable. Even the most educated and forward among us take to blaming or finding a way to blame the women when it comes to cases of molestation and rape. To be honest, just how many among us can say that we have never ever raised a question around what time it was when a woman was attacked and what was she even doing out this late? Now, how many among us have ever asked men the same question? The answers to both the questions is, ironically enough, rarely any. This is the exact situation that movements like WhyLoiter and GirlsatDhabas have set out to change,and the IWillGoOut hashtag has joined them in the objective.

What initiatives like this seek to achieve is to reclaim public places for women and to normalize the fact that women, just like men, need not be out on the streets only with an aim in head and that everybody has the right to be out on the road at any point in time. The aim is to reinforce the fact that women too can choose to simply loiter aimlessly on streets and other public places, just the way men have done all this while.

Women’ groups are planning nationwide rallies on 21st January to protest against the incidents of molestation in Bengaluru and other parts of the country. The protests are meant to coincide with the ‘Million Women March’ in Washington on the same date.
While incidents of molestation and rape are disgusting to begin with, what makes them worse to deal with are the statements made by politicians and public figures after the incidents. Statements like ‘ladkon se galtiyaan ho jaati hai’ take away the little bit of hope that one has in the fact that society’s victim blaming attitude might someday change.

IWillGoOut and WhyLoiter are the kind of movements that are very much the need of the hour and the only delusional hope we can hang on to in terms of society becoming a better place for women. Women having to reclaim their right to public places is enough to show how daft society becomes when women’s basic rights are at the center of the discussion, and hence IWillGoOut is a valid demand to make.