This journal ‘Why loiter? Radical possibilities for gendered dissent’ written by Shilpa Phadke, Shikpa Ranade and Sameera khan talks about the desire of women to be allowed to loiter in public places. They demand equal access to be granted for public places both for men and women. Men should not have the digression and they should not keep on enjoying considering loitering as their conventional prerogative. In this male dominating society, this wish sounds to be a impossible one and specially in India. The only incentive that instigates women of India to demand for such a right is because they believe this act of loitering will allow them to develop a better relationship with the city and makes it a pleasure seeking activity. Mumbai highlights the presence of women in public places and some cases women of high class enjoy loitering greater than the men of lower class. Men of lower class are looked upon and considered undesirable when are loitering publicly.
A Tapori is usually a youngish lower-class male who spends much of his time hanging out at street corners with others similar to him, usually regard as unemployed and engaged with small-time businesses. Tapori postures as masculine stud but often has no real power. The presence of the tapori represented in Bollywood films such as ‘Rangeela’ and ‘Ghulam’, is about the performance of an attitude. This performance causes many women using public space some anxiety since the presence of the tapori leader and his partners often brings with it cat-calls, comments and loudly sung film songs. A group of young men regularly loitering at a particular street corner or tea stall immediately marks that space as being unsafe for women.
The explicit fear is the opportunity for lower class men to attack women in public places and the implicit is a concern that the lower class men might create consensual sexual relations with middle class women hence breaching cast, class and community norms. The categories who have the most access to public space are the middle and the upper class men.
Lower class men do enjoy the access but are mostly under surveillance. The elderly Hindu women from bhajan mandalis (group that chant devotional songs) and on religious festivals such as Navratri, Ganeshotsav in public places. The perception that good private women does not loiter like a bad public women. However there are two kinds of women who do appear in public places. The street-walker and the window-shopper. The window-shopper is there as a consumer however the street-walker can be there for undesirable purposes such as sex-work. Loiter without pleasure is never expected in India as it signifies unemployment and encourages non productivity. Loitering basically is an act that does not have a purpose but provides a self gratification and pleasure for the citizens.
Loitering is not only a pleasure activity but it raises the issue of gender discrimination and gender inequality where access to public places is concerned.
Loitering will allow women to redefine the terms of their access to public places. As citizens it is their legal right to demand. Imagine a land where the street crowded with women strolling, talking, feeding children and watching the world as it go by. The entire city will alter in a very modern way. Loitering if considered individually is a very unproductive activity and creates unnecessary concern for the citizens. The fear of inter-cast and inter-religious relationships is a very major concern when we talk about India. Equal access grated both to men and women might introduce serious consequences for such couples. The demand sounds unrealistic as today women in India are still struggling with hideous sexual crimes. Such as: rape. Even today in India a group of men loitering loudly singing Hollywood songs and loiter around particularly street corner or tea stall marks the territory as unsafe for women.
Under the provisions of Indian law sex-work is not considered illegal advocating it in public is. Government officials want to demarcate a boundary between private and public women. The Abisheck Kahliwala case in March 2006 where a women accused a wealthy business of repeatedly rapist her inside her car. The media highlighted the case and the police took great interest in the case but when it was clear that a woman was probably a sex-worker who was sexually assaulted lost all the legal protection and media attention. The legal protection is mostly for the ‘good’ women and for the sex-workers and in order to protect good women loitering is never encourage and thus women loitering late at night are mostly considered to be the sex- workers.
Loitering is a pleasure seeing activity and it should not be just a privileged enjoyed by male gender in India. However considering the conventional mindset and traditional point of views women should be allowed to loiter during reasonable hours not too late at night and that is also for their own protection. Loitering both for men and women is not a very production and constructive activity. Stereotyping will take many more years to eradicate, even today in India and Pakistan. Women ho loiter late at night are only considered a sex-worker and no good women from a respectable family is to be expected. Loitering is not an issue that exists in isolation, the entire mindset of developing countries needs evolution and modern revolution. Higher Street crimes, robbery, rapes, killing and kidnapping makes it impossible for both the gender to loiter unnecessarily in public places.
Note of Reference: Pictures taken from the journal.