By Nita Bhalla
NEW DELHI, Aug 8 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Hundreds of women in India have taken to social media to post selfies of themselves out at midnight with the hashtag #AintNoCinderella after a senior politician questioned why a women, who was reportedly stalked, was out at night.
The 29-year-old woman from the northern city of Chandigarh in Haryana state said she was followed and almost kidnapped by two men who pursued her car as she drove home in the early hours of Saturday.
The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said one of the men is the son of a prominent politician from Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Haryana.
But while police arrested the politician's son and his friend, registered a complaint against them and released them on bail, the BJP's vice chief in Haryana has blamed the victim for being out late -- triggering a backlash on Twitter.
"The girl should not have gone out at 12 in the night. Why was she driving so late in the night?" BJP state vice president Ramveer Bhatti told a local television station on Monday.
Twitter was flooded with women posting pictures of themselves outside their homes at night, mocking Bhatti and condemning his remarks which they said were shaming victims instead of supporting them.
"If I'm out at 12 am, it DOES NOT mean I'm to be raped, molested, chased. My dignity is my right 24X7. #AintNoCinderella," tweeted Sharmistha Mukherjee, a politician from the opposition Congress Party, with a picture of her in the dark.
"Dear regressive India, I will do as I please, night or day. Don't ever think you have the right to stop me #AintNoCinderella," wrote another user with the twitter handle @queenpsays, along with a picture of her in jeans in a red top.
BARRAGE OF THREATS
Indian women face a barrage of challenges ranging from child marriage, dowry killings and human trafficking to rape and domestic violence, largely due to deep-rooted attitudes that view them as inferior to men.
There were 327,394 reports of violence against women such as rape, molestation, abduction and cruelty by husbands in 2015, up more than 40 percent from 2011, according to the latest data from India's National Crime Records Bureau.
The high-profile gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman on a moving bus in Delhi in December 2012 sent shockwaves across India and led to countrywide protests, forcing the government to enact stiffer penalties for rape and criminalising stalking.
The incident over the weekend hit the headlines on Sunday after the victim, who is a professional radio disc jockey, posted an account of her ordeal on her Facebook page.
"I was in a full-blown panic attack by now because they would keep trying to corner me, and I'd somehow manoeuvre my way out and keep moving," she wrote, describing how the men pursued her, blocked her vehicle and tried to open her car door.
"My hands shaking, my back spasming from fear, half in tears, half bewildered, because I didn't know if I'd make it home tonight."
(Reporting by Nita Bhalla @nitabhalla, Editing by Astrid Zweynert @azweynert. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.