History Is Proof That It Never Works Out When Women Like Sakshi Malik Speak Up, Yet We Do

Manya Ailawadi

Warning: The content in the article can be triggering to some. Reader discretion is advised.

I was ten when I was first groped by a man in a busy market. It was summer, and I was shopping with my mother for school supplies. It bothers me that there’s not only such a memory etched in me, but also how it holds a significant place in my life. The fact that ‘firsts’ include both good and bad things… the fact that one of my ‘firsts’ was THIS incident. With that, however, there’s also the memory of feeling helpless – I keep telling myself that I should’ve done something then. Last week, the internet was full of opinions on Sakshi Malik’s decision to quit wrestling, and it underscored what ‘doing something’ entails for women.


The visuals were terrifying: a man (the culprit) clearly enjoying the power and a woman having to quit her dream and work, because it’ll never be easy. But it has always been like that – women having to suffer the consequences of speaking up. Every time a woman comes forward and musters the courage to talk about abuse, she’s asked why she didn’t do it sooner. We do that often. We blame the victim, if not tell them how to be better victims. Historically, women who have spoken up or retaliated have rarely been favored or supported. I mean, when MLAs in our country use analogies of rape for antics and jokes, we can’t expect better.

When MeToo happened in India, a common discourse other than “these women could be lying” was, “These women should’ve acted before.” Then again, a more prominent conversation was how this impacts men who were falsely accused. I remember a comment by Asrani, the veteran actor. “All this is rubbish and ninety percent lies,” he had said. A country that only cares for its men can never be true to its women. After all, how can we trust a society whose first instinct is protecting its men? So, how can women possibly feel safe in coming forward? Simply put, why would you say anything if you know people won’t trust you?

This is the first layer of things. When Sakshi Malik announced that she quit wrestling, a number of people pointed out that it was more political than a fight for justice. They said that the federation wouldn’t elect a president based on choices of a few women. We not only missed the point of all of it, but also managed to disrespect all these women in the same breath. Something that has always been there. First, there was this assumption that women would be safer at home – at that time this was the excuse to not give women enough chances. Even now that women have some autonomy, history presents itself in the darkest of ways by taking it away from them.

Sakshi had said in a press conference, “If Brij Bhushan Singh’s business partner and a close aide is elected as the president of WFI, (then) I quit wrestling.” Which is exactly the point. Brijbhushan Sharan Singh was accused of sexual harassment when he served as the president of the Wrestling Federation of India. So when the wrestlers filed complaints, protested or ‘said something’, they exposed themselves to a harsher reality already. It is indeed a harsh choice, and in-turn a scarier truth. When women do come forward they already know that they will be questioned, demeaned, and their limits will be pushed – with little to no hope for justice. So when we do take a stand it’s because we know it’s the right thing to do. Why some women do not do it or take time is because they know the repercussions could only worsen things. In a nutshell, this makes more sense practically.

There was this episode in Brooklyn Nine-Nine, called ‘He Said, She Said’. A woman who was assaulted in the workplace was asked to report the incident which she knew would backfire. When she decided to do it anyway, she had to quit her job because the firm had started to exclude her from major projects and responsibilities. Reporting assault and crimes of abuse is never easy to begin with – society reminds us that every step of the way. Workplaces can easily pose women as liabilities when they do report such incidents.


For someone like Brij Bhushan Singh, it’s easier to get away with no repercussions. In most cases, a man in power wouldn’t even be held accountable, even if he is, it won’t take much time for to climb the ladder. For women, it has always been harder. If women choose to come forward, they’re asked not to go to work to keep themselves safe. Even when families show some support, the world doesn’t function the same way.

The truth of things is that it never ends well if and when women open up about incidents of abuse. Eventually it all hurts us as much as the incident, if not more. Generations of women have witnessed it, and we still witness similar reactions to it. The thing is, we learn from the past, and we learn from the present – but when your past looks a lot like today, there’s very little hope left.


We keep saying how all women have witnessed and suffered abuse of some form, which is a sad sad reality. However, we almost never think of what it has managed to do to each one of us. The repercussions of abuse and harassment have never been addressed, and it’s sad that that hasn’t changed – out of all the things that don’t change for women.

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