A disclosure at the beginning… no, this column is not about Tarun Tejpal; l’affaire Tejpal has been covered to death by the media, raising serious questions on whether this country has no other serious issues to debate or report on.

But it does have a link to that sordid saga in the amazing courage, not to mention consistency, shown by the young journalist who was sexually assaulted by her boss. In hindsight, the consequences that her decision to lodge a formal complaint with her organisation unleashed, are mind-boggling. This is in complete contrast to the nonsense that women have suffered for long decades, not only at the workplace, but in their very homes.

This weekend I spent some time with a 50-year-old Malayali woman — I mention the State because Kerala is supposed to be a matrilineal society — who reiterated how unsafe the home environment is for many girl children. And how women of her generation had to suffer in silence attempts to molest them. Both of us agreed that the recent spate of events, beginning with the gang rape of the young student of physiotherapy in Delhi last December and her response, are clearly forming a pattern which suggests that Indian women, specially the younger ones, have said ‘enough is enough’. They will no longer take nonsense from either the work environment or the society at large. And, hence, the young journalist who was gang-raped in Mumbai’s Shakti Mills compound decided to straightaway file a complaint with the police.

A dialogue begins

But after the Goa incident, a dialogue — mostly serious but sometimes salacious, bordering even on contemptuous — has begun, at least in corporate India, on what is permissible and what is a strict no-no when it comes to male behaviour with female colleagues. Indian men are slowly waking up to the fact that their female colleagues will no longer suffer sexual harassment in silence. They did so all these years because, invariably, the male club came together surreptitiously in bonhomie to sideline or punish the odd woman who dared to complain. But that might change, and significantly, the lead has been give by women in their early 20s, and this includes the law intern who had the gumption to complain against a former Supreme Court judge.

Call it the recklessness of youth or the supreme confidence that armed with equally good education, talent and intellect, there is no reason why women should take any harassment from the other gender, however senior or powerful the perpetrator. These young women are blazing a new trail. Standing up to be counted and, in a dramatic way, changing the essence of the debate that it is not the woman who is molested, assaulted or raped who should feel ashamed, as has been the sickening cliché in Indian movies for a century. Countless men, who have harassed women at the office, and got away with it, should be quaking in their boots about the grave consequences if their crimes of yore were pulled out, dusted and placed for public scrutiny and punishment.

Jarring, ironic

That is why it appeared so jarring and ironic that while arguing against Tejpal’s bail in Goa, the defence lawyer told mediapersons that he had opposed the bail because “this is a very serious offence which has virtually ruined the life of a young girl”.

Excuse me, but the kind of exemplary courage this “young girl” has displayed does not leave room for such defeatist phraseology or dialogue. And women should vehemently oppose the heavily clichéd stance, actually utter rubbish, propagated by eminently forgettable Indian films that a woman who has been raped has “lost all, and has nothing more to lose”.

Returning to the 50-year-old woman, she recalled how as a 10-year-old girl, being a Papa’s baby, she would always sleep near her father. “I was tall for my age and on many occasions when there were uncles around, I would wake up and shout in the night finding one of their hands running up my skirt. My father would immediately put his hand on my mouth.”

The same response came from her mother when she’d complain to her, but fortunately for this child, the mother ensured that during family get-togethers, the child remained with the women at night. “I know for sure that this goes on in many families, but unfortunately the girls are never allowed to complain; this is always hushed up, for whatever reason.”

Well, that “reason” in some families could have been the mother’s inferior status for belonging to the wrong gender. Or because she simply didn’t want to expose the murky deeds of a brother, brother-in-law or an uncle. Thanks to this unforgivable cover-up by hundreds, if not thousands, of mothers, generations of women have grown up suffering in silence sexual abuse and assault in their own homes.

Hush-time over

But times have changed. At least in a section of India, however small and insignificant it might be. The continued violence — stated and unstated, seen and unseen — against women has now become unacceptable, at least in this group of young, urban, educated women who are not afraid to speak up. Apart from anecdotal evidence, we’ll never know about girls who don’t hesitate to slap the wrist of a lecherous uncle, brother-in-law or whoever. I would think their numbers are going up, quietly but definitely.

The dam of female tolerance against violence inflicted on women burst in public view for the first time after the gang rape in Delhi on December 16, 2012. That was when women simply came out on the streets to forcefully demand of their government that the young student’s rapists be apprehended and brought to justice.

No government can take lightly such fury and so, within a few months, we had not only the accused arrested but also sentenced. Now the former Tehelka journalist has come forward to tell the entire country that she wasn’t daunted by the powerful position of her own editor.

Her personal space was violated and he will have to pay a price for it. As she has said, this is a very challenging time for her; she has “lost the job I loved”, lost her financial independence and the battle ahead wont be easy.

But surely her lawyer got it wrong when he said this horrendous incident has “virtually ruined her life”. All of 23, this courageous woman is a trail blazer, a role model who will surely inspire hundreds of other women not to suffer in silence such heinous violation of their bodies. She is the face of the brave new young Indian woman.