I wanted to change tones today and talk about an issue that is close to my heart- women’s rights. There have been a slew of rape cases in India, and the reaction to blame the victim has my blood boiling. Women are always held to blame for being in the wrong neighborhood, having a drink, or going out without a male escort. In a country where women are routinely molested in trains and buses, have to face catcalls while walking down the street, and have to constantly face leering men in every corner, somehow we are still held responsible.
It isn’t even the outside world that is dangerous, there is an alarming number of assaults that women have to face in their homes- in the hands of uncles, cousins, and family friends. And these cases go unreported, the only trace is the impact it has on the victims. The reason this issue is so dear to my heart is I myself am a victim. I want to put my story outside to get some awareness on the issue, and share the lessons I have learnt through my experience.
I was a happy go lucky child- we had tons of cousins who were a part of our childhood. I was warm with everyone, and treated everyone as my own family. We all kids would sleep in a room, and there were some mornings where I would wake up and I felt my clothes were tampered. I didn’t realize it until I was 12 years old, I woke up and noticed that there was someone touching me. I tried pushing him away, but no matter what I did, I couldn’t get away. The next morning I was confused- this cousin was a genius, talented musician, favorite of everyone because he was polite and helpful. I was convinced this was all a mistake, a family favorite cannot make such mistakes. But the next weekend, when we all got together, he tried it again. After trying hard to fight, I ran to the bathroom and stayed there all night. I was humiliated, I cried all night- did I do anything to deserve this behavior? Am I sending some sort of signal? After a lot of soul searching, I told my cousin sister. She spoke to my parents, who were in shock. But we never spoke about it. I felt that maybe somewhere I was responsible- maybe my friendly nature was misconstrued. It left me with scars- I couldn’t sleep well at night for years, I always second guessed my behavior, it shook my confidence. After 8 years, I finally spoke to my parents- they helped me accept that I didn’t cause this, that I should stop blaming myself.
I am bringing this up because I feel as a society, we should take up these issue seriously. Every friend I have spoken to has faced similar issues and has never been able to talk about it. Some of them had long term impacts in their relationships because of the trauma. They have also gone through feelings of self blame and loss of confidence.
From my experience there are a few things address:
- Every child should be aware of the improper touch, and should feel safe in sharing about this with family, teachers
- Touching a child is the lowest crime- no family should tolerate such people, they need to be punished
- There is a systemic issue in which men perceive the opposite sex- why is OK to take advantage of girls and women?
- Men should be raised with respect for women, if they interact with classmates and sisters as equals they will stop viewing women as objects
- There needs to be strict punishments for rapists and assaulters
- In no way can a woman be held responsible- so what if she goes out late or has a drink? It is a society’s responsibility that every woman feel safe
It makes me sad to see the number of cases that come in the paper each day, and the hundreds of cases that go unreported. It is a travesty that the land where we worship Durga as the destroyer of evil does not protect its women. Let us all remove the shame, and have a honest discussion about this, so we can all build a safer India for women!