- Posted August 22, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Speaking up about sexual violence
Lack of women’s safety isn’t just an Indian phenomenon; it holds a global passport.
ronniemelvin, 33, is an advertising professional in Bangalore, India. She shared this advice for female travelers after reading Michaela Cross' popular iReport essay about sexual harassment in India. 'My intention was not to make India look any better, but to inform female travellers world over of the need to exercise caution and be vigilant on their travels abroad.'
In response to commenters who feel she is putting the blame of sexual harassent on the women themselves, she writes, 'Men have forgotten their role in protecting and preserving the honor of womenkind. I'm reminded of an old cherokee saying that man's highest calling is to protect women, so she is free to walk the earth unharmed ... With this story, it is my hope that young women see the need to travel responsibly.'
We'd love to hear your thoughts, too. Do you agree with ronniemelvin's tips?
- dsashin, CNN iReport producer
One of my just-out-of- Boston University Chinese origin ex-colleagues, was planning a skiing trip with some girl friends in a very remote corner of Norway with a guy she just met on a flight. He had told her that he was a skiing instructor and had his own cabin. She was taking him up on his offer on face value.
I wouldn’t have known of this, if I didn’t need to sanction her leave. When I heard her recount excitedly about how she was looking forward to this trip, all I could see were flashes straight out of Eli Roth’s Hostel. I had to help her understand that what she was planning was not only stupid but could potentially put the entire bunch of them in grave danger.
I approved the leave anyway to show her I couldn’t care about being short staffed, but made it very clear that if she and her friends didn’t return from her trip, I didn’t want to have to say ‘I told you so’. She cancelled the approved leave a day later.
The thoughts I want to share are as a woman, who is from India but has travelled a bit of Asia, and knows what RoseChasm, twoseat andAishu88 from CNN ireport are talking about. However, what I would like to point out is that over-sexed men who grope and stare, jerk off or touch you are not restricted to India.
I have been propositioned by strangers passing me in a car, in supermarkets, even on my way to work almost every day in Oman.
I’ve been in a cab in KL where the cab driver started jerking off mid-day, in the best part of the city on the way to one of the hippest malls there, while asking me if my husband and I use a condom while having sex.
I’m not spilling my private thoughts here to incite hate. It is my hope that one can see the global cancer that is corrupting every known culture – and India is not unique in its position as a women molesting country.
As an Indian, I would say the following to my younger sister, and I would say the following to any traveller coming into my country.
1. Don’t be stupid.
Don’t go into public places which are packed and narrow. People are bound to brush against you – they may not intend to, but personal space is not something you can expect while you are in elbowing your way through buzzling markets.
2. Don’t stay in shady hotels/ or visit questionable bars.
Sleazy places are the same world over. Don’t cheap out and expect safety. It’s the same anywhere – Rio, Durban, Bangkok, New York, Mumbai, Amsterdam.
3. Please be modest.
What you see in Bollywood movies with the song and dance is a communal thing. Indians don’t dance in public – on the streets, in the parks or on the roads. Forget that it’s not sane, it’s not safe. Be culturally aware - Rio is not the same as Valencia, nor is Amsterdam the same as Cairo. If one gets too friendly during a local festival, expect them to get friendly back – and don’t be surprised if it isn’t just the women folk and innocent kids.
4. Don’t be out late.
Have a personal curfew. Always have a good exit plan to get back to your safety zone – could be your home, your hostel, your friend’s pad. As unexciting as it sounds, my personal curfew is 8:30pm. If I want to drink myself silly post that you will find me in my safe zone with people I absolutely truly trust.
5. Stay alert and watchful.
I have been groped as an adolescent in ‘safe’ public spots with and without my parents around. There are some really sick men and women out there: everywhere in the world. It’s best to exercise utmost caution and stay off the trouble grid. If you want to experience local tastes and flavours and ways of life, please stick to your known circle: classmates, professors, friends, friends of friends. The odd ones who don’t keep caution, sometimes do end up in very risky life threatening situations.
6. Do your own research.
Valencia’s tomatina is becoming a festering ground for sexual violence against women. The 1999 Woodstock festival was marred by reports of rape and sexual assaults. Incidents of violence and abuse during the London Olympics went under-reported. Media networks world over know how to cover their bases when certain news is bad for business.
The media holding a magnifying glass to isolated incidents, in developing countries, is acting as a trigger for more copy-cat offenders, and those who want to see if they can ‘get away with it’ too.
Then again, I’ve had colleagues from more developed countries than my own, tell me that their cops discourage them from reporting crimes; as a way for them to under-report crime in the country and hence portray it as a traveller’s paradise.
7. Progress is not equal.
As world boundaries collapse and economies boom, there will always be ones who are left behind. For them, whether they are in Mumbai, New York, London, Nairobi or Capetown, women’s emancipation and liberation are unfathomable concepts. So when they see a woman having a good time in public, it shakes up their foundations. Try explaining to these men that when a woman dresses the way she wants to or drinks what she likes in public, it is not an invitation to violate her.
If you have the means and the inclination, travel.
It opens your mind up to the world around you and helps you see things from different points of view. All I can tell RoseChasm and others like her who have been scarred during their travels is to learn from their experiences so that their lives and that of those around them can be richer.