- Posted August 22, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Speaking up about sexual violence
The story you must know
Where I come from, my beautiful city Pune, which is about 300 kilometers from Mumbai, has been one of the safest havens for women so far. Michaela, in her experiences has mentioned Pune, where she was photographed at a festival while she danced on the streets. Now let me tell you that different countries have certain cultures which allow a certain degree of tolerance level among the general public. In India, we don't often come across women dancing on the streets during festivals, because thats just not the way things happen. Women do dance during marriages, when processions are taken out but they are under the careful observation of their male family members and its more to do with family affair. Now, either Michaela and her friends have not been oriented well enough or have assumed that coming from USA, it din't matter what you did on the streets of India. Her excerpt in her YouTube video is proof that they were indulging in something they shouldn't do, like smiling at people at random on the streets. So when you go out and experiment, just to see what effect it has upon you, it will generally make you see what you expect to see and then I don't see any point complaining about it. Generally, when we travel to another country, we read about that country's culture, history and general behaviors in public. I am not asking that tourists should read about the history of India before they travel but they should have a general idea about the present culture and how to carry themselves on the streets and act in certain situations. Have they never been taught how to behave in public when it comes to a different country and its culture? I am not talking about the average American who is ignorant of many facts not just related to India but to other countries as well, but students or other frequent travelers to different countries.
We have our husbands, brothers and fathers who walk those streets too at the same time and the idea of generalizing such an opinion about Indian men is indeed a very dangerous hypothesis. I have travelled within India and abroad and while I have felt extremely safe in cities like Mumbai or Chennai, besides my hometown, I have felt very unsafe in Delhi, Kolkata and Bangalore. Aah, the way they grope in Kolkata, I have been helplessly subjected to it while trying to find a certain street or a shop absentmindedly and that is when they take their chance! Thats not just me but my mother too, so age is not a factor. Similarly, I have felt unsafe in places like London, late at nights, because I am aware it is unsafe. But, I have ensured every time when I walked around, that I took care and remained on the alert. Basically men, who indulge in such activities can be pretty scared when you turn back and scream at them. So do that! I have done that, screamed at them in public, hit at them with my bag or whatever came into my hands at the time and believe me it helps. Secondly, why go to a place you know is unsafe and hang around? I wouldn't for instance, walk around the Bronx or Philly, in the middle of the night, knowing its unsafe and that I have a sure chance of being molested, robbed or raped, in the process. Every country has their scum and knowing about it is nothing unnatural but defying those truths can make you suffer, because you are still a part of the society and you have to live according to its rules, more so, for the women all over the world. By saying this, I don't mean to deprive all the women of their right to live freely, since I am one of the most headstrong women you will come across and folks who know me would vouch for that. But, I cannot fight every scumbag in the society and its mortally difficult for any woman to do so.
Hence my advise is, when you are in countries like India, which you think are pretty rigid and yes, in many ways it is, take certain precautions, like travel in twos and threes and if you have to travel alone, make yourself less conspicuous and make sure that you sport something which attracts less attention, because its not just you, but even us, who will get leered and eve-teased at, worse, molested in a bus in Delhi, if we wear an off-shoulder or a pair of shorts, which is decent enough in our eyes but an obvious distraction to the rest. Make sure you know which are safer cities to hang out in the night and safe modes of travel. Avoid going to overcrowded places, during festivals or to witness Holi (the festival of colors), since it seems such an adventurous thing to do, because we avoid such places too. It is not adventurous to be bold and defying in places where your behavior may not be acceptable. Yes, we are fighting for a better law now and we are aware that stricter laws are not in place and so we are a deprived lot too, but I still maintain my complete support for you as a traveler, a young student, unaware of what lies in store for you in the country.
Believe me, for every pervert you come across on the streets, there will be at least five other men who have enough decency to save you from trouble, so keep an eye out for both and do not form an opinion which jeopardizes the characters of the good side of the crowd because we are a part of that.