- Posted August 22, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Speaking up about sexual violence
Story behind the “stares” in India.
I am studying in Sweden for the last one year. But before that I had lived 23 years of my life in India. Most of it in a small pilgrim city called Nasik. I remember that as a kid it was not that common for me to come across people from the western world. Whenever I came across them I stared at them, but only with curiosity. What are these people wearing? How do they talk? And many more questions popped up in my mind. I vividly remember me and my family visiting a remote scenic village in a car. While kids were running around to get a glimpse of car, adults were staring at our “modern” way of dressing. And I understood that the curious/ intrigued gazes were mistaken as lustful/ offending stares. For many Indians western people, clothes or pretty much most of the things, we living in a so called modern society assume normal, are in a way striking. It makes most of the Indians very curious.
Does that mean what women have experienced is fake? No, like every other society India has bad elements too. I personally think when women visit India they have been repeatedly told about the safety issues. Most of them even read about the bad experiences other women had faced during their stay in India. And when they actually reach India they are too conscious about this issue and often mistake the stares as lustful and/or offending. Five years back I was at the big Ganesh festival in Pune with my friends. Where we saw a group of western people dancing in traditional Indian clothes, we were amused by this and many of us clicked photos of this rather unusual event for us. While many consider this offending, I have one question to ask- When many western visitors come across a typical Indian bride (or other people from wedding) passing by the road, how many just take it as normal and move on as opposed to stand there and watch or click some photos?
While safety of women in India is debated there are certain misconceptions. India is a country in transition and Indians have shown that they have no tolerance against sexual abuse against women through strong protests both in public and in social media. Though India still is a considerably unsafe place for women, there is a need to be a better understanding between the two vastly different cultures. Precaution is an important measure when visiting India, but keep an open mindset.