- Posted August 23, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Speaking up about sexual violence
Growing up as a Woman in India
Reading it brought back memories of growing up in India and the plight of us indian women.
Through this article I have tried to provide a glimpse of what is it to be an Indian woman living in India.
India is a country that worships female goddesses. On one side people brave the rush and crowd to offer their prayers to deity in temples, but on the other, women can't even walk a few steps in public without being bothered by creepy onlookers.
The situation was very bad in India. And I am talking about the year of 2008 when I had left India to pursue my higher education here in the US. Sadly nothing has changed since; not for the good at least.
And the truth is things have gotten worse in the last five years.
For most parts the Indian girls grow up learning to live with it. The bigger the city, the smarter the women become. They learn how to be proactive, on-guard and to behave rudely with loud protests towards any unwelcome advances.
They always travel in groups, don't make eye contact with strangers and avoid crowded places; and in most cases consciously protect their private parts when walking through public spaces.
They grow up to become suspicious and not trust anyone. They are often told "Never trust anyone unless they prove themselves otherwise". "Prevention is better than cure" is often the motto.
The ordeal starts right from Middle school. Harassment and comments from boys of their class is one thing, they also have to listen to lewd remarks, whistling and experience "stalking" from older men, and that too in broad daylight.
Some of us who were very lucky to have older siblings, got taken care of when any such incidents were reported. Most times our family would then start accompanying us to schools or activities classes, or even scold the perpetrators if they were younger. Many educated masses go so far as to even file written complaints against such road side stalkers and romeos.
Things don't change much during High School, incidents such as getting flashed and getting groped at are common facts you hear of. Some guys even used to punch girls in the stomach and take away their chunnis (a piece of cloth covering on top of a long shirt worn by many women in India). Few rape stories near the lonely or abandoned boys hostels often crop up. Of course most go unreported so there is really no way of verifying their authenticity.
Things get a little better at Undergrad Colleges since they are protected campuses and people studying there are mostly peers. But then again there will always be unwarranted for love proposals, emails and love letters, hostel gate calls etc. but non too terrifying or over-bearing. Most indian women would remember those few years as the most carefree days of their lives!
But traveling out of those campuses every time to go back to our home states was invariably a nightmare. We would always travel in a big gang and reserve seats in bulk on train journeys that often lasted for about 2 days. Also small but important things like girls sleeping with heads and bodies fully covered and in upper births; and being always conscious of their surroundings were to be strictly followed. In fact going to the train rest rooms in pairs of three at anytime of the day was utmost important. Two would stand guard and the other would go in. As a matter of fact I remember holding it in many times for hours since I was feeling guilty to wake up my sleeping friends at night.
An IT city such as Bangalore is to that bad. Once in a while you hear a bad flashing or stalking incident, but other than that most Software Engineers like myself were not exposed to the general public for the most part. They either take the company provided transportation or travel with friends or use personal transport, thanks to their well-paid jobs. Also since these places primarily attract a lot of well educated masses and students, the living conditions for us Engineers is decent.
Finally, after coming to US, I realized what a safe haven feels like. Things are so much different here. Except for few stray incidents here and there, women enjoy much more safety, respect and freedom. Other than one of my indian friends who was flashed here once, I really haven't heard any first hand accounts of anyone else experiencing close to what each and every indian women do back in India on an on-going basis.
Every time I go back to India for vacation, I avoid traveling in public buses, local transport or non-AC train compartments. And I feel lucky to being been able to afford it. Not every woman in India can and therefore continues enduring the ordeal everyday throughout their lifetime.
In the end on this auspicious month of Raksha Bhandhan (where men swear by their lives to protect their sisters), I hope and wish for all women in the world to be free in the true sense of the word!