- Posted August 24, 2013 by
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Speaking up about sexual violence
Stop Comparing, Start Changing
I have read countless views on sexual harassment and rape in India over the last few days. Yes, I read RoseChasm’s story, I read the “Same India - Different Story” report by twoseat, I read the news report on the 23 year old photographer who was raped in Mumbai, I have seen it all. Currently, I am studying in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and I moved here from Mumbai only a few days ago. So, for the people who said sexual harassment is a global phenomenon; trust me, I get it. In just the few days I have been here, I saw these random guys walking on the street catcalling at a girl and trying to get close to my friend and I, who were walking on the streets in downtown chapel hill at 4 pm. (Mind you, both of us in jeans and a tee, decently dressed, at a decent time of the day; so don’t give me the rubbish “you may have asked for it” theory). The one thing I want to say to those protecting India by saying sexual harassment is a global phenomenon, in India, it’s the NORM. And that’s a big difference right there.
I have moved to North Carolina just a few days ago and my cohort has been more than welcoming and inclusive. But I have been asked innocent questions like “Was it difficult for you to learn English?” and “Do they have Microsoft Office in India?” Sadly, This is the kind of image we have out here. And as one of two Indians in my cohort, I felt like I had set out on a mission to change that image. That I represent India here in a cohort that is 99% American and I can educate them on how much India has evolved. But then these stories come out, and I feel embarrassed for exactly the same reason. I am actually wondering that my cohort might identify me now with a nation that does not respect and cannot protect its women. It upsets me to say that I could relate to RoseChasm’s story. Even as an Indian woman, I have seen and experienced most of what she has. You learn to cover yourself up, and still expect to be groped in crowded places. That’s the truth about India. The point I am trying to state here is that in India, incidents of sexual harassment are not isolated incidents. They have descended from a particular mentality and mindset, and a little bit of the mindset, I am sorry to say, exists in the mind of EVERY INDIAN, man or woman, from whatever part of the country. By this though, I don’t mean that everyone has the intention to sexually harass somebody. NO. I mean that in some way, all Indians are encouraging this behavior. By wearing jeans when we want to wear skirts because we don’t want to be stared at, by expecting our wives and sisters to stay home after 8pm, by not giving sex education the importance that it deserves, I am sure you can see where I am going with this.
The problem with us Indians however, is that we are still not ready to do the right thing. For example, when I heard the story, I wanted to hide. I was hoping no one would hear of it and I won’t have to discuss it. Some of us, have just accepted it. Yes India, is this way and this happens. Some of us, are saying No, this happens everywhere, why blame only India. But after just a week of studying here in the United States, I know what our problem is; we aren’t looking for progress. India can be so much better, in EVERY sense, if we just realize that something is NOT acceptable to us. Whether this happens anywhere else, I frankly don’t care. I don’t want this to be happening in MY country. In a week, I already know this is what separates a developed country from the United States from a developing country like India. Stop comparing, start changing.