- Posted August 25, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Speaking up about sexual violence
Nothing can minimize the experiences of the young student from Chicago. But apologies from people not involved in the commission of these acts is like salve on skin which has not been burnt, it cannot take away the pain.
India is a vast land, full of contrasts and contradictions. It is home to 1.2 billion people, and host to many thousands of tourists and repeat visitors each year. And for each story of being leered at and ogled, there is another about hospitality and a genuine desire to please foreign visitors.
But sexual harassment has always been a dirty little thread running through the veneer of politeness towards women in India. Traditionally, all women even those not related, are addressed as 'mother' (mataji) or 'sister'. (bhenji).This though, does not preclude copping a feel whenever the opportunity arises!! Any woman who has ever ridden a bus, walked a busy street, gone to a bazaar in India can relate to the fact that some male has 'accidentally' tripped into her, or his arm has swung a shade too wide! For years, a sense of modesty and the male inculcated belief that they 'had been asking for it', kept women from reporting them or giving them the roundhouse slap they so soundly deserved. SH in the workplace has been no less prevalent, with the 'there there, little girl' attitude of superiors translating into not-quite-avuncular pats and hugs, to women as qualified and competent as their male counterparts and well able to do their jobs!
With the advent of the working woman, with her long hours and increased exposure to the outside world, women learnt to take care of themselves better. Unfortunately so too did the men, not many men, don't get me wrong, but enough to make repeated headlines and give India the image of a country dangerous to women. Where before their attacks had been limited to gropes and pinches, now they started to hunt in earnest. And in packs. The latest example is the young Photojournalist who was gang raped in Mumbai recently. Before that the rape of a British tourist made the headlines, and a few months ago the young physical therapist in Delhi achieved immortality in death as Damini.
India is a wonderful country. And for those of us who love her, and know her beyond the headlines, realize we have to look beyond the labels and our own defensive attitude to them. Things are wrong, very wrong, and it will take multiple voices to affect any change. A lone voice can be lost in the wilderness. An inefficient and corrupt police system, lax penalties and the attitude that women are responsible for their own safety has contributed to the widespread belief that India is a country hostile to women. And for a country that boasted a female Head of State before most in the Western world, that is a sad indictment indeed.