Category Archives: Child Sexual Abuse

Single Woman In A Village

malathy in a village

By Malathy Madathilezham 

This is the first time I am living on my own in a remote little place in Maharashtra (actually not as remote as some of the other places my travels have taken me.. but yet). This is my first job after graduating from Tata Institute of Social Sciences this March.

All my life I have been travelling. “I have studied in 14 different schools!” is something you will hear me say as part of my introduction. Yeah I know its a bit corny but yet. But all the traveling and living has been in a sheltered and protected manner and largely very comfortable. The culture and way of living mostly urban. I have never experienced rural life until very recently during the course of my two year study and the training that I received in my organisation. I have read enough and more but experiencing it shows how different life in ‘Bharat’ is from that in ‘India’. Even more so being a woman…

No, I am not going on a tirade against gender discrimination here… don’t worry. Just a few points on what I constantly find myself thinking about.

I am really privileged. Yes, I am. My birth has guaranteed me certain success in life even if I am mediocre in my performance. Unless off course I am really stupid or have real bad luck!! I cannot imagine being born a woman in one of these villages. Off course then I would simply be blissful in my ignorance and thankful about whatever I have.

(Lack of) Information is power. This is the game people play here. It is not that there are not enough government schemes, or opportunities to help people. But there is no smooth flow of the information regarding these to those who need it. Illiteracy is not the only reason here. A few people have the monopoly over the access to this information and they try their best to keep that monopoly.

The slow pace of life. Its really slow. In addition, the more you make someone wait, the more important you are. This is the culture here. Getting used to it takes time.

A single woman living (so far) away from her parents and native is a shock for many. “ Even boys will not be so daring!” was a quip by a Gram Sevika when I told her that I am from Kerala. Everyone is curious to know what I am doing here. To add to that curiosity is the fact that I have really short hair right now. So then dealing with the number of questions that a random shopkeeper, autowala or tai on the road can sometimes be simply frustrating! There are days that I don’t feel like going out to avoid this!

I love to cook!! I never thought I would say this but it is true! Yeah am not so organised or planned as my mother but yet I realise that I actually look forward to cooking something different and tasty everyday .

Well that is it for now… Looking forward to more learning and understanding the rural reality…

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Ms. Rose Chasm: The Cross Who Double Crossed Us

the cross that double crossed us

Continuing her crusade in India’s defence, Shwetha Kalyanasundaram, brings to you more evidence of why she thinks this entire Ms. Chasm story is a campaign to malign India. A must read. 

A chance comment posted under my article on CNN iReport titled “My India: The Mistaken Story – An Indian Woman’s Perspective” (first published on Mission Sharing Knowledge) caught my attention.

Quoting the person under the pseudonym ‘moonboat’ – “Michela Cross posted a number of videos on YouTube during her trip, including one that gives quite a different account of the Ganesha festival incident she related. In the video, she gushes on about how she loved all the attention and photos being taken of her. In the current circumstances, where her story is being taken as gospel and this story has gone viral, I find the videos are appalling. She also shows herself to be ignorant and disrespectful of Indian culture.”

And this had a bunch of us looking at the videos posted by Ms. Cross on her channel in YouTube. Boy! Weren’t they interesting! And we realized that some of her statements were in total contradiction to her article “India: The Story You Never Wanted to Hear”.

Here’s how…

Her video published on September 29, 2012, where she talks about her experiences at the Ganesha festival

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hPu2GmF4Y44

Quoting Ms. Cross from the video

  • “We were grabbed by a bunch of GIRLS who started dancing with us, flashing paint on our faces, which was COOL”
  • “Taking loads of photos of us, I felt like a CELEBRITY. If you wanna feel like a celebrity, be a WHITE person and GO TO INDIA”
  • “We danced for 12 more hours to Bollywood music and we were given lots of food. It was super cool. I felt like I was in a movie”
  • “Fun facts – The Ganesha festival which ended today is…ummm…Ganesha is the God who is prayed to for the start of journeys and travels. I consider it GOOD LUCK”

Wow Ms.Cross! This is so contradictory to what you had put up in your story about the Ganesha festival!!!

Quoting from her article “I was prepared to follow the University of Chicago’s advice to women, to dress conservatively, to not smile in the streets.” However, your video titled “Whipping Boy” published on October 2, 2012 has you saying that your roommate and her friend embarked on an adventure and smiled at the people on the streets!

Didn’t you just break the rules?!? And you say you weren’t prepared for all the stares/glares that sliced away bits of you piece by piece! You brought it on upon yourself – you purposefully drew the locals’ attention on you! And you blame us?!? Preposterous is the word (that would just be an understatement actually!).

There are 6 videos that have been put up by Ms. Cross on YouTube with reference to her India trip – especially her three months of stay in Pune. Surprisingly, none of her videos show signs of struggle or trauma. And you are struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) now?!? I’m no psychiatrist Ms. Cross – but all I can say is you are suffering from a serious bout of “Attention Deficit Disorder”.

Ms. Cross, now I’m really starting to wonder if your whole article “India:  The Story You Never Wanted to Hear” was a sham to tarnish the image of my beautiful country. You’ve taken the entire nation for a highly emotional ride. Your article drew in a lot of support from my fellow compatriots and this pretence of an article is like a slap on their faces. Deplorable act I must say!!

P.S: @Moonboat – whoever you are, thanks a lot for bringing this to our notice. We owe this article to you!

Parental Guide To ‘Freedom’ And ‘Risk’

parental guidance

Post the gang-rape in Mumbai, a friend observed ‘thank God, I don’t have daughters’. But Jaideep Ghosh has, and he wouldn’t have it any way.

The plus of having a teenaged child is that you get tech savvy in double-quick time. But as a parent of a teenager, you also need to be able to gauge between what is too much interference, or not.

So when I got savvy to Whatsapp, I keep tabs on my daughter. But most of the time it’s to check when was the last time she was online. If the time span is anything more than two hours, I send her a message.

I am a father of daughter who commutes in to the North Campus of Delhi University from the NCR, alone. She travels the entire breadth of the city, through some of the not-so-great neighbourhoods, and beyond. I worry. But I will be damned if I tell her not to.

But while there is no question that people’s freedoms and rights are sacrosanct, some of the reactions to the Mumbai gang-rape, or any other offence, leave me a little frustrated and a little angry.

Our politicians have never been paragons of sensitivity, so their reactions are not to be jumped on with any great gusto.

At the same time, the reactions of the so-called ‘liberals’ scares me. You cannot condone, if not downright encourage, putting women in situations where they would be at risk.

I tell my daughter to be careful, not because I am trying to impinge on her liberties. I would equally tell a son to wear a helmet if he was on a bike. And I would tell them both to be back home by a reasonable time (though the interpretation of ‘reasonable’ has always been different for parents and children).

Irrespective of which country you are in, the initiative is always with the criminal. There is no system by which the police can pre-empt a crime, without prior knowledge. That is also what makes terrorist strikes so successful.

This distinction is pretty clear for me – I won’t let anyone compromise my child’s pursuit of success and happiness. At the same time, I would not accept any hysterical banshee proclamations that ‘freedom’ translates into taking unnecessary risks.

That applies particularly given the fact that we live in a society which largely, at best, just tolerates women. Men cannot handle being bettered by women, or even equalled. Take a look at how men drivers react to being passed by women. That is a classic example. So, given half a chance, they will try to force this ‘superiority’. Don’t give them that chance.

I worry. I am always keeping track of where my daughter is. She has been brought up in the rather unforgiving environs of Delhi, but that bravado and attitude can be a double-edged weapon.

But that doesn’t mean she will sit at home. She will do whatever she wants to do, but as a sensible 20-year-old, she knows where she has to draw a line. This ‘drawing a line’ seems to be an issue with many women. To them I say, get real.

That said, I wouldn’t trade having a daughter with anything else. I would wish her a happy life, as to all women. But be a little careful out there.

My India: The Mistaken Story – An Indian Woman’s Perspective

India the story you never wanted

Shwetha Kalyanasundaram rebuts this story which lambasts India and makes you feel the country is made up of vultures only looking for prey landing in form of women tourists. A must read for all, no matter what nationality.  

Ms. Rose Chasm’s article “India: the Story You Never Wanted to Hear” has been trending for the last couple of days, with many of my friends sharing the story on various social networking sites. The headline of the article prompted me to read and I was shocked to read about Ms. Chasm’s traumatic experience in my country. As a woman, my heart went out to Ms. Chasm. When I read your article Ms. Chasm, I was ashamed of my country (for the first time!). But pondering over your article, I realized that I cannot sit in my comfortable space and watch people tear my country down (with reference to the 1000+ comments left behind by people to your story).

As a citizen of this wonderful nation (and not a nation of snake charmers and elephants), I am writing in to clear the air and do my bit to support my country. I love my country. And I am not blind to the flaws that exist today.

India has been my home for over two and a half decades. As a woman who bears resemblance to a South East Asian (rather than having the typical Indian features), I have always been looked upon as a foreigner in my own land. I can understand how it feels to have hundred pairs of eyes follow your every move. There have been many instances when the local people have tried to sell their wares to me; with a hope their goods reach foreign shores. I wouldn’t call them advances, rather we are just a group of people who take pride in what we do and feel the need to be appreciated by somebody from a foreign land.

We have always been dubbed as a nation of brown-skinned people and I don’t have any qualms in accepting that we have an obsession for the “white” skin. That could probably explain why people stopped and gaped at you in the bazaars. And I can bet they weren’t just men who stared at you – women and children would have looked at you as well. As a foreigner, you must have been prepared to stand out in the crowd. I am sure you would have been briefed about the cultural differences between the two nations. Yes! It can be uncomfortable to be stared at and photographed but lady, you know ignorance is bliss.

Almost every woman who grows up in India has been subjected to some kind of sexual innuendoes. For the millions of women who use public transportation in India, there have been numerous cases of “accidental” brushes and gropes. There have been numerous cases where women have been stalked and flashed – at. But for every man who cannot control his libido and gives in to his over-crazed sexual drive, I can assure you that there will be ten men who will fight for you and your dignity.

The recent spate of rape attacks and incest cases that we hear and read day in and day out have definitely tarnished my country’s image. And your story just adds more fuel to the fire. If there had been an attempt to rape against you or your friend, did you reach out to the local police to lodge a complaint or did you approach your consulate for help?!? I assume, as an exchange student, you would definitely have been briefed about all these formalities in the event of any untoward incident.

In Sanskrit, we say “Matha, Pitha, Guru, Deivam” (translated: Mother, Father, Teacher, God). The meaning of this adage is the greatest truth and is the order in which we offer reverence. This is the basic tenet in existence from time immemorial and every man has been taught to place the womankind even above God. The Indian men know to treat their women with respect. And I cannot tolerate your generalization that Indian men are bad. You cannot blame the entire male population for the actions of few.

I have seen the best and worst of both the worlds, having spent a considerable portion of my adult life in America and the Middle East. In all the countries I have been to, I have been subjected to roving eyes and sexual overtures from men. I have been leered and heckled by cab drivers and pedestrians alike. Even a middle aged woman is not spared!! Let’s not be too dramatic here and accept that sexual crimes against women are a problem world over.

Do you know that every 1 out of 5 women in America are raped every day (This is according to a UN report published in 2011 and the same figure has been quoted in a NY times article, published December 2011). Does this mean I can issue a travel warning and tell people how unsafe America is?!? Your country is a beautiful place Ms. Chasm and a few bad moments are not going to deter me from travelling again. I just hope your personal experiences don’t make you too judgmental about our great country.

Ms. Chasm, I sympathize with you completely. As a woman, I understand the trauma of your three months stay in my country. Your problem is with that category of homo-sapiens bearing the Y-chromosome and not with my country.

It tears me apart that men and women have apologized on behalf of the Indian population and have left comments to your article. I’m not going to offer apologies. I can only offer you an olive branch and hope you visit my country again, and view this nation from a different and an unbiased perspective. 

Eve Teasing? Are You Kidding Me?

safe_image

By Malathy Madathilezham

Frankly,I take offence to this term eve teasing.. Wikipedia describes this term as a euphemism used in India and Pakistan for sexual harassment or molestation of women by men in public… According to me it just makes light of the inexcusable, immoral and lecherous actions of filthy cowardly men who do not leave an opportunity to humiliate women.

Personally, I myself have undergone and have seen such shameful instances and am proud to say that I have stood up against the insensitive and disrespectful perpetrator(s) of such actions. But more often than not, the woman/girl is ‘advised’ to keep her mouth shut and tolerate such disrespectful actions. What is that prevent women from raising voice against sexual harassment in public? Why are we silent witnesses to the lady standing beside us in a bus or walking on a busy market street getting violated?

Its rampant in India, this kind of public sexual harassment. And sadly, most of us feel that the woman is equally responsible.’ The lady in question is judged on her dress, her mannerisms etc if she dares to raise her voice against the pervert who pinches, fondles, or uses sexually flavored filthy language! The people nearby are more interested in seeing the ‘tamasha’ than intervene and put the perp to task. The sneers, the comments embarrass the lady to no end. Yes there are laws, but more than laws, the attitude of the society, men and women, towards such acts need to be changed.. the term eve teasing should be done away with…

Walking down a street, travelling on a bus, or even partying with friends, the one thought that is always there in the back… How do I prevent myself from being subjected to public sexual harassment? Thus special effort is taken to dodge the hands and legs, dress and act ‘properly’, etc etc but does it spoil the fun or not! So does being a an average woman mean that I need to behave a certain way to avoid being targeted… No!The fact is that, however you behave, dress and wherever you are, whatever time it is… you are at greater risk of being violated just because you happen to be born as a female.

Am I not a free citizen of this country? Why does being a woman make me less free? Why do I have to tolerate the nonsense of the perverted men who want to assert their non existent superiority or sexuality?

Safety Of Women And Self Defense

BE-SAFE

By Malathy Madathilezham 

We are all living in this illusion of safety. That a woman can be attacked and assaulted in the ladies compartment of a train is totally appalling. It shows us the lack of security and safety in our cities. Delhi, even though it is the capital of India, is somewhere I would not want to live in and neither would my parents encourage. Just the  incidents that actually get reported would discourage any woman to go live on her own in the city. But this is closer to home!On 28th January 2011, there was this report in the newspaper claiming that Kochi is safe for women. I sarcastically had retorted that this is because women here do not step out after 7 pm!

If anything this recent tragedy that cut short the life of Soumya only points to the glaring issues that need to be addressed regarding the safety and security of women. The fact that this happened in the Ladies compartment of a train, is ironic and makes us question the kind of security provided.  This struck me as my parents always asked me to avoid sitting in the ladies compartment unless there are a good number of co – passengers. According to them the ladies compartment in the most dangerous one!

Lot of hue and cry is being raised over this incident now. Citizens are agitated and indignant. The politicians are making statements and counter statements.A lot of promises are being made. The media is also giving a lot of hype. But what will change actually remains to be seen. Once this story becomes ‘stale’, will the issue of the freedom of a woman to travel, to even get out of the house at any time of the day remain an important issue? Will the women in Kerala stand up and raise their voice against any kind of exploitation or harassment  faced by them almost on a daily basis? Or will they accuse each other of being the instigating these attacks? I now remember the public signature campaign that our college students’ council against the harassment faced by women while travelling in buses and otherwise. It had generated a mass response from both the local media and the public and a lot of changes were definitely brought about. But even those were short lived and not consistent.

Who is to blame for these kind of attacks on the dignity and safety of women?

The lax attitude of the government?

The society in which such perverted characters are molded?

Ourselves?

How can such attacks be prevented? How can we make our cities safer for women? Multiple responsibilities fall on multiple people.

Let us first talk about ourselves before anyone else.

So how do we ensure our safety, security and keep our dignity? The easiest and most obvious is not to travel alone after a certain time.  But that would only encourage these hoodlums to attack the women who have no other choice but to travel by night. And what if you are attacked when at home or somewhere else?

I have written down some thoughts, which came to my mind

  • Learn some self-defense techniques! It will also boost your confidence.
  • Be alert and aware of people and your surroundings (this is applicable whether it is day or night)
  • Stay with the crowd. Especially at night do not move around deserted areas.
  • Avoid speaking on the mobile phone or do anything which can make u seem distracted.
  • Use a barrier or distance to make an attack difficult. Thus lock your doors!
  • Always carry something, which is easily and quickly accessible to use as a weapon. An umbrella (especially the kalan kuda)! A Pen, a safety pin and don’t hesitate to use it if required!
  • Do not hesitate to scream, shout in case you are being targeted whether overtly or covertly i.e attract attention.
  • If attacked, act quickly and decisively. How to escape or how to fight and incapacitate the attacker needs to be decided keeping in mind the surroundings and the situation.
  • Use your strongest weapons against the weakest targets of the attacker. The eyes, throat,  and groin are the primary targets while the abdomen and face are the secondary targets. Your strong weapons are the bottom of your feet, elbows, hammer fists and palm heels.
  • Stand up for any other woman being harassed or attacked. You also could be in a similar situation!
  • Please do approach the authorities. Do not hesitate to file a complaint. The perverted offenders should not be allowed to move around scot-free.
  • Share your experiences and tips on how to prevent such attacks with other women. Educate them.

These are not in any way an exhaustive list on how to prevent attacks and how to defend/protect yourself. But I hope it has given you some information and insight. If we act meek and submissive the chances of being targeted will only increase and at the same time reckless and reactive action is also not advised. Common sense, confidence and alertness are key to preventing attacks/ harassment and defending yourself.

What the government and railway authorities will or won’t do, we cannot be sure of. But that should not stop us from protecting our loved ones or ourselves.

Mannequins, BMC and Another Pointless Debate

mannequin-dummies

Ankush Kumar writes why BMC’s strategy of getting Mannequin’s off the Mumbai roadsides is useless and why should they rather focus on constructive things. Again, in a format he loves his articles being seen in.

Ankush BMC 1

Ankush BMC 2

Ankush BMC 3

Ankush BMC 4