Category Archives: Rape

How Independent Are the Independent Women of Our Independent Country?

Debolena Bose speculates about the notion of independence conferred upon contemporary Indian women!

Independent woman

“Ma, I’m leaving”, shouts out Tarun to his mom.

“Okay but don’t be late”, replies his mom.

“Fine”, says Tarun and he leaves.

“Ma, I’m going out with friends”, says Tarun’s sister, Hrishita.

“Oh! You, too, are leaving…alright…but when will you be back”, asks Mrs. Bhatt.

“In about 3 hours”, answers Hrishita.

“THREE HOURS! What will you do for such a long time?”

“Going for a movie, Ma. Please understand! The movie will take at least 2.5 hours. It will take us 15 minutes to reach the theatre and the same time to come back. That makes it 3 hours!”

“Do you really need to go for the movie? Why can’t you simply invite your friends over? All of you can sit around and chit-chat! That’s also a fun thing to do. Don’t you think so?

“Ma, it’s Friday evening! I don’t wish to sit at home. We chit-chat every day. Any way, I will be out for just 3 hours!”

“Listen, you have to be home before dusk. Do you understand? I don’t want you to be out in the night. And what kind of clothes are you wearing? The neck is so deep! How many times have I told you that capris don’t really suit you! Put on your black jeans.”

“Ma, enough now! I’m going! You’ve already delayed me by 20 minutes. In case I am late, it will be all your doing; not mine!”

“Rishu, I’m not allowing you to step out of home in these clothes. Go and CHANGE. Right now!”

“FINE!”

(After a while) Hrishita comes back wearing jeans and a different top. “Does this make you happy?”

“Ya, this is alright! Now listen to me very carefully – don’t look at any boys in the neighbourhood. If anyone tries to speak to you, or even make an eye contact, don’t utter a word. Just move on. If you hear someone making catcalls, don’t retaliate. Also, if some passerby car stops by you to ask for an address, ignore that person and move along. Make sure the auto driver does not take you through those small alleys. Always take the road which remains crowded. Most importantly, how many of you are going? Are there any boys accompanying you?”

“No Ma! Sujata, Priya, Poonam and I – four of us are going for the movie.”

“Four girls ALL ALONE”!!!

“Ma, be reasonable. How can four girls be alone? We are four of us and we can take care of each other. Don’t worry!”

“Abhinav and Hritik could have accompanied you. Had you informed me about your plans earlier, I would have asked you brother to drop you off to the theatre! Any way, one more important thing – don’t befriend strangers in the movie hall. In case, someone offers you popcorn, politely refuse. And yes, COME HOME EARLY!”

“Yes Ma, thanks for the advice-cum-lecture. Now, if you are done, can I leave?”

So, how many of you have gone through this routine? Raise your hands! I’m sure all of you have! I guess this has now become a part of our cultural heritage. Just like we brag about our ancient monuments, art and culture, so can we boast about the number of Hrishitas and Mrs. Bhatts our country has created.

When I was 6 years old, my mom warned me about strangers for the first time. “Don’t talk to strangers”. “Don’t accept chocolates from them”. “Keep your eyes open, always”. By the time I turned 10, strange questions poured in – “Why do you have to smile at everyone beta? A familiar face does not mean that you have to smile brightly. You are inviting trouble. When you grow up, you need to have such a personality that people are afraid to approach you.”

Such questions and remarks are a part ‘n parcel of every girl’s life in India, starting from the prominent metro cities to the small towns. A girl has to be chaperoned wherever she goes, otherwise some invisible hands will grasp at her and tug at her virtue or pull it off completely. And, of course, since the family’s honor rests on their female’s virtue, it has to be guarded with utmost care!

India became independent 66 years ago. Yet, half the country is still under the throes of bondage! Yes, bondage it is! The captivity of half the population of the country is not represented by heavy iron chains or handcuffs, but something more subtle, therefore, more powerful and long-lasting – lustful eyes, a picture of unbridled animalistic instincts. In the largest democracy of the world, half the population of India can’t move about freely, whenever they want to, in whichever way they wish to, wearing whatever they feel like! If this is not a gross failure of democracy, human rights and civil liberties, then what is it!

girl childWhat I fail to understand is that in a country where female deities are more revered than their male counterparts, how can such brazen acts of irreverence happen towards women? What are we doing about these acts? Most importantly, can we really solve this problem? Or, may be, we can pray to God for our safety every time we step out of the lakshman rekha of our home. If we are able to come back home with only a few catcalls and some lewd gazes, we can consider ourselves lucky! If not, probably we are paying for the sins committed in our previous birth!

If I am able to reach the age of 70 unharmed, perhaps I will go on some grand pilgrimage to thank God for keeping me safe!

Oh shit! Recently, there was some news about a 70-year old woman being raped by a neighbor! Ok, maybe I will pay my regards to God only when I have a tete-a-tete with him after death!

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. 

Anger

Debashree Sinha expresses her anger at the way girls are taught to dream of their Prince Charmings; yet what they receive at the end of the day is terror and rape!

knight

A man is for love,
A man is for faith and trust…
A man is for bond of marriage
A man is for protection, wisdom and Knowledge!!

knight-in-shining-armorBut Men sodomize, rape and puncture
Men check women as out mules
Men stare, stalk and cause terror and
She is now tired of the ways by which men rule.

They can sleep in silence with a woman
But cannot father the child which out of wedlock could be born
They can pretend to be heroes of every concocted story…
but cannot fight even their MOTHERs
when for dowry the young wife burns.

KnightInShiningArmor My little girl still plays with a doll
Dresses her baby as Cinderella
I correct her and yet she believes biting the dust
In the castle, the prince and the fairy wand
She stands in her tattered clothes and says
Mama for me ‘A shinning prince would some day surely come”!

A Pleasant Evening…An Unpleasant Discussion

woman

Delhi. A breezy February evening. The cold has subsided a bit, yet the chill in the air remains…

…Three girls in their hostel room. Sitting in a circle. Comfortable and cozy, each of them covering their legs with a part of a duvet. Sipping tea and chatting about the hunk next door. Jokes and loud laughter fills the air. Suddenly the light-hearted chit-chat gears into a serious discussion. About the increasing number of rapes in the Delhi.

Reeti: …but that stupid fellow knows that he looks handsome. In some ways, his awareness of his good looks reduces his charms. He is so obsessed with himself. That makes him quite effeminate.

Neha: True! I don’t like his friend’s either. They are such lechs! The way they stare at girls, it’s so yuck!

Priya: Oh that reminds me – the other day, Poo, Shy and I took a ric from the vishwavidhaylaya metro station to this hostel. Guess what happened? Three guys followed us in a Honda City. They went away only after they noticed the hostel guard. I was so scared. I don’t know why they followed us. True, the three of us were laughing very loudly at some funny thing Shy said. But I don’t know how we attracted their attention. Probably it was our loud laughter that attracted them.

Neha: C’mon Pri. Stop blaming yourself for having attracted them. They got attracted because they have no business on earth and wanted to simply have some fun.

Reeti: They were in a Honda City. Meaning, at least, one of them belong to a well-off family. That means they are educated; yet this is what they stoop to do!

Priya: Oh ya! They were well dressed too. Guys are just animals in the garb of human beings. They are so libido-centric! They can’t just think beyond that.

Neha: Correct! The number of rapes reported in Delhi proves the same. Forget about Delhi, the number of molestation cases we get to hear in Delhi University, which is supposed to be considerably ‘safe’ is proof enough!

Priya: The other day, Neelu had taken a ric from the Civil Lines metro station to Shamnath Marg. Two fellows came in a bike and tugged at her dupatta and kurta. It was 5:00 in the evening. Can you beat that? Tugging at her dupatta and not letting her climb the ric. Thankfully, the people standing in the pan shop intervened.

Neha: Oh yes, the metro stations itself are very unsafe. Never take the lift! There was a case in the Vishwavidhyalaya metro. This girl took the lift. It was 9 pm. There was some metro worker in the lift when she boarded and then the consequences were unbelievably bad!

Reeti: A metro worker! Did she get molested?

Neha: Nope! Raped!

Reeti & Priya: O GOD!

Priya: The other day, Vaidehi was taking a stroll round the campus, near Hansraj. A guy came cycling down, hit Vaidehi in her butt and moved on. Her boyfriend ran after than guy, caught him by his neck and forced him to apologize.

Neha: Did he apologize?

Priya: Yes, he did! The surprise factor was not that the guy hit her. It was that he did whatever he did, despite seeing a guy next to her and in spite of being surrounded by so many people. The weirdest part was that, while this entire drama of Vaidehi’s boyfriend running after him and catching him by his neck unfolded, not a single soul turned around to see what was happening. People are so stoical! Either they don’t care about others. Or, it’s a regular thing for them. So, none of them are surprised!

Neha: Moving out of the hostel has become such a risky thing. You never know whether you are going to come back intact.

Priya: Yes, for example, yesterday’s case. When such a thing happens, I just go numb. It almost feels like I have no hands and legs. If I ever fall into such a scenario, I don’t know how I would protect myself. I think I would just let the person do whatever he wants to do and leave.

Reeti: Shut up Priya. Don’t even think that such a thing would happen to you. You’ll be just fine, alright?

Priya: No. I guess all of us should keep ourselves mentally prepared for a scenario like this. This can happen to anyone. You know, at times I feel, since childhood we should be brought up with the mindset that getting raped is just like hurting your knees or meeting with a regular accident. Getting raped has nothing to do with self-respect! It feels so bad that just because you haven’t been able to save yourself from some creatures on the street, your entire family has to bear the brunt. I guess rape is the only crime in which the victim gets punished by the society instead of the victimiser!

Neha: Ya, I have often heard people saying things like – why did that girl get raped? As if, getting raped is such a pleasurable thing! That she was dying to get raped! Or, she even asked for this kind of treatment!

…and another pleasant and cozy evening ended in a bitter note! Although all the three characters here are fictitious, the incidents are real! 

Bitter Chocolate: Child Sexual Abuse in India

bitter chocolateThe thought-provoking cover page of Bitter Chocolate is just the beginning to a path-breaking book which serves to shatter the “conspiracy of silence” around Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) and attempts to give the traumatised child a voice. In fact, Pinki Virani narrates her experience of sexual abuse during her childhood and its aftermath in this book.

While analysing the roots of the problem of sexual abuse, she makes a very interesting observation. Nowadays, increasingly, young children are encouraged to emulate adults and are made to mimic adult objects of desire. This is objectionable to Virani because “it normalizes a particular way of looking at young girls…that shares in common with pornography, namely, the girl as an object of gaze for the voyeur and not as a person.”         

A documentation of the sexual abuse perpetrated on children, this book serves to shatter the complacency surrounding family life. The usual equivocatory questions are spelled out clearly which leaves no room for ambiguity and ignorance. An extremely hard-hitting text, it gives a detailed account of the experience of sexual abuse of children in a straightforward manner, completely devoid of self-pity.

Virani’s credit lies in the fact that apart from discussing the problem of child sexual abuse, she provides pragmatic solutions to prevent sexual abuse and also talks of other aspects which has precipitated this issue. “Virtue cannot reside only in a woman’s vagina, it can well be in a male body. Virtue…is an internal state, virginity is a choice and the vagina is an anatomical structure.” These are subjects that are considered to be taboos and therefore, are left unaddressed. But the book clearly mentions that only after such matters are clarified can we expect any resolution to the problem of Child Sexual Abuse.

This book is an eye-opener to people who believe in the sacrosanctity of a family. Most of the Pinki Virani_0perpetrators of this crime are members of the same family. These people have an advantage over outsiders since they have the trust of the child whom they violate under the veneer of a loving and caring relative.

Bitter Chocolate also discloses the fact that sexual abuse is no longer about inequality of gender. It is about the inequality of power since the numbers of little boys who have been violated are also increasing in number. The supposed number of boys and girls who might have been abused by 2002 are 4,15,94,735 and 6,28,53,160 respectively. These numbers are an attempt to sensitize the masses and bring them out of their lethargy to see and accept the predicament which is rampant in our society.

This well-researched book is written in an absolutely blunt and unsparing fashion which and leaves no stone unturned to strike at the perpetrators of CSA. Pinki Virani, in my opinion, succeeds in her attempt to create awareness and educate parents, teachers and guardians about this issue.

I was stunned on reading this book. Although I was aware of child sexual abuse, I was ignorant about the actual statistics. Media has the responsibility of bringing to light such issues which haunt the society like nightmares and this account for its relevancy to media studies.