Menstrual taboos…

“ All of us were born because of menstrual blood, yet it’s considered impure”

I’ve read close to a thousand articles around the very concept of women empowerment. You see women taking giant strides in each and every sphere of life. Be it work, sport or business, women are everywhere. It’s really heartening to see women finally coming out of the clutches of poverty and making their presence felt. But hold on, there’s one thing that keeps bothering me. I really fail to understand why on earth we consider women ‘impure’ during menstrual cycles?

Continue reading “Menstrual taboos…”

The aftermath…

Sexual assault destroys lives, both directly as well as indirectly. Sexual harassment as a crime can show its ugly head anywhere. It’s a crime which spans age, religion and even cultural backgrounds. A report published earlier this year shed light on the horrifying fact that nearly 80% ( i.e. 4 in every 5 women) have faced harassment of some form or the other in the public.

Sexual assault is one of those heinous crimes that are seen and experienced everyday and yet crimes as heinous as these manage to escape our eyes quite easily. It is perhaps because of the fact that a vast majority of victims believe that reporting sexual abuse would bring a bad name to the family. The trauma of isolation and the consequent decline in the degree of self-esteem the victim experiences also makes the entire process of reporting sexual abuse quite difficult.

Let us take fictitious example: Suppose in a country if 100 cases of rape and sexual assault occur. Only 30 out of those 100 would possibly be reported. Out of those 30, only five or seven out of those 30 would possibly lead to an arrest and out of those seven only 2 of the culprits would possibly be convicted.

Let us take a look at why do a majority of rape cases go unnoticed? It is the intense pain and the aftermath of the trauma which leads victims to refrain themselves from reporting sexual abuse. There are numerous after-affects of facing sexual assault. Stress, eating disorder, self-injury, declining confidence etc etc. These may continue years and years after the incident has occurred. Quite often, it has been observed that survivors feel the pressure to ‘come out’ of the ordeal.

The society needs to shift its perception of sexual assault survivors. The trauma is not only within the experience, but also within the entire length and breadth of the stigma and isolation a survivor goes through. So, instead of looking at behaviours that might come out as ‘pathological’ or rather demoralizing, we must encourage and appreciate the coping mechanisms the survivors have managed to scrape together.

Furthermore, victim blaming is still a harsh reality our society refuses to accept.Victim blaming still exists because it’s easier if rape were actually the victim’s fault. The bystanders and people in the vicinity would remain ‘innocent’ bystanders, rid themselves of the feeling of guilt and sorrow. Blaming the victim also ends up impacting our willingness to help.

A part of effectively addressing the problem is to ‘accept’ the victims as a part of our society. Acceptance holds the key here. Tell the victims they aren’t alone in this fight. Remaining silent and not supporting the victims is, as they say, a conspiracy of silence.

A survivor of sexual violence and assault experiences an array of strange feelings, right from anxiety to depression to shame. According to statistics, every 15 minutes, a woman is raped in India. The fact that, in some cases, victims are forced to drop the charges against the rapist  and in turn marry him also throws light on the sorry state of affairs when it comes to reporting the cases related to rape and assault. And above all, the low status of women in our society also adds up quite significantly to the entire problem. Daughters are considered a burden because of the need to pay a marriage dowry. Throughout their upbringing, sons are believed to be fed better than their sisters, are more likely to be sent to schools and have brighter career prospects.

To conclude, it’s really shocking to see women facing such problems that too, in a country where mothers form the heart of a family.

Societal taboos- Part II

Kahaani 2, the second installment of the ‘Kahaani’ franchise may have failed to recreate the magic which the previous one had created, but the film has thrown light on the ever so-sensitive issue of child sexual abuse.  Sexual abuse at home is a horrifying reality for Thousands of children. Right from a stray touch on the road to making obscene phone calls during the late hours of the night, Everything falls under sexual abuse.

On a personal note, I saw a middle-aged guy sitting in a car and staring un-apologetically at a group of college girls. I guess all of us have seen that at least once in our life. Only the faces and the eyes change, the situation remains pretty much constant. Among the numerous problems faced by women, this one happens to be quite common these days. All of us must have seen this quite, but instead of taking a step forward in order to stop the nuisance, we prefer to turn a blind eye towards it.

On a cold December morning, I saw Vidya Balan’s character Durga Rani Singh was seen screaming, trying to pent up her anger at the Diwans for molesting their daughter Mini. It seemed that someone had dug his nails on a wound our society refuses to accept. The film brilliantly showcased what other similar films had shied away from showcasing in broad daylight, that sexual violence inside the ‘warmth’ and ‘safety’ of our homes is as much a reality as it is outside.

I remember reading countless stories of adolescent girls who were sexually abused by their own cousins and it showcased a rather grim side of the entire problem. The first time these girls were ‘abused’ by their cousins they hardly knew what was happening. A girl, aged 21 narrated an incident which had occurred in 2003, when she was hardly 9 years old.

“While my body was still changing and we didn’t even have the slightest of ideas about anything happening around us. I was taken into the bedroom by my elder cousin who was 7 years elder to me. He slid his hands under my shirt, I lay motionless, having absolutely no idea of what was happening. It was a wintery evening in December and both of us were lying on the bed with a blanket rolled over us.It was years later that I realized the real intention behind those touches.”

This is just one of the many countless stories that have shown their ugly head and have yet managed to escape without anyone even noticing them. The worst part about suffering sexual abuse at home is that the perpetrator lurks nearby. You can choose not to interact with that person in particular, but you can’t just avoid him. You’ll meet him everytime you go to attend a wedding in the family, or perhaps when you go an attend your cousin’s birthday. It is something that leaves behind deep scars and these scars refuse to heal, no matter how hard we try.

Education shouldn’t just be limited to of text books mathematics and science. It should inculcate a sense of understanding among students. An understanding of what is right and what is wrong. While numerous ‘ethical’ dress codes and behavioral patterns are taught to women in order to avoid sexual abuse out there in the open, the fact that it can occur within the four walls of one’s house makes the issue even more serious and gruesome. And, the saddest part is:

”  These perpetrators are not monsters but normal human beings like all of us, and, that my friend, is the most shocking aspect of the entire problem, but it isn’t your fault. Faces can be extremely deceptive at times”

Societal Taboos – Part I

I find it hard to understand why  LGBT people in India are invisibilised in corporate spaces. I’ve always seen the eunuchs and the trans women struggling  to find an identity in the corporate spaces around the country. I’ve had casual chats with people and I’ve noticed glimpses of hesitation in their voices. They must have felt a bit uncomfortable when the discussion started.

At every turn, the sex in sexuality stands under immense danger of being silenced by our own discomfort. censorship too, has played its part in curtailing the exposure one should get when it comes to understanding sexuality and everything related to it. Throughout my life (Well, I’m just 22 years old :)).I’ve noticed disgust and discomfort regarding the whole idea of sex. Often this discomfort does not come out as plain and outspoken revulsion.  Rather, it becomes a banal dismissal of sex talks as something indecent and objectionable. Sometimes, even words aren’t enough to explain the disgust. The word ‘chee’ says it all.

Much like the turn to describing  reviled things, people, and ideologies as ‘anti-national’, such claims of cultural,and sometimes national indecency amplify the compulsions to remain silent on just about everything related to sex, be it sexuality, LGBT issues or the so-called feeling of ‘desire’.

I read a news article about the “Hug a Queer” rally organized by the LGBT  community at Marine Drive in Mumbai, I read somewhere that there were incidents where the public chided the event organizers.  A lot of people claim that the idea of sexuality is against our culture and our shastras and that it is something that needs to remained confined within the length and breadth of one’s bedroom.

Even the hugs and handshakes between a male and female are considered ‘offensive’ by many people. This entire misinterpretation of culture  and tradition are responsible for our for an alarmingly high rate of hesitation when it comes to talking about sexual health. It is this misinterpretation of sexuality which silences and suppresses newness, knowledge and awareness.

And that’s not all, I read in an article published in The Telegraph that an expert panel working for adolescent education was somewhat pressurized by the ministry of Human Resources and Development (MHRD) to omit the words sex and sexuality from the final document they had prepared.

People often refrain themselves from using the world ‘sex’ openly because of the fear that it might end up offending people and their beliefs. It is quiet disheartening and moreover, disappointing to see that even the use of the term ‘sex’ for the purpose of empowering people with knowledge is being labelled as something offensive and indecent.

The population of India is approx 1.25 billion. It is an assumption that every second, a child is born in India, which clearly means that someone, somewhere, in a supposedly remote town of a lesser known village or town must be having sex with his/her partner. The problem lies in the way the entire concept of sex and sexuality is being presented by the society.

Sexuality is something that is policed and relegated to the private sphere. The reason, I believe, sex and sexuality seen in a largely negative light is because of the countless number of negative messages around the idea of sex that we encounter in our daily life. Sex is something that has always been there in the society, but all the negative chatter surrounding sex right from news channels reporting incidents of rape and sexual violence to news reports throwing light on infidelity. It won’t be wrong to say that the entire idea surrounding sex and sexual health has been positioned negatively.

On a personal note, It won’t be wrong to say that sexual health is an integral cog in the wheel when it comes to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Talking about sex isn’t an act of indecency. It is a form of knowledge, a form of awareness which should not remain confined to the bedroom.

The need of the hour is to be a bit more open-minded when it comes to talking about sex. It’ll help people to nurture a healthy and tolerant attitude towards sex irrespective of their sexual orientation and/or beliefs.

 

Of medals and mettle…

As far as India’s Olympic journey is concerned, one thing’s for sure, India’s women are doing their country proud ( with the notable exception of Shobha De 🙂 ) Dipa Karmakar, Sakshi Malik and now, PV Sandhu. Women have exceeded expectations and given us something to cheer.

Sakshi Malik won the first medal for India at the Rio Olympics and the entire nation celebrated her achievement on August 18. Malik won the first medal for India (a bronze) and the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to Twitter in order to congratulate her. Continue reading “Of medals and mettle…”

Insecurity in the times of the smartphones…..

The times have changed, and so have the people. Well, that that is what I, in all fairness, believe. Women, to be very honest, have become extremely tech savvy these days. Ah, just look at the irony: women are becoming more and more tech-savvy whereas boys like me happen to be technologically handicapped to quite an extent. Well, that’s a sexist remark, but I’d urge all of you to take on a lighter note. I have no intentions whatsoever of tarnishing someone’s reputation. Ah, so let me come back on to the issue I was addressing. So, as I was saying, women have become extremely tech savvy these days and as a consequence, they’ve been adding new dreams and aspirations to their wish list. Continue reading “Insecurity in the times of the smartphones…..”

A childish attempt to play with fire…..

For most part of my life, I was considered to be an extremely rebellious and audacious guy. I loved the taste of power. I loved dominating and overshadowing others. My love for power and authority grew with age. I always loved carving out new paths and roads for people to walk on them.  I always loved setting examples. I was concerned about power, the power to be superior and the power that allows a person to superimpose oneself on others. Continue reading “A childish attempt to play with fire…..”