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Young girls often face their first experience of street harassment even before they can understand what is happening to them.
Young girls often face their first experience of street harassment even before they can understand what is happening to them. Sadly, almost every Indian girl has one such memory.
#AskingForIt is an initiative by Breakthrough to mobilize communities and get every individual, both online and in the ‘real world’, to speak out and not treat sexual harassment as ‘normal’. The Women’s Web #AskingForIt blogathon asks our readers to share their experiences, suggestions and resources on the topic of street sexual harassment in India and countering it.
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Almost two decades ago, I was about 11 or 12 and for no apparent reason averse to Holi. Although I lived in the pristine Shimla of the eighties and did enjoy playing in snow every winter with friends of both genders, Holi never inspired me enough.
It was Holi again and I was locked in my room all day. All the neighborhood girls did the same; only boys did venture out to throw coloured water balloons and shout, Bura na mano, Holi hai! (Don’t mind, it’s Holi!)
As is still the norm in most places, by evening the colour games had halted and most families had settled down to spend a holiday evening together. Every evening, I used to walk about a 100 meters from my house to fetch milk for the next morning and because every thing looked sober now, I walked to the booth as usual.
On my way back, about 50 meters away from my house, in the narrow galli, this man who ran a paan-bidi shop in the neighborhood sprang out suddenly from a corner, looking every bit inebriated. I stepped back to give him way, but when he was about an arms length away from me he suddenly took out a handful of gulaal from his pocket and just because he was a couple of feet taller than me, rubbed it in my hair very harshly shouting, Happy Holi.
I dropped the milk packets and ran home. Mom kept asking me what happened and when I couldn’t say what exactly had happened, she presumed that some friend from the neighbourhood had played a prank.
After that day, my evening stroll did not happen for many years till I was older, stronger and probably more mature to handle a similar situation, if need be.
I told mom what exactly had happened only a couple of days later and she did take it up with that man only to get a denial from him, that he never remembered doing any of that.
Many years later, I realized that was my first brush with crude public harassment. Maybe it could have happened to anyone who is physically weaker in any given situation, but when you are a woman in India numerous incidents of the same nature make you conclude that maybe it happens more to girls and women and especially on festivals like Holi.
The trauma of such incidents does not go away easily and I now realize that keeping women indoors and ‘safe’ is no solution. Why have we become so twisted that a festival has to be loud, noisy, drunk and ostentatious to be celebrated?
Whether it is Holi or whatever, do not adopt the argument that all is good in the name of a festival.
This post was first published at the author’s blog
Hands against bars image via Shutterstock
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"I chose to go out into the remote, wild, unknown, and make it home," says entrepreneur Kiranjeet Ahluwalia Chaturvedi, who owns Birdsong & Beyond.
The story of my mountain home Birdsong & Beyond started taking shape in 2009, on the internet, the way many stories do these days.
My childhood fascination for a life in the Himalayas led to an internship with a central Himalayan NGO instead of a much prized corporate assignment. But when they offered me a full-time job, I refused. I was overcome by fear and a lack of confidence.
My other longings pulled me away – the longing to fit in, to earn validation from others. By my mid-30s, with all the trappings of a middle-class urban life in place, the call of the snows couldn’t be ignored anymore. So I got to work on it with clearer intentions and a stronger sense of what I needed for myself, and why.
Many Indian elderly are firm believers in enslaving a daughter-in-law in the name of tradition which is actually a tradition of oppression and not of religious faith.
Albeit, the popular culture has interpreted scriptures as suggesting that Kanyadaan is the supreme form of donation given to someone, the connotation that the word donation alludes to definitely objectifies the girl.
Even when the exegesis justify the act of giving away the daughter, considering it a ritual to mark the initiation of the daughter into her husband’s gotra and her becoming the part of his family tree.
There is no denial of the fact that this initiation is not required on the part of the groom thereby formally denoting the end of the filial ties with the daughter as it was popularly instructed to the bride during the Vidai ceremonies:
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