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Can Holi be a teachable moment for our families and communities, with people coming together in joy and comfort with each other? Yes! Make this Holi an occasion to talk about Consent.
Almost 25 years ago as a pre-teen in Shimla I never played Holi. Since childhood I was averse to this whole idea of getting ‘dirty’ and also being touched by so many people (unkindly, as it seemed). On one such Holi evening long after the clamour and ‘playing’ had halted I walked to the neighbourhood shop for some essentials as was routine, when an inebriated man literally forced himself on me in a narrow passage, and rubbed gulal on my face and hair, harshly shouting HAPPY HOLI! I ran home and in spite of my mom asking me what had happened, I couldn’t say what exactly had happened.
I felt violated – “inappropriately touched” is the technical term as I learned years later.
The incident had me in shock for many days and I think for years after that, I avoided that path in the neighbourhood altogether. Many years later I realized that it was my first brush with the crude public harassment that most women and girls in India go through, especially around and in the name of Holi.
No other festivals in India involve physical contact with another; in our culture we are otherwise too paranoid of family members of the opposite gender or even couples hugging and touching each other in public view but then hypocritically enough the same society ‘allows’ anybody to violate anybody’s physical space on this one day.
The whole social ambience a few days preceding Holi is that of hooliganism and rowdiness. Boys and men seem to get a short term license to molest and harass anyone, particularly women and girls. What is even worse that any mention of CONSENT in such a scenario is seen as anti-culture, anti-festive spirit and what not!
Women have gone through horrendous experiences like being pulled and pushed from two-wheelers, jostled in public places, forcibly fondled and smeared with gross things ranging from paint, grease, and sewage water to semen.
Here are a few important points that we need to set as rules in families and communities:
Do not assume CONSENT.
Ask: “May I put a small dot of colour on your forehead for Holi? Do you want to play colours with me? Are you okay with water colours?”
And most importantly, if our idea of a festival means fear and disgust for someone else, it is time to revise and alter it.
The common phrase used in Holi Bura na mano Holi hai! (Don’t mind, it’s Holi) needs to be changed to Bura na karo Holi hai! (Don’t do ill, it’s Holi!)
Image via Pixabay
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Pooja Priyamvada is an author, columnist, translator, online content & Social Media consultant, and poet. An awarded bi-lingual blogger she is a trained psychological/mental health first aider, mindfulness & grief facilitator, emotional wellness trainer, reflective read more...
Women's Web is an open platform that publishes a diversity of views, indivisual posts do not necessarily represent the platofrom's views and opinions at all times.
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Women's consent during Holi. It has become routine to openly disregard it, and perpetuate violence against women. It's high time we protest and end this toxic culture!
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In a quick succession of events that began after a student from the Lady Shree Ram College for Women posted about ‘semen flinging’ that happens during Holi near the college, many women came out with the stories of how this is something that happens every year, the overall licence that men take in the garb of a festival and of course, the saying Bura na mano, Holi hai! Well, enough now. Online campaigns have been launched demanding that the gravity of these actions be understood, along with drawing the attention of the concerned authorities.
Pinjra Tod, an organisation which fights against gender-biased rules in places of accommodations, i.e, PGs and hostels, organised an event, Bura Kyun Na Manoo? in light of the above incidents. They organised a march of female students through the areas chanting slogans and sporting posters and reclaiming their space in the city as equals. The above news is about the areas such as Amar Colony and Vijay Nagar, but other areas like Satya Niketan in South Campus, all of which are majorly PG inhabited areas get problematic during the time of Holi. People, in general, are attacked with balloons filled with what-not at least a week before Holi. It gets absolutely impossible to move around without getting doused with water.
Holi triggers unpleasant memories in many Indian women. This author recollects her trauma during Holi as a child, which makes her scared for her daughter.
Holi triggers unpleasant memories in many Indian women. This author recollects her trauma as a child during Holi, which makes her scared for her daughter.
I am a sucker for festivities in India. I think the whole essence of the cultural ethos of this country lies in its customs and festivities. Religious or nonreligious, every celebration brings with it an amazing sense of merriment, fun and frolic. And, I love them. Every bit of it. But, sadly, there is one festival that I could never wrap my head around. I couldn’t make myself allow to revel in the vibe. I couldn’t allow myself to dive deep into the riot of colours and drench in the fervor. I tried, year after year, but I couldn’t. I told myself, “it’s alright, take a plunge, you can handle it!” But again, after taking a few steps forwards, I took a few step backwards.
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