We Shout About Ending Sexual Violence, But Our Efforts Are As Fragile As Our Memories

by Gulraj Bedi, | Published: Saturday, October 28, 2017

We, as individuals, speak volumes about putting an end to or at least minimising sexual violence, but our efforts are often as fragile as our memories. With Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein facing the heat after being accused of sexually harassing several women, the hashtag #Metoo seems to have taken the world by storm.

The hashtag has thrown light on the fact that it is indeed a daunting task for women to report sexual harassment at the workplace, even in countries having a strong legislation to counter the problem.

Every day, women are raped – either by strangers or by colleagues, by friends or family, etc but the problem doesn’t end here. The problem is much bigger than what meets the eye. Women are raped, but the crime isn’t reported. No FIRs, no medical reports, nothing. Instead of fighting the crime and going up against it all guns blazing, most women remain quiet. Silence engulfs their minds.

Every second day, we come across a story wherein victims do not speak about the misery they’ve faced. Right from being touched in their private parts to sweaty palms being pressed against their mouths, the victims are thrown into a web of silence.

Reports state that around 80% women (four in every five women) have faced sexual harassment in some form or the other, and yet, only a handful of them come to light. Women don’t report sexual abuse for the fear that it might bring a bad name to the family. A consequent decline in the degree of self-esteem the victim experiences makes reporting sexual abuse all the more difficult. The trauma isn’t only limited to the experience. It intensifies further, owing to the stigma and the isolation they’re subjected to.

We need the society to transform its perception towards survivors of sexual assault. In an article published previously, I had stated that victim blaming is still a jarring reality our society does not accept or acknowledge. Victim blaming is perhaps the easiest way for society to escape from the entire episode. Blaming the survivor also ends up affecting our willingness to help the survivor.

Right from honour killings to rapes to molestation, it is the woman who suffers. Right from infancy, women are taught (rather spoon-fed) to behave in a manner that preserves and keeps the family’s honour intact. “What would people say?” is the million-dollar question women are asked. Your brother will scold you if you hang-out with boys. Your father will kill you if he sees you dating a guy, etc. Ours is a society where men make decisions on behalf of women.

‘Honour’ in this case is nothing but a way of curtailing women’s freedom and confining them to societal conventions. The society we live in is equally responsible for this. We live in a society where girls are taught how to sit ‘properly’, but not once are boys taught how to see ‘properly ’.

Instead of teaching girls how to sit properly, parents should perhaps teach their children to behave. Teach children not to cross certain lines. Encourage children to nurture a healthy attitude towards sex and the opposite gender.

Social media campaigns and outbursts condemning sexual harassment and assault keep coming and going. Frankly, no social media campaign is strong enough to uproot the problem. There are many who do not know what outbursts on social media mean and they keep treating women as a ‘second fiddle’.

Last, but certainly not the least, people need to come forward in order to break the ice around sex and everything related to it. It is not something one needs to be shy of and neither it is something which should remain enclosed within the length and breadth of a bedroom. Sex and sexuality should be treated as an integral part and parcel of our life rather than something that is confined within four walls.

That can surely be our first step in our bid to showcase sexuality positively.


photo of the week
CAFI successfully held an advocacy meeting on 6 Dec 2018 in New York City at backdrop of UN Third Committee and during the 16 Days of Activism to End Violence.

CAFI successfully held an advo...

more photos
National Action Plan on Women, Peace & Security for India
Northeast Folks: Less Indian - Bezbaruah Committee
The Long Path For Justice for Survivors of Sexual Violence in Conflict