originally posted on 30/12/2012
This has been troubling me for a long time but recent events have forced me to shed my inhibitions and share my thoughts here.
I dont think any of us can stay quiet. Its time to stand up and be counted. If you have anything which can make a difference to the world please share it, even if like me you were brought up conservatively in thought, action and word.
We were brought up in an era when talking about sex or anything related to it was taboo. And being a household of sisters we were even more protected and sadly ill equipped for the world. Thankfully we lived in better times and so were able to grow up unscathed.
When I was young, my father , a very honest police officer was transferred ever so often, which necessitated my staying with my very strict grandmother in Lucknow.
I used to go to school, a distance of 30min in a rickshaw.
The same rickshaw wala took me to school for 8 years.
I think I was about 13-14 years when a couple of boys started chasing my rickshaw. They would lie in wait for the rickshaw in an open stretch of road and from there till the gate of school would follow passing what I now know were lewd comments and suggestions. At that time I understood nothing except feeling uncomfortable and threatened by them.
However, unfortunately I was unable to complain about this to my grandmother or my aunt. Though I had done absolutely nothing to encourage or deserve this treatment I was scared that people would point fingers at my character. My rickshaw wala was an old man and non plussed at what action to take, except try and speed through the patch where these boys came.
This continued for a couple of weeks and soon they started coming all the way to my school. i will be honest. i was so mortified and petrified that there was a point when I considered drastic action too. Luckily for me one of my friends realised I was very distressed and forced the truth out of me. She advised me to complain to our class teacher. I will never forget how she came charging out with me and chased those two boys away, screaming threats .
She advised me to talk to my parents who were coming over that weekend. I don’t know how I gathered up the courage to do it. My parents were shocked at what I had gone through and my mother made me promise to come to her immediately in the future , if I ever felt uncomfortable.
Amma explained to me that such things do happen and the girl is in no way to blame.
But society pushes everything onto a girl’s character so we always feel guilty. This has to change and can only do so when we are open with our children. The onus of good behaviour of boys is not on the girl. Ever.
My father arranged for a police escort for me for the next month till school closed for the holidays.
My point is that not being able to communicate with elders about an uncomfortable situation can turn it into a threatening one. My petrified silence was taken by those boys as encouragement and enjoyment and could have led to a risk to my self.
In the 60s when I was in school it was limited to following & commenting from afar bu today we have stalkers and it leads to worse crimes . Parents please emphasise to your children that you are their friend and always encourage them to talk to you,describe their activities. Never close the door on them that they regard you only as a dispenser of punishment / nourishment. Be their friend and stay their friend.
Also it’s very important to give a rudimentary sex education to your children. The visual media is so strong these days that they learn very fast. Just ensure they learn the right things and the right way.
My daughter was about 7 years old when we got our first VCR. I rarely watched hindi movies except comedies in front of them . But that was the 80s and there was a lot of violence in hindi movies, which I used to fast forward. I remember once we had to go somewhere and were in the middle of a movie. My daughter asked to leAve it on and non plussed me by saying, ” I know what to fast forward. I promise I will ff all those scenes.”
Thats the day I realised children see much more than we realise. That was the day I sat her down and explained basic facts of life to her.I knew it was time.
My husband did the same when our son grew older.
Another incident which shook me and emphasised the need for sex education at home happened a few years later.
We were in a colony and all the children would to out to play together in the evening. One day one of the mothers came to me in distress. It seemed one of the boys a 7 year old had asked a 5 year old girl to undress so he could see the difference. That little girl felt uncomfortable and ran home to her mom and complained.
Since I was the older of the ladies in thAt colony I was requested to do something. Both the parents were good friends of ours.
I don’t know how I managed to find the strength to go to them but I knew I had to. Anything else would have been a disservice to them.
The parents were devastated but never once did they turn around and accuse me of maligning their son.
I salute their courage. They called their son and told him if he wanted to know anything he should ask them. They then with help of biology books explAined the male / female form to him and a few facts about birds and bees. That boy has turned out to be a wonderful young man. But if not handled properly it was a potentially dangerous one.
There is a natural curiousity amongst all children. Its upto the parents to satisfy that in a normal healthy way otherwise children can fall prey to inadvisable literature and websites.
They will eventually graduAte to that but that should not be their introduction to the subject .
As a teacher I became confidant to a few of my students who found it easier to talk to me than their parents. One young girl was having trouble. During a family holiday one of her cousins would touch her inappropiately. At first she thought it was accidental but soon reslised it was intentional. She started avoiding him but houses being small it wasnt easy. One night he crept to her bed and started touching her face. She was paralysed with shock and didnt know what to do. When he touched her clothes she knew she had to run. She went distraught to her mother and narrated the story to her . The mother though very distressed was part of a very conservative family. She told the daughter to keep quiet or else she would be blamed abnd to in future sleep in her room.
This wasn’t much of a solution as he tried to grope her a couple of times. He must have felt that since mother and daughter were quiet he could do anything he wanted. Luckily holidays ended and he went off before anything really untoward could happen. But thT girl was scarred and she kept askng me why her mother didn’t unmSk the boy and whether anyone would have really blamed her?
I do know of many mothers who will go to any length to protect their sons and push the blame on the girls. In fact many a times they don’t think there’s anything to blame their son for in the first place. According to them thats what boys are.
Parents particularly Mothers sit your children down teach your girls from a very early Ge what an inappropiate touch is and believe and act upon it when she tells you.
Maximum molestation and rape cases happen within the four walls of the house and go unreported for fear of social stigma and family pressure.
Parents particularly fThers sit your sons down and teach them by example to respect women. You are their first role model. If you dont respect your wife they will not learn respect for women. Teach them that real men nurture and cherish. Force is not macho in fAct its ugly.
Its all very well blaming society, blaming the government but till we dont change attitudes at home nothing can change.
You can increase the police on the roads but you cant police your house sgainst relatives all the time.
We can’t shout all the time; all of us can’t go and sit in dharnas but we can change the space around us. Let’s start with that.
Change has to come from within first. Society is made up of us .