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This Heartbreaking Letter To An Unborn Daughter Will Force You To Re-Think Violence Against Women

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By Sudha Shashwati Sahoo:

Note: This is a work of fiction

Dear Daughter,

Writhing in agony and holding back flames that threaten to barge in through my eyes any time, I write this letter to you, sincerely hoping that you will not consign yourself to the same fate as mine. I will be no more after I usher you into this world and so this letter will have to be your mother’s voice once you’re grown up enough to understand, and obey. I never tried to understand; never tried to obey, and this is what life has come to. Being my daughter, I’m almost sure that you will not listen to me and would rather prefer taking the path of your own calling. Yet being also almost sure that the path of my daughter would be the same as mine, I will make this valiant attempt to show you that mine was a lost cause.

Violence against women

Equality is a myth. There’s nothing called equality. All those talks of male-female equality sounded very good on paper and in the feminist discussion panels I was an audience of, but how unrealistic they were, I came to realize when I was raped. I came to realize that when I was raped by the one who is now your father now.

It is cruel on my part to let you in on this part of the story that I’m sure everyone will hide from you, but your father is the least cruel of all whom your mother had to negotiate. The police officers who suggested the marriage, my own parents who sanctioned it without even asking me and the society which pushed me into it through ways explicit and implicit, are but subtle notes of the cruelty humanity has for half of its milieu.

I’m sure I’ll be giving birth to a daughter and I’m sure it’s my daughter who is reading it, and if I have to say just one line to you, dear daughter, it will be this- for a woman, liberty to be a human being is an illusion, and your mother is finally disillusioned. I spent all my life chasing an impossible dream and I beg you to never embark on that path. This realization of the futility of my endeavours didn’t come when I was penetrated against my will by the man who has now told the doctor that he wants the child and not me, rather, when I was made to marry the man I didn’t do the honour of considering a human being.

You will be safe, I’m sure, in the hands of that beast, only if you don’t refuse to dance to the tunes of the society, the way society expects you to. I beg of you to give up before you even start thinking of equality. Society will take good care of you. Only, don’t ask for the right to be a human being. Stay content being a woman. Find the right man and the right balance, and stay happy. That ‘Y’ chromosome nature didn’t endow you with will make sure you’re never equal to those of the ‘XY’ chromosome species. This liberty that they flaunt is not for us women, or else a country free for more than half a century yet not allowing freedom to its women to lead normal lives would have been a farce. Only, it is so. But we must live with this banished parade of liberty. All of us have to. You have to.

Don’t strangle yourself to despair by trying to change anything. The more things change, the more they remain the same.

Your dead mother
Watching-over-you

Dear mother,

I know not whether I was right in choosing to go through your letter when clearly it wasn’t meant for me. And it’s not the nurse’s fault to have entrusted it into the wrong hands. The poor lady only wanted to have completed her job before dying. I’m as old now as your daughter would have been today and you were correct in your instincts telling you that your message would not be heeded.

I’m going to fight for equality, till my last breath, and not the least because I’m a man. Mother, I’m not ashamed of being a man; I have never been, and I want to be able to say this in my dying moments. I’m proud of you mother, for not understanding and not obeying till the last few moments of your life and disappointed with you I am for what you call your disillusionment. I’ll excuse you though, for those weak moments you had. And you’re going to have to excuse me, rather try and be proud of me, for taking the same path as yours. Equality is not a myth. It might have been so till now but I’m sure to see it come alive, if not in this birth, then at least in some birth eons down the cosmic lane, before which my soul will refuse to be at peace. Male-female equality is not an impossible dream.

Trust your son, mother, when he says he will chase it all his life, and in the world beyond, and this world you left a better place to live in. I’ll be the man to show the earth that liberty to be a human being first, is as much a woman’s as a man’s. And your endeavors, mother, were not futile. Every pore of my body oozes with the enthusiasm of being the ‘right man’ you wanted your unborn daughter to find, and to ensure that at least a few women in this country don’t have to go looking for the ‘right balance.’ I’ll be the husband and the father who will not have to be ashamed of being a man, for having to subjugate women to reassure himself of his manhood. I’m not that man you asked your unborn daughter to dance to the tunes of; neither am I a part of that society. The son of a beast I am, I admit, as much as I’m your son, but that blood only makes me a fanatic for creating the kind of world where beasts are no longer able to roam about in human cloaks.

Your Son
Watching-over-the-world-you-left

You must be to comment.
  1. Babar

    There is just as much violence against men as there is against women: rape, murder, domestic violence, false cases of dowry, rape, molestation, and assault. Men, generally, do not report violence by women because it is embarrassing and considered unmanly to do so. Furthermore, you can also be a victim of death threats from feminists if you dare raise your voice against domestic violence perpetrated by women (Google Erin Pizzey).

    People sympathize with women’s causes because of the hype in the media about violence against women, and the media selectively chooses to represent issues of one gender only due to the element of attention associated with it – It is almost as though violence against men does not exist (Please search ‘domestic violence against men’, ‘sexism against men’, and ‘misandry in the media’ in YouTube and Google).

    The draconian laws in India have done nothing to further the cause of men, as a woman only needs to point a finger at a man to land him in jail over false allegations of rape, dowry, assault, domestic abuse, molestation, etc. Women do this without a care in the world about a man’s life, future, career, family, reputation, life, etc.

    Men are always at the receiving end, men are victimized, tormented, and traumatized, and it is not surprising that suicide by men is escalating in India – A man in India commits suicide every 6 minutes. Twice as many men commit suicide as compared to women in India.

    As many as 1,35,445 people committed suicide in the country last year. Statistics released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) show that excluding West Bengal, 79,773 men and 40,715 women had taken the extreme step (The Hindu).

    As for equality, why is it that women always look to marry men richer than them, earning more than them, live in their husbands house, drive their husbands car, shop with their husband’s money, eat at restaurants with husband’s pay, buy jewellery with husband’s income, and live luxuriously courtesy of their husbands – For women today, a husband is an ATM, driver, porter, and dildo.

    Today, women have seats reserved for them everywhere, from office to politics, and ask men to leave their seats for them in the name of being gentlemen – What happened to equality? And when was the last time a woman left her seat for a man? – Equality is only applicable when it works in favour of women.

    If feminists are really concerned about women’s rights, they should be raising their voices against the abuse by mothers-in-law, who are the biggest perpetrators of violence against women, not to mention daughters-in-law, who poison their husbands minds against family members, and sisters-in-law, who have mastered the art of family politics.

  2. Gaurav

    violence is done by someone who is powerful position against someone who is vulnerable. this has nothing to do with gender. if you cannot understand this, you will end up making the same mistakes

  3. teja

    i think gender equality has noting to do with sexual assault .

  4. Aayushii Vohra

    This is such a powerful piece of writing. Great thoughts put to the best expression. Amazing!

  5. Ishita Aggarwal

    As the letter is titled ‘unborn daughter’, and the misery reflected in this piece written aches the heart, it simultaneously gives a ray of hope that humanity is kept alive by many people and enthusiasm can do wonders…

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
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