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I Wear Short Clothes And Drink, Dad. Do I ‘Deserve’ To Be Raped?

Dear Dad,

I was out late last night. I was drunk and I couldn’t drive back to the hostel myself, so a friend had to drop me back at 1:30 in the night (yes, it was a male friend). But all I could think about at that time was how you had once told me, girls like me deserve to be raped. Of course, I know you didn’t mean me and you had just said that girls who wear short clothes, drink and go out at night deserve to be raped and that there is no point blaming the sons, or teaching them what’s right. Little did you know what you were implying and you didn’t know your little girl is one of those girls. So yeah, I shouldn’t blame you. You were talking about the other girls, the ‘bad girls’ who deserve it, not me, never me. But dad, I repeat, I am one of those girls! Do you still stand by what you said? Do you really think I deserve to be raped? If something like that were to happen to your little girl, would just brush it off saying I deserved it? Would you not be furious? It scares me, dad, to know I can’t count on you anymore. It scares me that you might even throw me to the monsters yourself, or worse, you might even be one of them!

I remember how you told me girls wearing short skirts are asking for it. “What do they expect from the men around them, when they are going around showing their body like that? Men are, and will always be animals, and girls have to cover themselves up,” you said. I agree, dad. Men are animals. But #notallmen they defend. Maybe and maybe not, I can’t say for sure. But dad, I, and all the women out there can say this for sure, what we wear has nothing to do with sexual harassment or rape. A girl in a burqa and a girl in shorts, both get catcalled, a girl at home and a girl out late have equal chances of being targeted, and even age doesn’t matter. The perpetrators don’t even care if it’s a child. Do you want to know how I can be so sure of this? Well then let me give you some clarity.

Every girl has stories about their experiences of sexual harassment. Don’t get me started on the number of men who’ve rubbed themselves against me on buses, trains and even on the streets, irrespective what I wore or what time it was. That list will never end, and that’s no big deal right? It happens to everyone. I shouldn’t overreact. Let me tell you some other times something else has happened. It might not be a big deal either but a girl has to try telling right? A girl has to start somewhere. and so here it goes.

I was on my way to college, wearing a salwar kameez with dupatta, properly pinned when this creepy stranger catcalled me and tried to touch me before I ran away from there.

I was wearing a cotton top and jeans and walking home from the bus stand, (a distance of just 500 meters) when a guy on his bike came close to me, grabbed my breasts and drove away.

That’s not the only time it happened, dad. I went down for a walk within the compound of our apartment in my loose t-shirt and pyjamas when a man, in the pretext of asking me the address of an apartment, squeezed my breasts and drove away before I could react. I guess it was his way of saying thanks for helping him out.

But I’m not done yet. I was 15 and I hadn’t even started wearing a bra when a guy on his cycle came and grabbed whatever there was of my still developing breasts.

I was 11 when a strange middle-aged man pulled me into a deserted street and kissed me or rather sucked the life out of my lips and asked me not to tell anyone. That’s not what a girl’s first kiss should have been like. I felt so disgusted I washed my mouth for an hour after, hoping to rub off that feeling from the mind as well. What was I wearing that day, you ask? Well honestly, I don’t remember dad, because I don’t think it mattered.

I was 8 and walking on a crowded street, holding mom’s hand, when suddenly I felt someone touching me down there. I pushed the hand off, afraid to tell mom because I had no idea what was happening. A few seconds later his hand was back there, and I had to push it away many more times before the old, grey-haired man was lost in the crowd, as he looked weak to keep up with us. Do you still want to know what I was wearing?

I was 3 when my summer vacations turned into a nightmare, when he started making me sit on his lap, and insisted I hold his penis. I think at that time, you and mom decided what I should wear. Did you get me dressed in such a way that I deserved being treated that way? Why would you do that to me, dad? Why did you let me wear short frocks when I was 3? Now, look what happened. He, the animal he is, couldn’t resist himself, seeing all the body that I was showing, instead of covering it up. This continued dad, for years, till I was 16, he would make me touch him and he even tried touching me and grabbed my body. My whole body felt filthy. I felt like no matter how much I wash myself, I couldn’t be clean again. But I couldn’t tell you this because I was afraid you would blame me, blame the clothes. You did not give me the confidence to stand up, to stop him, all the times I could have, should have. I was always afraid dad and you did not help me either.

I know I’m surrounded by monsters but now I also know that what I wear, where I go, what I drink or what time of the day it is, hardly matters. Those monsters don’t care about any of this. When they are already doing so much to ruin our lives, why should we make it worse, with so many restrictions that we draw for ourselves? Why should I make decisions about my life, what to wear, where to go, when to get back and how to behave, based on their behaviour? Even if we lock ourselves in a room and never come out, they still find a way in. So what’s the point of being afraid? The only thing to do is to live life the way I want, and not let the monsters decide.

Next time you talk about all those girls in short skirts, all those girls who drink and all those girls in the news for the most unfortunate reasons, just stop yourself dad, and remember, your little girl is one of them.

Don’t forget you are the father of a daughter dad. But more importantly, don’t forget you have a son too. Don’t let him be a monster. Teach him to be human. Teach your sons, no daughter deserves this, not just your daughter. Don’t be a hypocrite. Be my hero again dad.

Forever with love, no matter what,

Your little girl!

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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.

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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.

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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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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.

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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.

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