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Why Are We Only Taught To Run Away And Hide Behind Protective Male Figures?

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TW: Rape, sexual assault.

I remember an argument with my dad that went something like this. I asked, “Why do you have to tell me what to wear and what not to?” He replied with an understanding smile, “Beta, I trust you a lot. But I do not trust the men out there. You are my precious daughter.”

This may seem like some forwarded message claiming daughters to be the prized possession like gold and diamonds. But my next question was uncalled for and unexpected for him and for all the fathers in the world. “Fine. But tell me one thing, don’t you have a son? When have you taught your son to not view a woman as an object? And are also you not one of the so-called man out there?”

I come from a very orthodox family. The type of family who would hide the words like ‘rape’, ‘sex’, and ‘harassment’ from their children. The same family, while being questioned about such terms, would respond by saying that women wear short clothes and that is why they are raped. But then why are sari-wearing women and a few-month-old or year-old girls raped? I would not have been more shattered when it dawned on me that whatever I have learnt so far was pure sexism and misogyny. Patriarchy has always been against my questions, my freedom, and my happiness.

Image credit: Aasawari Kulkarni/Feminism In India

Most people may now wonder how come I am talking about my own experiences in a patriarchal family instead of talking about the Hathras case or so many other heinous rape cases. But then, how will you know the root cause of the rape culture if not through the women’s experiences themselves? Every woman has felt that weird, unwanted, and disgusting touch some or the other time in their lives. But, how many of us actually come forward and admit it? If we raise our voice against eve-teasing and other sexual crimes, aren’t we slut-shamed? Doesn’t society look down upon us? Won’t our parents stop our education and jobs? Do parents really teach their kids to raise their voices against sexual harassment?

I was 12 or 13-years -old then. My parents had taken my cousin and me to a café. We were deciding what to order, I felt someone was staring at me. Usually, you don’t understand such things, but it wasn’t the usual stare. It was terribly creepy. I shuddered and mouthed a bad word at the guy. As soon as my dad had seen that guy and my reaction, he knew something was wrong. My dad kept the menu card down and told all the three of us to get up. Soon I found that we were out of the café and my dad said “You tell me what you want to eat from here. I will get a parcel and you can eat at home.”

People would think of how protective and caring my dad is. But does that solve the problem? No, it doesn’t. Because the other day, I was eating panipuri alone at a roadside stall when a man in his early thirties started eve-teasing me. In such a situation, I normally imagine myself pulling out all my anger by shouting and swearing at the man. But instead, I panicked and I didn’t know what to do. I started shivering and lost my taste and appetite. With unsteady hands, I paid the vendor and ran away from the situation. When I was back home, I regretted not giving a piece of my mind to the pervert. But, what and how was I supposed to? I was taught to run away and hide behind every protective male figure of my life.

Image source: Feminism In India

Yes, these can be considered petty incidences. But, can I ever admit it to my parents? When girls like me cannot reveal such things to their parents, how will they report such crimes to the police? And won’t such small incidences give way to severe and worse crimes against women? Won’t men be encouraged and their toxic-masculinity empowered by the silence of women?

Also, don’t you think it’s high time our parents learned to teach their sons to consider women as equals and not a weaker gender? Right from the stereotypical slangs, behaviour, and expectations, to misogynist jokes and sexist remarks, we should put an end to this male chauvinist mentality. Instead of saying ‘protecting sisters and mothers’, let’s start saying creating better men or humans for the betterment.

Featured image for representation only.
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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.

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.

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