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My Mother Would Say “So What If He Hits You, He Loves And Cares Too”

ReimagineTogether logoEditor’s Note: This article is a part of #ReimagineTogether, a campaign by Youth Ki Awaaz in collaboration with UNICEF India, YuWaah and Generation Unlimited, to spark conversations to create a new norm and better world order in the post-pandemic future. How have you and those around you coped with the pandemic? Join the conversation by telling us your COVID story and together, let's reimagine a safer, better and more equal future for all!

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Sibling Abuse, An Unspoken Story

When there’s been so much talk about domestic violence, why are we still silent when it comes to sibling abuse?

Is domestic violence only limited to partners? Is a brother beating up his sister not an act of violence? Is it not a criminal act of domination and superiority of one person over the other.

What parents usually say is “ye sab toh behen bhai ke beech chalta rehta hai”. (It is a normal thing between siblings)

The fact is, they don’t realise that these trivial fights eventually take the form of intense aggressive, hate-filled behaviour. The attitude of parents remains cool and unaffected towards it, while the victim suffers physically, mentally and emotionally.

It is believed that sibling fights are likely to exist at the childhood stage and disappear as they grow up, unfortunately, this is not a universal truth. Sibling rivalry can take place in adulthood as well.

I am a victim at the age of 25. Being the youngest in my family and the only sister of two elder brothers, I have always been the centre of oppression. My brother who is five years older to me expects that I stay submissive and obedient towards him.

These are the days when I feel worthless, completely depressed and cry excessively. Representational image

It started with a slap, and then, the intensity of the violence kept increasing. The frequency also increased, and the issues got more severe than being as trivial as fighting over a TV remote.

Now, the violence is accompanied by injuries, abusive language and more hate-filled monologues. If I rebel, I am compared to a ‘so-and-so’ girl who is such an epitome of goodness that she never reacts, even on being oppressed by three elder brothers. Sometimes, I am given a lecture on how some boys hit their sisters with sticks when they don’t behave, so I am still fortunate that my brothers are ‘lenient’ with me.

These are the days when I feel worthless, completely depressed and cry excessively.
Instead of correcting him, my mother comes to me and says “when you know how he is, then why do you mess with him” or she would say, “so what if he hits you, he loves and cares too”.

While I was writing about it, I thought, what if my post sounds stupid and people react the same way my parents do. What if they too normalize it saying, “this is common, it is natural, it happens, and not a thing to worry about”.

I read a report that says,sibling abuse is an underreported phenomenon despite being the most common form of intra-familial abuse.” 

Yes, people don’t talk about it because somewhere they believe it is acceptable. Sometimes parents conceal such issues so as to not spoil their family’s reputation.

After reading the report, I got encouraged to speak up for a problem that is of great concern. I hope that people take it into consideration.

Whenever a man realises his superiority is under threat, he thinks that the best way to get it back is through physical abuse over his female counterpart.

I call my brother by his name. He feels disrespected. Since he is just like any other patriarchal male, seeking respect and superiority, not getting enough makes him incandescent.

He says, “You deserve this and I’ll keep doing it until you learn to behave and respect me”.

Usually, in the families, it is said, “wo maar sakta hai uska haq hai”. (He can hit you, he has the right.) My question is, who gave him that right?

Why is the narrative always about respecting your brother, husband, father and never about respecting your sister, wife, and mother?

I believe a man who raises his hand on his sister would definitely do the same with his wife. Violence happens because people allow it to.

Parents fail to teach their sons the equality that we, today, are fighting for. While they put all their efforts teaching their daughters the values and codes of conduct.
They somewhere forget about giving the same values to their sons.

A person who goes through this kind of abuse experiences low self-esteem, depression and hopelessness. There aren’t enough laws to govern such issues of physical and psychological abuse.

Don’t let yourself suffer alone, in silence. Speak out for what you feel is wrong. When you permit anyone raising a hand on you, it is in no sense justifiable.

Citation: (Button & Gealt, 2010) High-Risk Behaviors Among Victims of Sibling Violence

 

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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.

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.

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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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