Sometimes I wonder if the world has always been so and we just have begun hearing more of these stories as people are learning to be more open about things.
Living in this unknown corner of the world, Sri Lanka would be described as a paradise in any tourist brochure you might get your hands on or any holiday destination website that you may look up. Indeed, Sri Lanka is beautiful and has many of earth’s natural resources but if you were to ask woman if she would go over alone to the stretch of beaches in Mt. Lavinia, Dehiwela (Western Province, Sri Lanka) to enjoy a moment of solitude many a women would say no.
Why do we feel frightened to walk alone in the streets after dark? With the height of feminism and all the women rights going around shouldn’t we stand as equals to men and not fear the dark or the streets. Surely men aren’t asked to be home by six.
Is it only women?
As a feminist I had the misconception that sexual violence was committed only against or rather more frequently to women. Recently I have been shocked to realize that the male gender as opposed to the female undergo a greater threat of sexual violence backed with statistics. In the female gender I suppose such incidents do not get reported as the victims do not even realize that they are victims. They are not educated as with the girls (initiatives taken in recent times) and our experimented on by their own gender and violated by others. Fear and shame and a lack of knowledge are reasons that have kept a tight lid on such incidents.
The western culture and the Sri Lankan culture though it may seem so near couldn’t be far apart. With that lies perceptions with one group who would go bar-hopping while the other gape in outrage at such an idea. What group do I belong to? I think I would place myself in the group that would never place my feet near a bar/club but romanticize the idea as a reader of western novels. This and the society I live in colours my perceptions of the world.
I dread taking the public transportation as women get harassed regularly. When I was a few years younger I would be daily harassed in the bus and don’t say I was wearing inappropriately as I was wearing my school uniform (hem below the ankle, loose frock buttoned to my neck). Truth be told my school’s policy was to dress the female students as nuns. No we didn’t dress sexy as schoolgirl Britney Spears! As I grew older I grew sterner and wielded my umbrella as a weapon. I learnt to distinguish between the accidental touch and the purposeful harassment.
I dread walking in the streets/roads as I dread the catcalls and whistles thrown my way from construction guys to three-wheeler drivers. You might say that’s harmless but I fear the world that thinks that this is what harmless is. I know of plenty of women who had unpleasant experiences in the hands of a three-wheeler driver who followed them or sang to them throughout the journey. Sadly a pregnant lady too was harassed in this manner until the three-wheeler driver figured it out!
What is normal?
Recently someone who suffered from extreme migraine bouts told me this. She suffered through such severe migraines that when she sprained her leg and was asked to consult a doctor when she went through extreme pain she didn’t know how to distinguish what extreme pain was. To her excruciating pain was similar to normal pain.
I think we too feel this way. For so long we have faced these catcalls and crude remarks that it sounds normal to us.
According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights two things that strike me as a citizen in my independent nation is
Article 3 “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person” We all have the right to live in freedom and safety. No one should be arbitrarily killed, or deprived of their liberty without good reason.
Article 13 “Everyone has the right to freedom of movement” You have the right to move about freely within your country. You also have the right to travel freely to and from your own country, and to leave any country.
The papers published the story of a brutal rape of a school girl. A school girl? How dare! Must be animals who did this to her! But at the end of the day, a week, a month it is all a story to us. Surely such an animal is not part of my society even less my family. He cannot be our religious leader. These animals live far far away in fairy land. Our children are well protected. We don’t have to warn them of such things. We don’t have to raise our children to be proper. I can leave my young daughter with my trustworthy neighbor who I have known for five years. He has a daughter himself! My widowed best friend just adores my son, nothing suspicious in that.
As always there is a fine line between overly cautious and too trusting but as the saying goes it is better to be cautious than sorry. Some think overbearing is the way to go. We can’t change the situation around us so we will lock our children in golden cages.
I am not writing this to offer sagely advice. I am offering information that you choose to do what you will. We all have a brain with which we are trusted to make decisions with. I’m just pleading for you to make a decision!