Tribal children instill change in their communities: overcoming domestic violence and oppression of women – Tamil Nadu

SARAH ELIZABETH WEBB, The Hindu, February 16, 2013

I have been patient — tolerant even — of the constant threat of sexual harassment that comes with travelling as a Western Woman. I anticipated it and took precautions by dressing conservatively and even wearing a fake wedding ring to ward off unwanted attention. I am conscious of the norms surrounding gender roles in India; sometimes following them even when I don’t agree, all as a means of preventing the negative interactions with men. But, in all reality, none of it works. I have tried to ignore the harassment, pretending that it doesn’t bother me, or even acting as though I can’t hear it. I have tried to shrug it off, telling myself that not all men act like this; surely most men wouldn’t make these comments. I have been patient, but I have also had enough. The comments — the attitudes — towards Western women are disgusting, degrading and totally unacceptable. […]

I can’t get up and move to a separate part of my cage to escape the negative attention because in my cage, there are no bars, and the men simply follow. […]

I am, however, hopeful that we can eventually rid ourselves of a world that tolerates sexual violence. Perhaps my optimism here is misplaced, but I believe that we can eventually live in a world where sexual aggression is no longer a common story, but rather, a rare one. I am hopeful because the women of the world are taking a stand; they are speaking out against rape, holding protests, and telling the world that we will no longer tolerate this violence, exploitation, and oppression. The female-led protests in India are among the first in the country to stand out with such vigour and dedication. I am hopeful because I think that it is possible to teach our sons to respect and to love women.

This optimism is, in part, drawn from my experiences teaching in a school for tribal and underprivileged children in Tamil Nadu. The passion and commitment that they have for transforming the world into a better place provides inspiration that frequently brings tears to my eyes. Despite the social problems of alcoholism and domestic violence that surround much of their lives at home, these children are dedicated to instilling change in their communities. They have already illustrated their ability to challenge the gender norms that are passed down to them from their communities, and show a strong dedication to the promotion of equality. These children are the basis for my hope that change will happen. They are the basis for my optimism. Overcoming such deeply rooted patriarchy will inevitably take time. It will take dedication, passion and commitment; but it will happen.

Note: This article is not intended to suggest that all Indian men, or all men for that matter, behave in this manner. I do have interactions with men that are more than respectful, polite and well-intentioned. However, the extent to which these occurrences happen is enough to warrant an article in response.

Source: The Hindu : Features / Sunday Magazine : Sexualisation of the Western woman
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Date Visited: Sun Feb 17 2013 11:17:24 GMT+0100 (CET)

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