Why did the sexual harassment of 20 women during the Pohela Boishakh incident rattle so many people? Why are the people out in hordes, lining the street, demanding that the perpetrators be brought to justice? Why did this resonate with so many people on so many different levels?
Gender based violence, sexual harassment is a worldwide epidemic problem. It’s a human right problem. The fact that it has struck a chord with so many is a testament to how pervasive & endemic it is. Almost every single women that I know has stories. Yes, stories, not ‘a story’ but many stories of being objectified, vilified and violated… in public space and private. Where does this end? Does it ever end?
And why are we still stuck on telling women what they can wear, not wear, be, not be, do and not do? Why the hell is it still our responsibility to ‘not get raped’?
People tell me that I am brave.
I am not, it’s because I know what it is to live in fear, I can no longer accept being ‘fearful’ as my default mode of living.
I have had my house broken into and robbed a few years ago. I remember not being able to sleep for several nights. I no longer felt safe inside my own home.
I remember being molested at maybe 5 or 6 years old. I no longer felt safe in my own body. I remember the fear & disgust of all those groping hands of fathers, uncles, cousins and strangers.
It’s not a new story, it has happened before and it’ll continue to happen, all over the world, unless something changes.
And that something that changed for me, was me.
At some point in time, I was done with taking it – quietly. I was done with keeping silent, to keep the peace. I was done with not creating a scene for fear that it will draw attention to me or rock the family or social ties. I was done with suffering alone, so that other’s are not inconvenienced. Yes, it would’ve been inconvenient and awkward you see to explain to others why the situation has changed, why something that was seemingly normal is no longer so. I learnt to raise my voice instead, to swear to high heaven – worthy of putting a drunken sailor to shame. I learnt self-defence, to fight back and I learnt how to break bones when needed.
You see I am done with being victimized. If you mess with me, I will fight back. I will use my voice, my hands, the law, or whatever else I can get my hands on. I have had it with sermons of religion and coverings/clothing/hijab and good girl vs. bad girl arguments. Arguments that make no distinction for the 10-year-old girl who had her clothes torn off and was covered in bite marks by a bunch of rapists hiding in the faceless crowd.
Remember this fact: Worldwide 1 in 3 women face sexual violence and a very conservative estimate puts it at 1 in 6 for boys/men. It’s not ‘your’ fault. It’s not ‘their’ fault irrespective of their clothing or the lateness of the hour or anything else. No one is ‘asking’ for this. The worst part is that this victimization starts young, 7-8 or younger. Abusers target young kids because they don’t know how to react. Women are conditioned to ignore it and tacitly accept this violation by society/parents/others telling them that this shit is normal & it happens & it’s their body’s fault. Men are asked, ‘why didn’t you fight back?’, ‘can men actually be raped?’.
I am extremely over-protective about the people in my life, be that my son, the 10-year-old daughter of my neighbour, my 22-year-old cousin or my 40-year-old friends. The best way to show that you care and that you don’t support violence, is to call out the perpetrator on their behaviour and stand up for the person being victimized (men or women) wherever they be, at home or in public. Teach your daughters / sons / sisters / brothers self-defence, to keep their chin up and keep those line of communication open. Pay attention to how a child behaves around an adult, if they are not comfortable, don’t force them to be nice. This isn’t a contest on how well you have ingrained manners in your children or daughters, it’s about how well you ingrain self-respect.
If you think it only happens to certain people (men or women) because of something they did or because of the country they live in … then read these:
In creepy Reddit megathread, thousands of women recount the first time they were perved on by a grown man: http://np.reddit.com/…/women_of_reddit_when_did_you_first_…/
1in6 was founded and the website was designed in response to a lack of resources addressing the impact of negative childhood sexual experiences on the lives of adult men, one of many under-recognized aspects of childhood sexual abuse: https://1in6.org/men/
And to the lovely people out there, who genuinely care and are horrified that people have to go through these, stand up and be heard. When we avert our eyes in the streets, in the bus, on the road, in schools, at parties, office, or at home we are allowing space for the criminals to continue their crimes.
My impossible dream for this morning:
1. A world without borders
2. A world where you could travel anywhere you want, live anywhere you want.
3. A world where you meet so many different people, see so many different cultures, that you realize the richness that is inherent in each.
Blogged about this one here before :) ran across it again this morning and once again, I love her example of how watching ‘american psycho’ didn’t make her think that ALL american teenagers were psychotic serial killers, because she had been exposed to many other stories of american-ness. Yet her African authenticity was questioned when she portrayed her childhood in Nigeria as normal.
I have a Nigerian colleague in the office now. I think she’s funny, articulate, intelligent and no different from my other colleagues, regardless of their nationality or the colour of their skin. The reason we are all same is because we have many different stories of each other & the richness of our cultures. We struggle with the same issues and relate to each other on many different levels. Our perceptions are not one-sided or colour biased.
Watch any news channel and you’ll see coverage of ISIL and it’s atrocities. What we don’t see is the richness of culture & the generous spirit of the Middle East. The simple generosity and rich cultural heritage of the Arabian tribes and nations are lost in the coverage of war and strife.
I had a friend who called me from UK when he saw a flood coverage in Bangladesh. He was worried that I was drowning in the flood. I didn’t even know that there was an ongoing flood in my country. He’s coming down here for a visit and I hope by the time he goes back, he’ll know many more stories of my country. Stories that dispel the myth of Bangladesh being a country of disasters and calamities or atrocities against women.
Some of these places, I didn’t know about, so it just went on my bucket list of places to see in Bangladesh :)
Originally posted on শাইখ মাহদী'র বাংলা ব্লগ:
If you are a Bangladeshi youth, you may have missed some of the most wonderful things-to-do here because of the stereotypical mindset and mostly, lack of information. It is not quite uncommon, thanks (?!) to the socio-economic reality of our country. The popular myths among the general Bangladeshi people are like – Traveling costs too much; it is not for me; I won’t survive in the wilderness; I am happy with my life; So why ghuraghuri !!!
Well, from the great prophets to philosophers to global leaders to social change makers, everyone had spent a considerable time of their life in traveling, roaming around the earth. Nobody in the world can teach you better than the world, the Nature itself. Just make a decision, take the step and you will be the part of the nature! Like Gandalf the Grey once said to Bilbo Baggins – ‘Home is now…
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Today is the first day of the Bengali New Year. Traditionally it’s the time we do away with the old and bring in the new. So even Google’s doodle is participating :)
The festivity starts with street arts drawn all over the place the previous night by a multitude of people who turn out of nowhere and disappear just as fast :)
And the day itself is full of cultural activities, parades, impromptu concerts, fairs, food, fun, family and friends. In a city of about 16 million people that is a LOT of people who dress up traditionally in red and white and head out towards the university area to celebrate in open air. It traditionally starts off with a concert under a banyan tree in what used to be a ‘race course’ during the British era.
Then comes the parade or “Mongol shovajatra” that starts off from the Art College of Dhaka University.
And the rest of the day goes something like this: fair, food, family, friends :)
We are very attached to our food as a nation. But in a twist, today is the only day in the year that most of us will eat rice that has been soaked in water. Traditionally, it’s the meals of the farmers. This being after all the festivity that marked the end of the harvest period. We carry it on by now eating “panta bhat” with too expensive “hilsha” fish and a variety of mashed vegetables, prawns etc. known as ‘bhorta’. The end of any meal has to be in sweets, so the traditional cakes or ‘pithas’ are served too.
And last but not least… the millions of people who turn up to enjoy these festivities in their traditional best :)
Shuvo Nobo Borsho to all my readers … enjoy your new year in peace and blessings :)
I love meditation :D I love the feeling of peace, security, acceptance and over all lightness that I experience in my meditation sessions. As an introvert, my inner world is supremely important to me, in fact so important that from time to time, I like to set dedicated hours apart to ensure that my inner house is in order.
Knowing who I am and what I am has been quite a journey. In this journey of self-discovery and learning, I have found meditation to be quite a tool for inner discovery. Most of us look outside when we want company, happiness, comfort… not quite realizing that everything that you need already resides within you. However it’s almost impossible to find your inner resources when you don’t have the best relationship with yourself.
We all have that little voice that nags us at the back of our head. Maybe a forgotten voice that belonged to a teacher who called you ‘stupid’ for failing in math or a family that thought you were too ‘naive’ or ‘angry’. All those labels that people we have forgotten, labelled us with and that subsequently became part of our personality. The voices that say that things aren’t quite how they should be, that you could always do better, etc. and you keep beating yourself up over your perceived failures. It’s a never-ending nag! Had this voice belonged to someone else, you would have probably resented their negativity and pulled away from their social circle. But since this is the voice in our head, most of us, go through life oblivious to it.
This is exactly why I love meditating. It puts me in touch with me. The me, who already has everything that she needs. The me, who is happy and blessed. The me, who knows what is right for her, in her gut, in her mind, intuitively. This is the inner me, the fat happy cat that purrs near my feet, light as a feather, happy as can be.
So given the recent onslaught of questions on finding resources on meditation, I have found quite a few sites which I love.
These Buddhist monks who have started a Peace Revolution are amazing, head over here: https://peacerevolution.net/. They have a free 42 day program to guide you through your journey :)
If you want something more scientific, try this site: http://marc.ucla.edu/ The UCLA MARC has an array of information, including free guided meditations.
And if you have an interest in Buddhism (you don’t have to in order to learn how to meditate), head over here: http://www.how-to-meditate.org/ They have an array of videos on lectures and techniques, along with the underlying principles.
So go on ahead… enjoy!
p.s. Other posts were I have written about meditation are:
If you have ever struggled with getting your priorities right…
If you have woken up too many mornings wondering how you will drag yourself through the day…
If you have looked at your life thinking I need to change something but I don’t know where to start…
Then this Ted Talk is for you :)
You can read the full transcript here.