International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women is observed across the world on November 25 every year.
The day holds great significance, especially in India, where women face gender violence almost every day in various forms — from child marriage, dowry killings, human trafficking to rape and domestic violence.
According to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), about 35,000 rape cases were reported across India in 2015. In 95.5% of these cases, the victims knew their alleged rapists. Another 4,500 cases were filed last year, reporting attempted rape.
These numbers show the prevalence of just one of the many crimes that Indian women suffer in their daily lives. Indians have become so inured to heinous crimes like rape — we easily digest rape stories with our breakfast — that we have turned blind to the other not-so-physically-violent crimes against women. But that does not make them any less of an offence.
Whether or not acknowledged by law or the rest of the society, several everyday acts do cause permanent emotional, mental and psychological damage to women who suffer them.
On this Day for Elimination of Violence against Women, we, therefore, write to men we encounter frequently, urging them to understand that there is a lot more to violence than rape and bruises, and that realising that women are just as good as them is the only way forward.
Trying to force yourself on me when I am not completely conscious is violence. Coaxing me to sleep with you in the name of our relationship that I hold so dear is violence too as is making me feel guilty about talking to any other guy and body shaming me.
Forced sex is rape. Even if you do it to the woman you are married to. Not letting me work or making it difficult for me to pursue my career is violence. Our children are as much mine as they are yours. Expecting me to make all the sacrifices to bring them up is also violence.
Entering the kitchen to cook, help or clean dishes would not make you any less of a man. Wanting me to accept your family as my own but passing snide remarks on my relatives and throwing a tantrum every time we visit my parents counts as violence too.
No means no. I am not a 13-year-old who needs convincing. I can think for myself. Accept that. Know that I value our friendship but do not want to take it any further.
Breaking up does not give you the license to bitch about me or discuss my intimate details or share my photos with your friends. Every time you are tempted to do something of the sort, please do remember that I was once the most important person in your life.
There is a way to compliment someone. Calling women sexy, voluptuous or eyeing them, is not it. Everyone has their own idea of personal space. Respect it. We are all adults. We understand when a touch is accidental and when it’s not. So don’t pretend that you did nothing wrong when we both clearly know you did.
Cussing others with slangs that belittle women does not make you manlier. It only shows you as a sexist, chauvinistic pig unworthy of the chair you sit on.
Just because I am not old enough to fully understand what you have in mind does not mean you can do as you please. What if someone was to do the same to your infant daughter? Don’t make me hate men for life.
Dear stranger on the road,
Whistling, following, catcalling does not make you cool. Casually brushing past is harassment. You are no one to control what women do. Just because you do not know me does not mean you can get away with anything.
Public spaces belong as much to us as to anyone else. The ones wearing a short skirt or red lipstick are not asking for it. Get it, once and for all.
There are several of you who we hold very dear in life. Don’t make us doubt them because of your misplaced notions of manliness and gender roles.
The author tweets @sneha_bengani
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