GOOGLE gender, sexuality, violence, and harassment. What you’ll find is a shocking number of articles and figures about these disturbingly commonplace issues. Last year, the global #MeToo movement shook India too and created a sense of community – especially among women – to break the silence around these socially uncomfortable subjects.
According to UN Women, an “estimated 35% of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or sexual violence by a non-partner (not including sexual harassment) at some point in their lives”. A recent survey in the US found that 8 out of 10 women have “experienced some form of sexual harassment during their lifetime”.
In 2018, India was ranked the most dangerous country in the world for women because of the high risk of sexual violence and enslavement. And according to government data, “crimes against women spiked more than 80% between 2007 – 2016.
It’s not enough anymore to just tweet a #Metoo moment. Don’t get me wrong, raising awareness of what constitutes harassment and unacceptable behaviour and starting conversations about gender issues and sexual identities is completely necessary.
But we must also remember that not all women are comfortable speaking their truth or able to give a voice to their narratives, due to any number of reasons.
All women deserve a voice and a safe space to speak out if they want to or just listen if they need to. That’s why we’re happy to report that’s just what these initiatives are doing.
Radio in a Purse (RIP), was formed in the wake of #Metoo. It is “an open ear for stories, questions, ideas, confusions, and confessions about gender, sexuality, and sexual harassment/violence; with a focus on student activism and college spaces.”
They aim to “capture the topography of sexual violence in the city [of Bangalore], through the experience of its students” and from that create a safe space for college students to share stories and listen to other people’s experiences so that they might feel less alone or have an opportunity to share their testimonies freely, in anonymity, without fear and judgment.
Before #Metoo, there was The Circle, another college-based community in Mumbai that “provides a safe space for anyone who wants to share or just listen” without judgment, moral policing, or stigma.
They host mental health camps, “feel good fiestas”, and experiential workshops that touch on topics some may consider taboo, such as how to recognise the difference between healthy and toxic relationships and LGBTQI+ awareness in relation to mental health concerns, while giving students space to discuss personal stories in a safe place.
Do you know of an organisation in your community that supports students and/or women in a similar way? Tell us in the comments.
-by Micah Branaman Sharma