A “Gender” Perspective?

Pratiksha Gurung

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If you saw a man attacking a woman physically in public would you intervene? Most likely you would. Now would you intervene if you saw a woman attacking a man?

Really?

Discussions about sexual violence in conflict overwhelmingly tend to focus on women and girls as victims and men as perpetrators. Indeed it is true that statistics support the fact that women make up the majority of victims of gender-based violence and discrimination. But what about the men and boys who are also victims? Men and boys have also been sexually abused in conflicts. We don’t know the full scale of this crisis globally and how many have experienced sexual violence precisely because this has been such a hidden issue. Sexual violence against men and boys has been reported in over 25 conflict-affected countries in the last decade. And this may be just the tip of the iceberg.

Many men complain that one keep on empowering women – but who comes to talk to them about regaining their dignity and listening to their problems?

As humanitarians, we are guided by humanitarian principles including impartiality, meaning that aid should be provided according to needs. By not considering the specific vulnerabilities and needs of men and boys in humanitarian crises alongside that of women and girls, we are violating this principle. Considering men and boys in humanitarian response is not only the principled action to take, it is also a vital part of the solution to support women and girls in crises. So why are we still so reluctant to tackle this silent crisis?

Gender Based Violence occurs as a result of normative gender based role expectations or inequality of power in relationships between genders, in a specific society or culture. However much we speak of “Gender Equality”, as far as history takes us, we have experienced a male dominated society where masculinity has prevailed over femininity. Women are widely discriminated and victimized, and this in most societies is normality and the statistics attest to it.

Research has however found that there is a great deal of pressure on young men to live up to certain standards of manhood. What is perhaps less clear is how such understandings are linked to gender inequality and the high prevalence of gender-based violence in our society.
For example, the expectations on men to be dominant and powerful, and women to be passive and subservient in relationships can lead to the acceptance of intimate partner violence. As one young woman stated: “We think that it’s normal, when he hits me, he loves me. We are not aware that person is supposed to respect you.” The pressure on men to be financial providers in relationships and families can also lead to situations of violence. Facing the realities of poverty and unemployment, many young men experience feelings of dis-empowerment and frustration at not being able to provide.

While it is true that women are mostly affected by gender-based violence, there is a need to appreciate that men can also be abused, emotionally, sexually and physically. Young people said that boys are often raped, but that these acts are stigmatized, kept hidden and unreported. Men are abused by their women partners, but this is not understood to be a reality. In general, it is difficult for men to speak out about sexual and other forms of abuse solely to the attitude that men are tough and invulnerable, and do not express their pain or suffering. Reporting to the police is particularly difficult because men will be laughed at and ridiculed – “the police think you cannot be abused as a man”.

Concepts like gender and sexual- and gender-based violence should be expanded, re-evaluated or at least used consistently and with care, rather than solely applying to women, and thereby excluding men. Where multiple human rights are impacted, the harm caused should also be considered in multiple categories because this would allow for a more comprehensive view of the suffering of male (and other) victims. This is not only essential for providing such victims with access to adequate protection, but also for us to learn more about forms and manifestations of sexual violence and to go against self-confirming data. It is now time to adequately integrate a ‘gender’ perspective into the experiences of both men and women.

A multidimensional method of not only revealing the multitude of identities that a ‘body’ carries (including race, ethnicity, religious affiliation, social class, etc.) but also of making sure that we do not organize human rights in a ‘one-identity’ where only one identity enables a person to claim a right.

“Equality means that a wife is equal to her husband, a sister to her brother. Not better, not worse. They are equal. It isn’t enough to simply talk about equality. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough simply to believe in it. One must work at it,” says Meghan Markle.

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Silence Continues..

Mahim Aryal

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Today I am very happy to go to college; my excitement is at peak, I want to be as lucky as yesterday.

Yesterday just like any other day I was going to college through a local bus. There was this beautiful women standing next to me. And suddenly i get a temptation to touch her. I don’t know if it’s my hormone playing its thing but I eventually can’t control my urge and I touch her. She didn’t react even though I think she felt uncomfortable.

Today, I want to do it again. It is the best things that have ever happened in my entire college life. The college is boring. Now I will do the same and feel super pleasure by doing so. I got up on the bus and saw no girl standing so I went to the front row and noticed a girl and stood beside her. I touched her hand then she suddenly turned around and looked at me, after a while I again touched her. She immediately turned towards me; slapped me and said “Do you think you can do anything if the vehicle is crowded? ” I felt ashamed not because I touched her but she slapped me in front of other passengers. Everyone at the bus looked at me and I got off the bus. Even though the bus was gone every time someone looked at me I think that person saw the girl slapping me even I have walk ten minutes from the bus route.

I didn’t go to college that day. I went to the nearest park; sat there and thought all the things that have happened from the time I got up on the bus. I will not forget the face of the girl who slapped me.

Few hours have passed but I am still recalling everything that has ever happened. Then I realized that it was my fault not of the girl who slapped me. I shouldn’t have touched her, I feel more ashamed than before. There are many girls I have done wrong with. I thought about the worst case that could have happened someone could have beaten me for touching the girl, someone could have taken my picture and send it to my college. I could have even been arrested for doing wrong thing with girls. Ohhhh… I feel lucky that i am ok but though I did wrong I also blame girl, not the girl who slapped me but the first girl who was abused by me nearly a month ago, she is responsible for encouraging this kind of action by choosing to stay quiet. If she had raised her voice then I would have known this can put me in great trouble. I would have known about this a long time ago.

Still I feel guilty for what I did, I cannot undo the thing that I have done but all I can do is ask you to speak, raise your voice for the cause. You should take action against such activity instead of staying quiet. You are encouraging such activity by staying quiet and men need to be provided awareness so that sexual harassment can be reduced.

“Who’s the Lucky Girl?”

-Lirisha Tuladhar

Luck I define as a game I’ve been playing with since my childhood. A game I always somehow managed to win even among my very good friends of childhood. Those friends whom I don’t think I would recognize now nor will they recognize me. All that’s left with me are the memories I hold within my cores of heart of the game we played of bridegroom taking the bride on a beautiful carriage to a place yet too far…

Lucky I define myself, for I was that bride whose bridegroom took her in a wonderful carriage to this place I call as my home now, indeed very far. I remember the shining tears when my friends bid me my last goodbye when we were just 10. I was the first among my friends to go and that day perhaps if I’d known I would never see them again, I’d have shed tears of sadness and not gone in that big carriage with happy dreams of living like a princess.

Luckiest I define as my fate which has brought me to this stand where I’m able to hold a pen and jot down words of my own in a crisp paper. A small girl wrapped in jewels and red sari happily hopping along in the carriage at just the age of 10 who knew nothing of even the ABCs, now here sits at her own desk scribbling up her thoughts. If this isn’t the fate that belongs to a lucky girl? Then whatever can it be?

I think every time I shall write to my friends and send them gifts as we used to discuss while we played in childhood. But every time I sit down to start a letter, my hand freezes- for I don’t know if they got as lucky as I did. Getting married to a man twice my own age yet being treated like a princess because I reminded him of his dead daughter was my piece of luck.

My husband who now lies on bed all day with a condition called paralysis gave me all the wonders of reading, writing and luxury an ordinary child of a small village who just carried water in a ghaito to and fro the house to the pond could ask for. He was the miracle that entered my life to give me the joy I couldn’t have imagined elsewhere…

Each time I look at my husband laying there my heart swells up in gratitude for all he did for me. Only once had I gone back to the village I was born in- 9 years ago, when my father passed away… That was the time I realized how lucky I was for I saw the looks all my friend’s mothers gave me of jealousy and sadness. The talks behind my back of their bad fate of daughters taken away forever – from where they shan’t ever return… That day I could no longer feel the same feeling of love for the village nor the people I spent my 10years in.

Today here I am leaving that small girl Maya behind amongst the shreds of the broken house in village… The new Maya who lives in a luxury colony amongst the city working as a typist in the esteemed company. A believer and a determined girl living amongst the people with dreams and aspirations fulfilled with hardwork and not luck…

Being a Boy

Lirisha Tuladhar

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We all have a phase in life where we all wished we were a boy. We think that maybe being a boy would be a lot easier. But is it really easy for boys? Is it really like what we think? Boys are said to be tougher. They can roam freely at night. They can come home anytime, eat anything and do anything just because they are boys. This is what we think about what being a boy is. But is it true that boys can do anything?

As I observe the masculine body of our society closely, I came to know that even being a boy is not that easy. Since a day a boy is born, he is taught to be a man. He is said to be the most responsible person in the family. He is taught to be strong and bold. Not only this, the society don’t even allow him to cry just because he is a boy.

As he gets older, he should stand up for himself. If someone comes to fight with him, he should be bold enough to beat him and if he don’t do that, he is again said to be a loser. Not only for himself, if a guy next door insults his sister, he should be the one to protect her self-esteem and self-worth. It also mean protecting his way of life and guarding against any threats to the things that he and his family value.

No one realizes that even boys go through mood swings. They too go through body pressures. During the puberty, like girls have menstruation even boys have erection and wet dreams. They too go through some embarrassing moments like girls do. When the puberty hits him hard, he only knows the struggle in that phase.

Most people believe that being a boy (man) means supporting a family financially which mean much more than that. A man should also contribute to the emotional, spiritual, physical and mental well-being of his family. He is also regarded as the provider for the family which is not an easy job to do.

Being a boy is not easy. You are not allowed to cry. You are not allowed to tell that your favorite color is pink. Your favorite movie genre must be action and thriller as romantic, drama is all girly. You need to go to the gym, lift some weights, build some muscles and be strong. I even have heard people saying that cooking is not for boys when the world’s best chief is a man. Like girls, even boys are not allowed to choose a passion they prefer.

Therefore, in my opinion, there is no such thing as being a boy is easy and being a girl is not. Both boys and girls have different difficulties in life. They both has to go through a lot of obstacles in their pathway. So, we should stop believing upon the myth that girls are vulnerable and boys are strong and independent and make our younger generation learn that being a boy or girl doesn’t matter as they both are equal- being one doesn’t make life easier as both faces many hardships in life.

I could not speak!

Sajira Shrestha

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Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal, a dream city of many people, crowded public areas, packed long traffic jams, modern houses, shops and what not. But still a beautiful place to live.
I am Anu Adhikari, a 19 year old, who recently completed +2 examination and came to Kathmandu, a wonderland with full of hopes and dreams. As I am new to this modern place, I did not know much about the culture, place and people of Kathmandu. As I grew up in a society where people are very frank, easy to talk and ask for help whenever in need. But here in Kathmandu, it’s difficult to get even a smile.

As days past, I tried to cope up and tried to fit into the society. But the thinking never changed and I used to think that people here, are same as my village people. One day, I had to go to Baneshwor in a consultancy, so I decided to take a bus from Kalanki chowk. The micro bus was already packed when I got into it. I did not get the seat but I had no problem with that because I got a place to stand properly. The small bus started getting packed even more . As we reached to Ravibhawan, a guy, seemed similar to my age came near and stood up next to me. He had a tablet in his hand which made him difficult to stand so I asked him to carry it and he stood up comfortably.

The bus was moving in its own pace but suddenly that young guy started coming closer to me. I thought it was because the bus was so packed. But he kept coming closer and closer, making me very uncomfortable. We were facing towards each other and there was hardly any space to move. He started pressing my body. His so called big penis started pressing my lower abdomen region and his broad chest pressed my breast. I was shocked because it happened all of a sudden and I was the victim.

I could not speak a word. I was in shock and in tears. Many thoughts were running inside my head but my mouth was shut. I could not figure out why did he do that to me. Finally, I got off the bus and looked at him. He had a smirk on his face. His smile kept striking my head, the whole day. Lots of questions were running in my head. Is it only me who is facing such problems ? Do other girls face it too? Why do girls face it? Is is because of our body? Do boys only want girls’ body? Are girls not safe in public places?

Eventually, I did not go to the consultancy and sat in a park and started to think why didn’t I speak. Why didn’t I raise my voice? Is it my fault, being a girl? Am I allowed to point at a guy’s mistakes? My eyes were full of tears because I was hopeless. Not because, I was afraid but I was confused regarding how to react towards such mal-practices and problems prevailing in the society.

Blood or Tradition?

Sabbu Maharjan

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Looking at my blood stained cloth and full of fear I went at the door of the kitchen trying to narrate that situation to my grand mum. With the face of much aggression and the worried look she just warned me not to enter the kitchen. As fast as she can she took me to my room and started elaborating all the stuffs that I cannot touch and do for the next 10- 15 days.

I was literally unaware what was really happening to me and what exactly I have to do to stop this drops on my skirt. Having a fear and curiosity about my own condition I was burning inside. Suddenly there came one of my cousin with a sanitary pads on one hand and fruits on another. That same sanitary pads which I have only seen in TV adds before. Pity me who was unknown about the way of using it. After she went outside my room I opened that packet and looked at while. Giving a glance at the fruits, I started asking a question to myself. ”Is it because I am sick or is it because of the happiness of meeting me. “

According to my grand mum a strict thing to be noted was not to look at my own father and brother during this whole period. But the things which are really not allowed was the one I tried giving a glance from my window to my father.
Whole day it was a new experience for me but the real pain started at night.

Continuous drops of blood was making me feel uncomfortable to even sit at one position and on another side the pain with which I was trying to fight since evening was more devastating one. Thinking about this same pain that I have to bear each month was killing me inside. Cursing the holy god and myself for being a daughter was only thing that I could do whole night.
Whether I should feel myself lucky enough because I was not send outside from my house in some dark and corner places as it was with one of my cousin before some years or helpless.

Is menstruating a topic of shame or the matter of pride for which I have passed one of the phase of being mother. Most probably it is the second one. But in case of mine it was taken as the first.
Is menstruating a sign of impurity? As my grand mum was saying to each of the people who came to visit to have a holy bath before entering their own houses was making me feel yes I am impure.
Sharing the stories of my periods to all the women was the topic of the gossip to my grand mum but the same thing to even my father was embarrassing to her. Whatever it was to other but for me it was full of pain and discomfort with which I have to live around 5-6 days each month following all the benchmark set by my elders.

It’s been years since I am going with the same periods. Though my family rules are as it was before but I have learnt living with it.

A Letter to the Rapist

Nisha Adhikari

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Dear Rapist,

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve, I finished up in work today for the holidays. The only thing is I’m more looking forward to just having a break from struggling every day. A break from getting up for work and putting on a face and just functioning. Because you see, what you did to me means that I can’t be like a normal person right now. Just functioning day to day is exhausting because I’m carrying you and what you did around with me every day. I’ll go home and I’ll joke and laugh and spend time with my family and friends and do all the normal Christmas things but you will always be there through every second of it.

You’ve no idea how exhausting that is. I can’t let go of any of it, I can’t let go of the pain, I’m still absorbed by you and what you did. I want to let it go but I can’t seem to. You just got away with it. I never got to face you. Your life is fine, going on as normal, do you ever think about what you did? Are you in any way sorry? I’m literally shattered. I want you to hurt like I’m hurting now, like I’ve been hurting all this time.

Nobody around me knows how bad things are for me, I’m great at hiding it all away. I can’t bare to look at myself through their eyes. It makes it all too real. I just wish I could hide it from myself.
You won’t beat me though, I’ll get there eventually. You may have won that night but I won’t let you keep winning. I’ll get there, I’ll find peace. I’ll find me again.