With another rape in India, of a young female photographer this time, the discussion about the position of women in India is getting more intense by the day. One of the top stories on CNN this week is “Sexual harassment in India: The story you never wanted to hear“. Michaela Cross, an American student at the University of Chicago, has written a powerful account on CNN of her study abroad trip to India during the Autumn of 2012, during which she says she experienced relentless sexual harassment, groping and worse. Do read it! But also read Katherine Stewart’s response. This student taking part in the same programme in India at the same time calls in her post on people to resist stereotyping Indian men and recognize that sexual assault happens all over the world.
I remember my feelings and emotions when having been stared at for 4 hours on a train trip from Lucknow to Varanasi and feeling very naked. I also remember all the hands all over my body when standing in a bus. I didn’t like it and felt extremely uncomfortable and angry. I wanted to shout, I wanted to kick those men touching me, wanted to leave India, but I didn’t. For me both messages touch upon the core of what cultural understanding is all about. I sympathise more with Katherine’s view than Michaela’s, because I believe you cannot generalize and you cannot only see your own side of a story. I partly have to accept that certain things are different elsewhere and if it clashes with my own values, what I believe in and what I stand for, the only thing I can do about it is try to keep my distance. I will not try to convince others of my right, or that my actions are better than others.