INDIA: Women Feel Sorrow and Anger at U.S. Student’s Harassment Claims

By Sarah Brown on August 23, 3013 for CNN.com—130823144724-irpt-india-protest-afp-getty-story-top-story-top
“When Michaela Cross, a U.S. student at the University of Chicago, posted a CNN iReport about the sexual harassment she says she experienced during a study abroad trip in India, the response was overwhelming.

Cross’ story, which is now the most-viewed iReport of all time, spawned thousands of impassioned comments and responses, many from women who live in India or who had traveled there and who wished to share their own experiences.

“This is a side of India that is a reality to most young women who reside here — or for that matter travel here,” said Meera Vijayann, 27, from Bangalore in India.

“I wish I could take your pain away,” said Anaka Kaundinya, 22, from Mumbai.

Sexual harassment remains a pervasive problem in Indian society. Often referred to by the euphemism “Eve-teasing,” a 2011 survey supported by UN Women found 95% of females in New Delhi said they felt unsafe in public places.

Earlier this year the country introduced stricter anti-rape laws following the fatal gang rape of a young woman in New Delhi, but gender inequality remains embedded within Indian society. As reports of another gang rape emerged in the Indian city of Mumbai on Friday, the issue remains as pertinent as ever.

While Cross has garnered attention for speaking up about her experience, she’s not alone. Four women with connections to India shared their own experiences, whether they felt it fair to single out India on the issue, and how best to tackle the problem.

Please note that CNN cannot independently verify the incidents described below.

Shwetha Kalyanasundara, 27, business development professional from Chennai

When I read Cross’ article I was ashamed of my country (for the first time). But I realized that I cannot sit in my comfortable space and watch people tear my country down.

Almost every woman who grows up in India has been subjected to some kind of sexual innuendos … but for every man who cannot control his libido and gives in to his over-crazed sexual drive, I can assure you that there will be 10 men who will fight for you and your dignity.

In Sanskrit, we say “Matha, Pitha, Guru, Deivam” (translated: Mother, Father, Teacher, God). The meaning of this adage is the greatest truth and is the order in which we offer reverence. This is the basic tenet in existence from time immemorial, and every man has been taught to place the womankind even above God.

Indian men know to treat their women with respect. And I cannot tolerate your generalization that Indian men are bad. You cannot blame the entire male population for the actions of few.

In all the countries I have been to, I have been subjected to roving eyes and sexual overtures from men. I have been leered and heckled by cab drivers and pedestrians alike. Even a middle-aged woman is not spared.

Let’s not be too dramatic here and accept that sexual crimes against women are a problem the world over.”

To read the rest of the stories, please click here.

Please click here for a link to the Safe Cities Free of Violence against Women and Girls Initiative Report of the Baseline Survey Delhi 2010.

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