It’s a word I often hear when speaking to women in India, where a combination of patriarchy, misogyny and extreme conservatism makes women feel ashamed of the crimes being committed against them.
They are ashamed of being sexually harassed when walking home from school, ashamed for being molested by a colleague, ashamed after suffering a beating at the hands by their husbands, ashamed when their neighbor rapes them and ashamed when he shares mobile photographs of the crime with his friends.
On August 25, this misguided shame drove two Indian teenage girls, who were being repeatedly sexually harassed and stalked by a group of youths, to take their own lives.
Before drinking fruit juice laced with toxic chemicals at their school on the outskirts of Delhi, engineering students Madhu and Nikita both wrote telling suicide letters about how Indian society views women.
The letters, which were found by police near their desks, speak of fear, shame, and disrepute. They talk of neighborhood tongues wagging against them because the men were following and harassing them, wrote the Indian Express.
“Every day a new man would come and chase us. They would pass lewd remarks and offer us phone numbers. The people around us would stare as if we had done something wrong,” wrote 16-year-old Madhu.
“You know how bad our colony is, how people will say we encouraged these men to follow us even though we are innocent,” she added in her six-page letter written in Hindi.
Seventeen-year-old Nikita spoke of similar distress.
“I have not done anything wrong to bring shame on my family. I am ending my life because I cannot take this daily tension,” she wrote, urging police to crackdown on sexual harassment and warning of more suicides happening if action is not taken.
Excerpt, read The Suicide Letters That Symbolize India’s Misguided Shame -By Nita Bhalla | Trustlaw Women (TRF)