Editor’s Note: This story is part of the 16 Days Of Activism campaign against sexual harassment. People are invited to share their experiences and shift the onus from the survivor to the perpetrator. To know more and take part in the campaign click here.
I am a middle-aged woman. I am married in a very conservative, traditional family where daughters-in-law are not allowed to have a job. However, I completed my masters and PhD after marriage and am now a working woman; thanks to my husband’s support.
Some people in my extended family, like my sister-in-law’s husband, think that a working woman is “asking for it.” This man had always tried to take advantage of me. Whenever I touched his feet for aashirvaad (blessings), he touched my head moving his hand over my back, as if caressing me. Once, when I was alone at home, he came and started telling me about his relationship with his wife, how they don’t sleep in same room, etc. I could see his lust coming. This scared me. I made up an excuse and immediately called for my son. From then on, I asked him to be with me whenever that man was in our house. When my son asked for the reason, I said, “He is bad.” My son understood. There are many instances where he touched me inappropriately. I do not wish to get into all the details. It feels ugly.
While I pursuing my Ph.D., I met him at a marriage ceremony and found out, he had recently published a poetry book. I was interested in publishing my book, too. I asked him about the procedure for which, we exchanged emails (I addressed him as ‘bhaiya’ (elder brother). When his wife found out, she made an issue of the email exchanges commenting on how I was conversing with a “paraya mard”. Her husband saw this as an opportunity to get his “chance” with me. He couldn’t digest the fact that I got away from the clutches of his filth. He brought printouts of those emails to my home and, my sister-in-law asked me to visit him in his room—alone—to discuss about the emails. When I refused, she defended her husband saying that as women, we need to do such things to save our relationships and our “izzat” in the family. I couldn’t believe how a woman—a man’s wife—could be defending her husband’s ill desires for another woman.
After all his failed attempts to harass me, he threatened to show those emails to my husband (as if I’d done something wrong). I didn’t back off to this threat and boldly told him to say whatever he wished to my husband. This infuriated him more because his privileged son-in-law status felt threatened by a woman, the daughter-in-law of the family. They came over for dinner and he started the issue on the table with my husband, showing him the printouts. Words are not enough to show my love for my husband who replied, “I don’t want to see those printouts. I trust my wife.” He insulted my husband for standing up for me; said he was a “joru ka ghulaam” (wife’s servant). However, my husband stood his ground and respectfully asked him to leave.
In our society, it’s not always strangers who harass or molest women– women are not safe from family members, too. Patriarchy and social conditioning gives unreasonable advantage to men who shamelessly harass their own family members. They touch you indecently while giving blessings; touch your back asking for something, or receiving something from your hand. Your skin crawls under these touches. They face no consequences for their improper behavior; their wives snubbed under their will, they get away with all kinds of disrespectful behavior towards women. The monsters are in our homes.
Featured Image Source: Laughing Colours