Rape, sexual violence, molestation. We, unfortunately, live in a society where these words appear in the newspaper headlines every
other single day. Women are asked to be careful when they step out and they are asked to dress in a certain way to avoid any situation that might turn dangerous for them.
But instead of teaching our girls to live in fear, we as a society must be teaching our boys to respect girls and that is exactly what boxer MC Mary Kom wrote in an open letter published in Hindustan Times.
This is the second letter in the series of eight letters being published by HT as a part of their initiative, "Let’s talk about rape". The first was written by Farhan Akhtar to his daughters.
The boxing champion addresses this letter to her three sons, the 9-year-old twins and the youngest one who is 3. She begins by confessing that she too was once molested. She writes:
"Let me start by telling you that your mother was molested, first in Manipur and then again while she was out with her girl friends in Delhi and Haryana’s Hissar. I know it is shocking to learn that even a woman who has earned her spurs, boxing her way through life, was made to feel violated."
She was only 17 when she was molested.
She chased the man but he somehow managed to escape. Mary goes on to explain to her sons that men and women are more alike than they're different.
"I have brought great fame to my country and have been celebrated as a medallist but what I also want, is to be respected as a woman. We women have scaled heights and stormed male bastions but for some men, we are still all about our bodies. Remember, dear sons, like you, we too have two eyes and a nose. Some parts of our bodies are different and that’s the only thing that sets us apart. We use our brains to think, like all men do, and we feel with our hearts, like you do. We don’t deserve our breasts to be touched or our bums patted."
The world belongs as much to women as it does to men.
It is seldom about what we wear or at what time of day and night we are out. Why should women pause and think about venturing out? The world belongs as much to us, as it does to you? I have never understood what pleasure men get when they touch us against our will.
She also explains that rape and molestation are severe crimes that deserve the strictest punishment.
"If you ever happen to see a young girl being teased, I urge you to reach out and help. The saddest part is that we are becoming uncaring as a society."
She conveys to her sons that their father dedicates his time for the family and when they hear words like "house-husband" they shouldn't find it derogatory.
"You grow up in a home where we teach you respect and equality. Your father does not go out to do a nine-to-five job – like you see your friend’s dads doing – because one of us must always be there for you. You will soon hear the words “house husband” but remember that’s not a slur; neither is it derogatory. He’s my strength, my partner, who walks with me through every step I take."
She also educated them about the racial slur, 'chinky'.
"You might be walking with me one of these days to hear your mother being called a ‘chinky’. That is a slur. That is racist. I am Indian and I know you are growing up to be proud Indians. We belong to a state that is in the grip of an insurgency. A lot of women from our State are targeted for the way they look and the way they dress. ‘Chinkies’ are not fair game."
She then teaches them the most important lesson that all mothers should teach their sons. No means no.
"Respect women when they say ‘No’. Don’t stalk them to death because they have said ‘No’. Rape is not about sex; it is only about a misplaced sense of power and revenge."
Mary closes her letter with the saying that we often hear, 'boys will be boys', but she urges them to create a society that is safe for women.
"Desire is beautiful when it is reciprocal. We have often heard the explanation of ‘boys will be boys’. Let’s build a society where girls can be safe, secure and respected."
Mary's appeals to her sons is what all the mothers of our society must teach their young sons. Women deserve to live as freely as anyone else, so instead of asking them to be careful, it is the men who should be respectful.
Read the full letter here.
H/T: Hindustan Times