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I Break My Silence. As a Bystander.

 

 

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I feel ashamed to have been that individual who used to stare at women until getting caught in the act. Sometimes intentionally, sometimes unintentionally. I didn’t realize the crime I was committing until a while ago. I don’t know how many people I’ve made feel uncomfortable just by staring at them. It took me a while to become cautious about this and change my actions accordingly.

Currently heading the IBMS project which aims to fight against gender based violence by encouraging survivors to break their silence, I realized it is important that I break my silence too. Not as a survivor, but as a bystander.

As a straight male, it is quite natural that I get attracted to the opposite sex and I do tend to admire them. It is also natural for humans to have their eyesight reach for reproductive organs or selective body parts. But there is a thin line of difference between looking and staring, between acknowledging the charm and committing a crime.

A lot of people still connect this with the kind of clothes an individual tends to wear. Some might wear clothes in which they are comfortable, some might want to reveal their skin to seek attention but that should never provoke you to either stare, touch or objectify someone else just as much as you wouldn’t walk into any random house just because all houses have welcome door mats.

This is not always about men staring at women. I’ve heard, witnessed and experienced even otherwise. Women staring at men, men staring at men, locals staring at foreigners, bystanders staring at transgenders and the list goes on. I have tried speaking about this to a couple of friends who have refused to accept that staring is a crime. And that’s when I realized how deeply rooted this heinous crime is, in our culture. We need to change our mindsets and we need to understand the mistake that we are committing.

We need to realize that staring is a form of violence wherein by staring we tend to make an individual uncomfortable and we tend to hurt their privacy. Some perpetrators do stare with the eyes of a predator and it is disgusting to see that even as a third person. Extended, blank-faced staring at another human is a hard-wired to be perceived as a threat by the person being stared at.  It’s instinctive & it provokes a feeling akin to a fight or flight response.

I will continue to look at women who I find attractive but I will dare not objectify them or stare at them. If you find your eyes being drawn at someone for some reason, do look at them and smile genuinely but if you don’t find it being reciprocated, turn away.

And it is not too late to acknowledge this and change our behaviour accordingly. If we aim at making this world a comfortable place and if we aim at gender equality, then it is time we start speaking about such things. It is time, we become the change.

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