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Sexual Assault Awareness Month is “celebrated” in April. See the double quotes. Yeah. isn’t it a pity that we have to have a whole month dedicated to something that in an ideal world, or even a civilised world, wouldn’t be a problem at all? SAAM for short, Sexual Assault Awareness Month is, I believe, found in the USA or is it UK. I wonder if we Indians have a SAAM. I don’t think so, so I chose to add a couple of blogposts about it in April. Starting with a few books.

Landscapes-of-Fear-lo-res-353x600Landscapes Of Fear, Understanding Impunity, is an academic book about how the largest democracy in the world turns a blind eye to human rights. Particularly the victims of sexual assault and violence. This probably isn’t what you are all looking for but I’m sure it’ll help a few readers who are looking to help others.

Why does the world’s largest democracy turn a blind eye to systematic violations of human rights in its periphery?

Drawing on the findings of a comparative research project, this volume tackles a set of intricate questions about the workings of impunity in India. How do victims of abuse and survivors of sexual violence end up being denied justice? What do those on the margins—those with the wrong sex, wrong identity markers, wrong political leanings— tell us about violence by state and non-state actors?

Bringing together senior academics, civil society leaders and fresh voices from across India, the volume offers analysis—contextual, structural and gendered—and breaks new conceptual ground on the underbelly of India Shining. The volume contains testimonies that were collected during fieldwork in four states. (Buy From Zubaan Books)

fear-that-stalks-355x600Fear That Stalks. This book is an attempt to understand the causes, nature and consequences of gender-based violence in public spaces. It provides a framework that locates gender based violence within the politics and dynamics of public space, and helps us to understand the commonality between these diverse forms of violence, ranging from sexual harassment, sexual assault, moral policing, ‘honour’ killing, acid throwing, witch hunting, parading naked, tonsuring, rape and homicide. The writers unpack and examine the idea of a ‘public’ space: although by and large a notional space, they begin by identifying it as the geographical space between the home and the workplace and then, go beyond this to look at the violation faced by homeless women and girls who live on the streets, as well as those who work in public spaces in the unorganised sector. Buy from Zubaan Books

DTL-FINAL-COVER-LO-RES-440x583This is a more unique book. Drawing The Line: Indian Women Fight Back. December 2012: Tens of thousands of people – women, men, families, young, old, rich, poor – come out onto the streets of towns and cities in India to protest the brutal gang rape and murder of a young medical student in Delhi. For days and months, the protests refuse to die down. People demand change, action, commitment to the ideals of democracy and egalitarianism. And they refuse to be silenced.
Soon, a new law is put in place. More and more people start to report incidents of sexual assault. New conversations, new debates begin: is violence increasing? Are we seeing more of it? Was it previously invisible?
In this bold and brilliant collection of visual stories, fourteen young women respond to the activism and debates on the ground; they negotiate anger, fear, hope, resistance. Created in a week-long workshop, these stories talk to each other as they powerfully describe the fierce determination of the writers/artists to continue the battle for change.

27844365This is something that everyone knows. Barkha Dutt recently broke her silence and spoke about her experience. And she actually received backlash for it. You can read about it here. Now, however much I disagree with Dutt on her political viewpoints I cannot rage at her when she’s so openly spoken about something that most kids don’t talk about. Most kids think it is their fault and take it out on themselves growing up to be damaged beings who cannot understand that, “Hey, maybe i’m not the bad one here.” and for speaking about this, i appreciate her. Her book, This Unquiet Land, has a chapter about women and will probably serve to make our lawmakes think. While child molesters are finally being made to pay, the country still has leaps and bounds to go before women truly feel safe and women are no longer blamed. (Aleph Book Company)

I was really traumatised when I saw the responses she was getting to her statement and her book. I don’t want to assault my blog by posting those reponses here, you can check them out yourself if you want to. The main response was “You are ugly and you don’t deserve this.” well, he got one part right. She didn’t deserve this. NO woman deserves to be assaulted or hurt in any way.

That being said, please note that it isn’t just women who are assaulted. Men are assaulted too and they cannot even speak about it for fear of being laughed at. Sexual Assault can happen to anyone and it is never their fault. But there are certain cases where it can be prevented and for that I’d like to introduce you to this wonderful book I’ve read called, The Gift Of Fear.

56465In this empowering book, Gavin de Becker, the man Oprah Winfrey calls the US’s leading expert on violent behaviour, shows you how to spot even subtle signs of danger – before it’s too late. Shattering the myth that most violent acts are unpredictable, de Becker, whose clients include top Hollywood stars and government agencies, offers specific ways to protect yourself and those you love, including: how to act when approached by a stranger; when you should fear someone close to you; what to do if you are being stalked; how to uncover the source of anonymous threats or phone calls; the biggest mistake you can make with a threatening person; and more. Learn to spot the danger signals others miss. It might just save your life.

This book has taught me that, it is not paranoia. It is infact my instinct and even if it isn’t what the hell, be safe. Pick it up or rent it our or download the audio. This has really helped me notice that in certain places I could have escaped a situation if I had just listened to my instincts. But it still doesn’t mean you are to be blamed for your assault. That’s as stupid as saying “His car got jacked and it’s his fault for daring to drive or park or even own a car.” it’s stupid and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

A couple of others for those who want an easier read.

51mHv4DzfwLThe Autobiography of a Sex Worker is a story that follows a woman through diferent tages of her life and her different circumstances. From sex worker to social worker, who better to talk about sexual assault and what we can do to prevent it.

‘Sex workers are free in four respects: we don’t have to cook for a husband; we don’t have to wash his dirty clothes; we don’t have to ask for his permission to raise our kids as we deem fit; we don’t have to run after a husband claiming rights to his property.’ 

Fiery, outspoken and often wickedly funny, this candid account of one woman’s life as a sex worker in Kerala became a bestseller when it was first published in Malayalam. Nalini Jameela, who takes her name from both Hindu and Muslim traditions, worked as a child in the clay mines. She has been a wife, mother, successful business woman and social activist – as well as a sex worker – at different stages of her life. This is Nalini Jameela’s story, told in her inimitably honest and down- to-earth style, of her search for dignity, empowerment and freedom on her own terms.

4644497Finally we have the rather famous series, Chicken Soup. Chicken Soup for the Indian Soul is something I’ve not read. But I hear that a few chapters in this talk about Sexual Assault in a helpful manner. Perfect for those who can’t really stomach the topic but want to know more. And if it gets you too down have a slip through the others!

Chicken Soup for the Indian Soul: 101 Stories to Open the Heart and Rekindle the Spirit comprises of heartwarming and inspirational stories for its readers. These 101 inspiring stories written by Indian writers reflect the never-say-die spirit and hopefulness of people in difficult times. The book comprises of stories about people who have been in trying circumstances but have managed to overcome the odds. From Westland Books. 

I hope this was a helpful post and that you got some interesting books to read. Let us work together to get rid of this absolutely inhumane epidemic, worse than any disease.

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