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On December 13, Prema was trudging up a deep mud path to her school in Talayya village in Allahabad district, when a man she knew accosted her and held her hand, asking her to be his mate. The year-old beat him with her slipper and walked off, but Ajay Patel could not take no for an answer. He bought a small knife from the local bazaar, and hid it in the folds of wild grass along the deserted mud road.
When she was returning home that afternoon, he stabbed her to death on the banks of the Tons river, a feeble tributary of the mighty Ganga. He had been trying to make friends with her for a while but she, after a month of knowing him, refused to carry forward the friendship. I fought my relatives and neighbours to educate Prema and make her something.
Now where will I go? My daughter is gone. Who will bring her back? A student of Class XII, she and her friends have been barred from going to school after Prema was murdered.
The girls are worried it will take at least half a year for things to go back to normal. That amounts to a year of studies lost. And, perhaps, many girls dropping out for good. A whopping 32 per cent women between the ages of 20 and 24 at the time of the survey said they had married before they turned Girls married between ages 10 and 19 in UP stand at 2 million as per Census data, the highest in absolute terms in the country. For every year-old boys in India, the of girls of the same age is 86 — an abysmal compared to the national sex ratio of 94 Census Not only are there fewer girls, but patriarchal ideas of love and relationships le often to a repressed sexuality and male aggression.
The boys in the neighbouring peri-urban settlements along the road to the city of Allahabad, roughly 50 km from Talayya, say they are equally wary of interacting with women at the risk of being perceived as sexual predators.
One wrong move can mean jail time or a public beating at the hands of the girl and bystanders. So making a girlfriend is out of the question. But, Nisar says, there is relatively more freedom for girls in the cities because more women are seen in public life. The more visible women are, the safer public spaces become for them, she and her friends feel. Megha Mishra, a first-year student studying law in Allahabad University says that in her campus, with a ratio of male and female students, she and her friends are not only safer but freer and empowered.
We are equals. We girls are bold, we know the law and we know our rights and our male classmates also know the law and they are courteous towards us. Because there are more girls than boys, the security arrangements are also strong and the administration prompt. In the town, one can also fall in love and carry it forward with the ease of access mobile phones afford, village elders and youth say. But the gender divide across rural and urban India only deepens when it comes to internet usage and access to smartphones. Mobile phones, even local women activists expound, should be kept away from girls because it puts them in more danger.
And the boys have all got corrupted because they have too much freedom. They trick innocent girls into sexual liaisons and then leave them in the lurch. This year saw the release of the Rajkummar Rao and Shruti Haasan starrer Behen Hogi Teri based on this very theme of frustration borne out of a socially engineered compulsion to view peers with a desexualised attitude in the Indian heartland.
Ganesh Pillai, a year-old vendor in Varanasi, who puts up at the teeming Dashashwamedh Ghats, says he has friends who feel humiliated if a girl turns down their offer of friendship or proposal. While young men are stuck in an endless cycle of socially-engineered segregation, the girls invariably always end up living in fear of the repercussions that advances of the opposite sex might have on their education. Sarah Hafeez Who is Afraid of a Friend Request? To be 18 and a woman in rural Uttar Pradesh is to always walk a thin red line.
Written by Sarah Hafeez Updated: December 31, pm.
Scenes from a protest by female students at Banaras Hindu University. Express Photo On December 13, Prema was trudging up a deep mud path to her school in Talayya village in Allahabad district, when a man she knew accosted her and held her hand, asking her to be his mate. The Indian Express website has been rated GREEN for its credibility and trustworthiness by Newsguard, a global service that rates news sources for their journalistic standards. Tags: feminism Gender violence rape stalking.
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