Miami was one of nearly 200 colleges to join President Obama’s “It’s On Us” campaign, which raises awareness to stop sexual violence and interpersonal violence on college campuses. This initiative encourages students across the country to speak out and take action against these crimes. Miami developed a weeklong program in March to promote this cause. As students, I don’t think we fully grasp how blessed we are to live in a country that values and upholds our rights and liberties. “It’s On Us” is a chance for our country to have an open dialogue about the prevalent issue of sexual violence.
Conversely, there are countries still resistant to this open dialogue. Although on the same planet, some nations seem worlds away. Take India, for example: 93 women are victims of rape every day. That statistic doesn’t mention all the women who are forced to protect their honor by marrying their rapist, are disregarded by law enforcers and are told the rape was their fault because of their clothing or behavior. I’m not convinced the “It’s On Us” campaign would work at a university in India; I question when and if it would ever come to be.
Nonetheless, the issue of sexual violence against women in India exploded in the media after the 2012 gang rape on a moving bus of a 23-year old student in New Delhi. Since then, India’s treatment of women has caught the attention and criticism of the world. It was certainly on my mind before I traveled over 8,000 miles to work there. When I lived in a small city in Southern India, these statistics and numbers turned into faces and names.
Last summer I spent six weeks in India as an intern for a Christian ministry. Every day I spent time with the girls at the local community college; we played badminton, taught each other our languages and laughed when we screwed them up. I spent hours upon hours with girls who were shocked to see pictures of me in shorts and would adjust my shirt if my bra strap showed. Their conservative, male-dominated culture has told them for centuries to submit to authority and conform to cultural norms despite changing times. From what I could see, there was no equality. There was no guarantee of a woman’s safety: I couldn’t even walk beyond the compound gates without a watchman to escort me. “We can’t take that risk,” the ministry staff told me.
“We have to think of your parents.”
Does any of this piss you off? Because it does for me. Once I left the Miami bubble, I realized women face issues I can’t even fathom. I believe in women’s security and empowerment; I believe a woman shouldn’t have to fear simply because she’s a woman. At Miami, the biggest concern I’ve had is creepers at Brick Street, but what if I was harassed on my walk to class every day?
Think outside the Ox Box. Think about what pisses you off, and do something about it. If you don’t think outside yourself and the great American freedoms you enjoy, then you’re ignorant of 95 percent of the world. I know that’s harsh, but it’s true. Beyond the United States lies the rest of the world, which we should seek to learn about and understand.