For me being a young man of 21 years, I could not experience much more freedom when I stroll around in India. I can wear pretty much whatever I want, people always address me and listen to what I say and I do not get ogled at when I go to the beach. For my female classmates however, the truth is completely different. They have to hide parts of their body so they won’t be stared at in the streets, they can get completely ignored when asking for something and most obviously of all, when they go to a public beach, you better believe that every Indian man passing by stares without blinking. As a person with values of gender equality, I get very distraught and upset by this fact, but at the same time I feel helpless since I do not really know how to help my classmates feel more comfortable since it is hard for me put myself in their situation.
I have however in these last few days begun, to a small extent, sensing the feeling of being objectified. At my project organization, there is a lot of older men and men in my age who want to be friendly and social with me, since they do not have many white males visiting their organization. Yet, without them probably realizing it, they keep scanning my body and my face and, if they get an opportunity, touch me. This makes me feel objectified and uncomfortable, but at the same time, it also makes me realize something important. For the first time in my life, albeit in a small way, I know the feeling of discomfort a woman can feel in a gender underdevelopment country.
So suddenly I realize why there is almost never any Indian or foreign woman at the crowded beaches and why no one reacts that men go practically naked at the beach, but the few women that accompany them have fabric covering them everywhere. I realize why the women you meet at the streets are shy and reserved while the men are almost too social and rather intimidating at times. I realize how the importance of getting a male child in the Indian society has made the gender view on India forget about the position of women and created a 60-40% division of the sexes between men and women in large parts of India.
This experience, while tough and uncomfortable, has showed me the lesson of the large gender differences in the world and how quickly ones reality can change by just moving from point A to point B.