Girls, It’s High Time We Reclaim and Participate in Holi

“Aaj Na Chodenge Bas HumJoli
Khelenge Hum Holi, Khelenge Hum Holi,
ChaheBheege Teri Chunariya Chahe Bheege Choli
Khelenge Hum Holi”

The above lines are taken from a Bollywood classic and literally translate into the hero telling the girl that he won’t spare her on the day of Holi. He insists on playing Holi with her, even if her scarf gets drenched or her blouse.

Over the years one has seen a steady decline in the number of girls and women stepping out to play Holi. Stories of inappropriate touching, molestation and harassment have surfaced during this festival and it is probably because of the sentiment that is resonated in the Bollywood song.

Girls and Boys are sometimes forced to play Holi and are not spared even if they say no. This is a very common culture and the popular media has always justified it by using a phrase “Bura Na Mano Holi Hai” – don’t feel bad, its Holi.

In a festive mode where the accepted norm is for men to touch women while they put colour and water on them, it is almost impossible for girls and women to voice their concerns regarding safety. The thought of strangers and known persons touching and groping under the guise of a festival is a nightmare.

So what does this mean for our women and girls? Should they choose not to step out of the house and play Holi? Or should they ignore the inappropriate touches and stares, since its Holi?

It’s high time that we as a society help our girls and women reclaim and participate in this festival. This is the need of the hour and we must ensure that every girl and boy must feel safe as they play Holi. Popular festivals like Holi are a mirror to what happens in our daily lives, if we discourage our girls from stepping out fearing that someone will do something wrong to them, we are guilty of sending wrong messages to our children and the perpetrators.

Instead lets get out in large numbers, in groups of tens and hundreds, on the streets and in our localities. Let us as girls and women claim our right to play this festival in a safe and secure environment. Let us claim our right to have fun without fear, our right to get drenched without force, our right to dance without judgments.

Here are a few tips that can help you and your family enjoy your Holi while staying safe:

  • Choose to attend a Holi Party or a gathering in an area with people whom you know and can trust.
  • Even if you attend parties with close relatives, friends or strangers be firm on how much you want to play and with whom you want to play.
  • It’s a very common scene where in spite of not giving consent, people force you to play Holi. Be firm and let them know that you don’t want to play. You can always cite a Health issue or a skin allergy. Encourage your children to do the same.
  • Avoid over indulgence in bhang or drinks offered at the Holi Party. If you are consuming bhang or drinks make sure you have a trusted person with you at all times to ensure your safety.
  • Watch Out: not just for yourself but also for children playing around.
  • In case of young children make sure there is adult supervision at all times. Keep them away from Bhang and alcohol.
  • While playing Holi if you or your children feel confused or unsafe be prompt to recognize it and take action immediately. In case of children ask them to come and inform you if they don’t feel comfortable playing.
  • In case you don’t want your pictures to be taken, be vocal about it. Also encourage children to say no if someone is taking their pictures without their consent.
  • If you don’t intend to be a part of the celebrations, avoid stepping out of the house during peak hours of Holi (from 9 am to 4 pm)
  • Remember you can always report to the police if there is any inappropriate behavior.
  • Keep a phone and some cash in hand on you all the time, with an emergency number on speed dial if you are out on parties.
  • Keep a list of emergency contacts ready, including those of your pediatrician, closest hospital and ambulance service in case of any emergencies.

It’s time that we as women tell our girls and boys that it’s ok not to play Holi and that no body can violate their personal space, and in case someone does as a society we need to take collective action to ensure our young people that we stand for their safety.

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