Monday, March 25, 2013

Bangalore for Women with Special Needs

My winning entry from Bangalore For Women IndiBlogger Meet featured in The Times of India, Bangalore. (4th April 2013, Page 5). The response for this post overwhelmed me. 
On 23rd March I planned on attending Indiblogger and TOI’s Bloggers Meet which had an agenda Bangalore for Women. I knew this was serious event, so thought of leaving behind Farheena and going there alone. Unfortunately, the only care-taker I can trust for her, Rayyan, was not available due to the event he had to attend in Arena Jayanagar. Farheena was eager to come over and watch the bloggers who give her special attention; therefore I decided to tag her along with me.
When walking out of home with my daughter who is 17 year old young woman with special needs, I realized how difficult it is to manage a special needs person, especially a girl or woman in a city like Bangalore. No one follows the rules of do's and don'ts in the city regarding people with special needs. The city is built assuming all the citizens of Bangalore are healthy, strong and do not need support. The steps do not have banisters, neither do we have public toilets that a special needs person can use. The use of toilets is a common problem, but we all know how conveniently men stain the compound walls to relieve themselves. Women have to struggle a lot, and when you have mobility problems the toilets situated in inaccessible corners, which are dangerous, without facility for special people to use them are kind of cruel.
Getting on the public transport buses that ply on the city roads can be horrible experience for women, but it is almost impossible for special needs girl. Due to my ugly experiences, I have now given up traveling with my daughter on public transport buses. I am forced to take autos even if I have to skip a meal or something for affording it. When some perverts are taking advantage of educated, independent, working women in public transport, can you just imagine the plight of women with special needs?
Be it the railway station, bus stands, shopping malls or any place in Bangalore, I have to struggle with my daughter to get from one point to another. No one has twice as to how a person with mobility problem walk all that distance. There are unnecessary steps where there is no support for her to hold on. I know this is of concern to any person with challenged mobility, but it becomes worse for the girls because they get stared at. At times men try to help, and it is a matter of concern how they help, and how they touch them. When they hold my daughters hand or try to support her, I have to keep quite at times, because I do not want to discourage people from coming forward to help their fellow human beings.  We already have a great problem with that kind of attitude our citizens are famous for. But sometimes when I feel my daughter is uncomfortable, I tell them I can manage her on my own, thanks for the help.
When a girl needs help, why only men come forward and give her support as the women watch on? Don’t they understand that a girl would be uncomfortable being held and supported by a man? I wish women would be more responsible and not just stare and go cluck cluck with their tongues and say “Ayyo Paapa” when they see a special needs girl having trouble. Lending a hand and giving a bit of support is not a big deal. More than Bangalore for women, we need more women who will support women in public places not only when they need help or support, but even when they are being harassed or teased. It is high time we need to see a change in the Sari clad woman who sees a girl in jeans being teased and says she invited it. 
I have observed few more trends which is discriminating the girl child with disabilities. Recently my daughter did not have her regular transport to school. I had to drop her to school and pick her up in the evening. What I observed was that many boys come to FAME India, in wheel chairs but I did not see any girl in wheel chair coming to school.
This was disturbing fact for me, because I know that the school itself does not discriminate between girl or boy students. Are there no girls with disabilities which would need wheel chairs for them? Are parents hesitating to take trouble and send girls on wheel chairs to school? What is happening to the girls who are wheelchair bound?
I had seen one mother taking exceptional care of her son who is totally dependent on her for everything. She shows a lot of love towards him, much more than what she does towards her daughters. Being me and unable to keep quiet, I asked her about the great love she had for her son whereas she did not show the same affection towards her daughters. She had no doubt about what she was doing as she quickly answered me, “Our son is going to save us from hell and take us to heaven”. At first I thought she was making fun of me but something in her tone told me she was serious. On seeing my surprised expression she said, “You don’t know because you haven’t read Mahabharata. There is Shloka that says
pumnamno narakadyastu trayate pitaram sutah
tasmat putra iti proktah svayameva swayambhuva
which means a son of our own, by birth saves a father from the hell called Put or Pu hence he is called Putra.
I asked her “can’t a daughter save you from hell?” At this she laughed and said, “No way”.
In our society where people still opt for girl childinfanticide, what would happen to girls who are severely disabled? It is time for Bangalore to wake up and conduct surveys to check out what is the condition of its special needs women? When girls who are attending regular schools are being abused in the safety of their homes, what is happening to the girls who are not able to venture out of their homes independently?

Talking to few parents, what I have learned recently is very shocking. Most of the girls with disability go through hysterectomy so that they do not have to deal with their menstruation. The girl cannot say anything; the government does not want to say anything about this. Is it fair on part of doctors, parents and society to just remove an organ from the girl’s body so that the situation is convenient for everyone? I have personally heard from a mother that hysterectomy is necessary for her intellectually challenged daughter because pregnancy could lead to social stigma. This is a shocking revelation for me. Does that mean that the parents are already prepared for the abuse the girl may go through?
Can Bangalore doctors take initiative to conduct survey regarding hysterectomy being done of girls as young as 9-12?
Parents of the girl child with disabilities have to worry about many more things than the parents of a boy have to do. As a parent of special needs girl, life has been a journey of constant fear for her safety which has been forcefully induced into me by society. The reports about rapes, abduction and subtle molestation make me so much more alert about my daughter. Sometimes it looks like she has become a part of me because I am scared to leave her alone anywhere. The fear stems not from her childlike innocence but more from her physical vulnerability. We need a society that will make us feel secure that its citizens are not going to take advantage of this vulnerability oftheir fellow human beings.
The auto drivers who demand more than double the fare when they see my daughter has mobility problem, the bus drivers who say take private transport we need to be at the destination on time, or women who turn away without lending a hand to support, need to change. Is this possible and whether this will ever happen is another issue we need to address.


Rayyan Lost in Laptop

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