Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Street harassment...

Dedicated to the Blank Noise Project.

A Monday morning rush on the public transport of your choice, a visit to a popular temple, an evening spent shopping at a well known mall, a quiet evening at one's favourite coffee shop, at the theatres…. Name the place, you always find one common thread that binds all these places together in a shameful truss – eve teasing.

Eve teasing or Street harassment not only is it widely prevalent, but most of the society takes it for granted. Groping, catcalling, whistles, lewd comments, staring…. The list is endless. What makes me angry is that the patriarchal setup that we live in makes it seemingly 'normal' and accepted'. The so called 'societal norms' puts the onus on the woman. There are 'acceptable' clothes that a woman can wear or cannot wear. The clothes that a woman might wear can be considered provocative. "Do not wear this unless you want to invite trouble on the streets." I have heard this many a number of times spoken to a woman. I feel disgusted that such is that state of things. Sexual harassment on the streets is a crime and 'eve' teasing must stop.

My head gets into so many states of contemplation when an incident of street harassment happens around me. Should I stand up and fight? Should I merely form a part of the muted audience? Should I rationalize my inaction by accepting that it is normal? Should I report this to the authorities? By doing this would I be simply piling my responsibility to fight against injustice onto the authorities, the outcome of which I almost surely know? Should I just pretend that it never happened and vindicate myself by saying that I do not harass women, so it is ok for me to not get involved? And trust me; it has happened enough times to make me want to puke.

There's this one particular incident that stands starkly in my mind as a colossal monument among ruins. It was nearly nine in the night, raining heavily and I was hurrying down a quite popular road in Bangalore so as to not be late for the dinner with friends. The intensity of the downpour increased and I was forced to take shelter. There were nearly fifty people taking refuge. There were quite a few women and I started noticing that few of the ladies started leaving the comfort of the shelter even though the rain had not let up. Then I noticed what was happening. There were a group of men who were moving around, scoping out the women and feeling them up. I also noticed that quite a few people among the men were also bearing witness to this act of monstrosity. I did not know what to do. I was shocked, angry and surprised at my own inability to speak up and act when push came to shove. Then, something happened that would be etched in my mind forever. It took the clichéd lady in red to act up. There was a 'thaaaaaap', followed by swear words that one would normally use while driving, that rose above the din of thunder. My protagonist had given it back to the wrong doers. And then the crowd took it up and there were quite a few blows dealt with, finally leading to the 'group of men' fleeing into the rain. I was relieved. Lady, whoever you are, wherever you are, you are my hero. This one incident has put my mind to rest when dealing with such incidents. I need to ask myself just this one question. Would I want this to happen to me?

Eve teasing and sexual harassment of woman on the streets is just is not normal in any sensible value system. It has to be fought against vehemently and it is not a battle of man vs. woman. The society has to redefine its values on sexuality and sexual relationships.

Not so cheerful about the current state of affairs,

A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance. - Nehru


Blogger s! said...

i think there is our challenge, going about changing our society. and sometimes fighting is the only way.

8:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's the way to go. I agree with you that action is the only way to go about sexual harassment - be it against, men, women or children, and should be dealt with immediately.
I would, however, refuse to put an individual in a victim position in the entire event because it robs them of the empowerment that resistance can bring it. Increasingly, as one looks at the blogs as a part of the blank noise project, one sees spaces of resistance and action. One should start looking at these spaces as well, instead of just blaming it on patriarchy. Blame game helps no one.
just some passing thoughts

8:53 PM  
Blogger Laks said...

@s!: fighting I agree is a solution, but awareness and a need for change has to come from within every individual. This would be the only everlasting solution.

@Nishanth: I am just poitning out the structure of the society and how its built.

And about putting the individual in a victim position, I guess it varies from individual to individual. From my point of view, it angers me into taking action.

And that was quite moving.


9:02 PM  
Anonymous tarram said...

Just thinking out aloud here...

Who is the wrongdoer? Why does he indulge in such an activity?

There is this young guy X whose dad gets drunk and beats up his mom everyday. Moreover Mr.dad also sleeps with his neighbour. Under these conditions, what respect do you think will X will have towards somebody of the opposite sex when he grows up?

I also think that the intersection of cultures is another major reason for eve teasing. X respects women as much as Chappel respects Sourav, and he sees a girl who is showing her private parts as in an exhibition. Consider the psyche of this person and what his natural reaction would be.

Now, why are you and me not indulging in the eve teasing act?

We have been brought up and educated in ways that we cant think of eve teasing as a way to entertain ourselves. We know the law and are scared about the actions that would follow if we ever misbehaved in public. More importantly, we can get hold of girls for friendship, for partying, for flirting and for what not. X is a guy of the same age, sees all of us doing all this. He has no way of venting his desperation, lack of opportunity. He never went to school, never had people to educate him about morals nor did he fear the law. He ends up making use of the opportunity that he gets. He teases girls and also rapes a girl if he gets a chance.

I would like to mention another incident that happened in the heart of Bangalore, MG Road. It was about 10:30pm. A man and a woman, both well dressed, kissing and fondling in the walkpath. I guess they were drunk or under drugs or both.

Now I dont say that X right, nor do I say that girls should not be modern. I also dont say that eve teasing is right. I witness incidents of eve teasing too. I am angry too but I have no clue about what I can or should do. I have no choice but to ignore. These are problems that have to be treated at a different level. You can at best try to take side with the victims and try to scare the wrongdoers away . Or call the cops who are never on time to handle a situation. These are those kinds of problems which have solutions that are not practically very difficult to implement. This world has seen cultures with respect to women that have varied between the extremes. Ancient Egyptians, Pagans, Nazis, Islamic cults. Well, I see this as yet another phase.

To conclude, I am ready to join hands for a practically workable solution to put a stop to this atrocity though I very much doubt if we can arrive at one.

Speaking of patriarchs,

>> Lady, whoever you are, wherever you are, you are my hero

heroine you meant, heh? :)

Yet another, I will sit idle but hoping that the world changes for the good,

1:17 PM  
Blogger Laks said...

@tarram: Will reply to you in detail later.

>> heroine you meant, heh? :)

Not at all... she has more balls than most of the guys I know.


1:21 PM  
Anonymous tarram said...

>> These are those kinds of problems which have solutions that are not practically very difficult to implement

ignore the not there, I meant
These are those kinds of problems which have solutions that are practically very difficult to implement

1:22 PM  

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