This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Nishtha Vyas. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

It Happened When She Was 13, 18 And Then Again At 22: Yet No One Spoke Up

By Nishtha Vyas:

A curious paradox is that we Indians, who are born nosy, have high levels of apathy and hesitation towards molestation or eve-teasing of any sort. Sure, we are an opinionated lot, with a fair share of knowledge of what is “morally good or bad”. But when majority of the population decides to keep mum during the moment of truth, it takes us on a serious back foot.

eve teasing

“What would I do if I were them?” I counter question myself. “Anything but keep quiet”, I retort. Wouldn’t that be contradicting the whole idea behind voicing myself?

Like every other girl, I have faced minor, or not so minor, instances that vaguely qualify as eve teasing. Each one happened at a different stage of life and unfortunately, my reaction towards them depended heavily on the support of the on-lookers.

It started when I was a teenager.

I do not know if stalking is technically molestation, but in my head it is. It is grossly disturbing for a 13-year-old to be physically stalked. He was in his twenties. Both of us used to be on foot, usually. He knew my land line number, he knew my address, and he knew where I went for my Math tuition classes. Sometimes, he followed me on a bicycle, ringing the bell occasionally as he maintained a paltry 5 feet distance. I clenched my fists and walked briskly towards home.

One understands stalking when one sees it. The regular shopkeepers on that route saw it, so did neighbours, sometimes even my tutor. Nobody asked a thing. Nobody discussed it with me, to at least get me start talking about it.

“Why did I not speak to anyone?” I was 13-year-old, thirteen years ago, living in a small town. Not that I want to justify my silence but I was scared of how people would react, even my parents. Sadly, some family members tend to blame the girl, her actions, her body language and her overall conduct in public. Plus, issues like molestation were not a part of discussions at home; a wrong practice. The defence mechanism I developed to dodge such issues was very elementary. All I did was to walk on the road with an angry face, like that would shoo people away!

Next it happened when I was 18.

5 years later, I was once returning from the dentist’s clinic with a friend of mine. I was now living in a city, not known to be very unsafe, in the dry state of our country. We were on a two-wheeler on one of the busier roads when a man, in his early 40s, rode up to us on his scooter and asked for directions to some place. We did not know the way, so we shrugged and rode away. 10 minutes later, the same man was riding alongside us. I happened to look at him and I got numb. There he was, on a busy crossroad, with his trousers unzipped, exposing himself. He was looking at it and then at us repetitively, out there in public like it was a casual sport. Till date I cannot put my finger on what exactly I felt that night. Shocked? Afraid? Angry? I think it was anger because most of the girls feel that way. He was my father’s age. He probably would have gone home, had dinner with his wife and teenage children.

It was a bright busy road, and that man was constantly honking at us; nothing that could get unnoticed. The traffic police used to be quite alert at that circle. But nobody said/did a thing.

And then it happened at 22.

4 years later, I was in a small town in Karnataka for my MBA studies. The college was situated around 400 meters away from the main road. The connecting road was a ‘kuchha’ lane. My friend and I were returning to the college (also hostel) at around 5 pm. We were walking. A young, frail man was urinating on the compound wall, 200 meters away from the campus. We did what everybody does to people who urinate publicly, ignored him. A minute later, I felt somebody’s presence over my shoulder. My friend and I turned behind, and it was the same man. All three of us were standing. His hand inched towards me, to touch me! The adrenaline rush was beyond my control. “Fear? Fight? Flight?” What would have been a matter of seconds, seemed like this slow motion of events, making me imagine horrible scenarios.

This time I yelled! Loud! I was able to channelize the anger, the fear and the element of shock into something constructive, because he backed off. We started walking again and I asked my friend if he was still following us. At first he did not, but then he resumed. I picked up a big stone from the road, ready to launch it towards him. I yelled at him, in Hindi. I told him that if he comes any further I will break his head. He stopped and walked away. I made sure to not show that I was afraid.

Our college used to be constantly under construction. This incident took place about 25 feet away from a group of labourers who saw the incident, heard me yell, stared at us all the way back into the campus, but said nothing.

The forged blindness towards molestation victims reminds me of the quote I read in Dan Brown’s ‘Inferno’, “The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.” Candle light marches, slut walks and protests are reactive measures. It is needless to say that half of such protests won’t be required if someone decides to act when it is actually required. The people facing an abuse of this sort may or may not have the ability of thinking on their feet, but a third person would definitely have a better sense of judgement. Act on it! I am sure there are some who do it but what is that percentage? We are gradually becoming an aware nation, speaking up and educating our children about the prevailing evils. But we must refrain from being a mere non-participating observer and be a contributing element in situations like these.

At least then we can hope of inching towards uplifting our society in a more holistic way.

If you are a survivor, parent or guardian who wants to seek help for child sexual abuse, or know someone who might, you can dial 1098 for CHILDLINE (a 24-hour national helpline) or email them at dial1098@childlineindia.org.in. You can also call NGO Arpan on their helpline 091-98190-86444, for counselling support.

You must be to comment.
  1. Saravana Kumar

    People are scared to intervene for the reason best known to them. Let be male or female, we got to fight on our own.

    1. Annamraju Jyothi

      “People are scared to intervene for the reason best known to them. Let be male or female, we got to fight on our own.”
      It is like watching your pet cat being killed by a street dog.I am sure we will beat that dog to death.But practically we are afraid of our own species now every second.I wish some day when i am still alive i wish to see girls raise their voices and try to bring a change and boys start understanding that girls too feel pain and feel hurt like their mother .

More from Nishtha Vyas

Similar Posts

By Imran Khan

By Prerana

By PRIA (Participatory Research in Asia) India

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below