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The Thing About Sexual Harassment In India…

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By Simrith Hundal:

A few days ago, I met some of my friends for dinner. We were three guys and two girls, and it was arranged that the guys would drop the girls on the way back. As we drove back, the topic somehow got around to that of ‘eve-teasing’ (an exceedingly innocent-sounding term, but let’s not digress) perhaps because it was 9:30 p.m. and an ‘unsafe’ time for girls to take a bus back home.

women

One of my friends (let’s call him Arvind) remarked, “But all that happens in the North only and that too rarely. Not here in Bangalore.” I was taken aback. Deciding that he was feigning ignorance in order to rile me up, I said, “You know it happens everywhere and every day. Don’t pull my leg on something like this.” He continued in that matter-of-fact way, “But it doesn’t happen here, and definitely not to not-so-good-looking girls.” Now he was definitely teasing me with that second bit. However, his body-language and confidence while stating everything else made it amply clear that this poor chap was completely oblivious to both how rampant eve-teasing is and also to the thought behind it.

Still, it was unthinkable- that these guys, living with mothers and sisters, and surrounded by female co-workers and friends, had not a clue about such a prevalent problem. So I gave him one last chance. I said, “Wait a minute, do you really not know or are you pretending? Be clear now, no jokes.” To which he said, “What? Dude, these things don’t happen in Bangalore- Bangalore is safe. They only happen in the North. In places like Delhi.” The other two nodded their heads in agreement. I was shocked. Shocked that three men, born and brought up in a city, educated in a city, working as IT professionals, reading the news daily, my friends and most importantly, surrounded by women with whom they spend time, talk, work and eat, were so out of touch with reality. They had no clue!

I proceeded to give them a comprehensive talk about how they had no business being so ignorant about something that, for all they knew, the women in their own families had faced. How was it possible that these guys were so oblivious? How was it possible that they were so confident about eve-teasing being something one only read about in the news? How did they equate it with being something only ‘pretty’ girls faced?

So here I am, explaining some things that need to be known about sexual-harassment in all its forms. This is for all those men and women out there who think they know what the state-of-affairs is like in India, but don’t. Unsure if you’re one of them? Read on anyway. You never know what you may learn.

1. This happens all over the country:

There are no exemptions. No exempt states, or exempt social strata, or exempt age-brackets, or exempt kinds-of-women. It happens in villages and also the most cosmopolitan of cities. It happens at schools, and also at high-flying workplaces. Everywhere. Don’t assume.

2. Every woman you know who lives in India, has faced sexual harassment:

A reckless claim, you think? Here, try this. Ask the next woman you meet today whether she has ever faced any kind of sexual harassment in her life. She’ll probably have more than one incident. And I do really mean the next woman you meet- it could be your boss, you mother, your sister, your friend, your wife, your partner, your teacher, your grandmother. Ask, I urge you. In fact, here’s something even better. Gather all the women at your workplace, or at home, or at any gathering, and pose them with this question. Ask how many of them have not faced harassment of any form. See if even a single hand is raised.

3. Harassment has nothing to do with lust and everything to do with violence:

Leching, making lewd passes, groping and more- all these are forms of intimidation and power-display born out of an urge to control, demean and show victims ‘their place’. Which is also why ‘dress sense’ and ‘looks’ and ‘time of the day’ have nothing to do with how safe a woman is. Women wearing astronaut suits or sarees are as likely targets as those wearing shorts. Women perceived as being plain are as likely targets as those perceived as being beautiful. Women going to work at 10:00 a.m. in the morning are as likely targets as those getting back from it at 10:00 p.m. Sexual and consequently, mental harassment is perpetrated either by males who are threatened by females wielding free-will, or those who think that females are usable objects.

4. Harassment is harassment. There is no ‘big’ or ‘small’:

We seem to think that only rape is an unpardonable crime. But assault, is assault. Non-physical harassment like staring, whistling, passing comments and making lewd sounds also do damage. The exact same mindset is at the root of all these kinds of harassment, and as mentioned above, it is that of violence and control. Imagine being stared down by a bunch of people as though you were naked. Or your crotch getting stared at with a violating look reeking of objectification and disrespect. There is nothing normal or acceptable about leching and lewdness.

I’m hoping that this removes those blinkers (probably unintended) from around your eyes, and makes you aware of what’s happening around you. And that you won’t be so blatantly ignorant of one of the most prevalent crimes in society today.

You must be to comment.
  1. B

    Please tell me what message women are sending by wearing skimpy clothes? Women deliberately choose to wear revealing attire for attention, and are sexually aggressive, calculating, and predatory. Furthermore, what you wear defines you. If a woman walks in a maternity dress, people will think she is pregnant. If a woman roams around in a police uniform, people will assume she is a police officer. If a woman wears skimpy clothing, people will think she is a …. Also, why does no one talk about girls staring at boys. I get stared at all the time by girls, from weddings and functions to streets and market places. Is girls staring at boys okay but unacceptable the other way around?

    1. swati

      A person clothes doesn’t define his or her character. Are you trying to say that a murderer wearing salwar suit or pant shirt is a good person? A person outfit can define his designation not his character. A doctor can be also involve in organ harvesting. A pregnant women can also be smoking or drinking. The clothes doesn’t make person’s character. Even if the girl is prostitute you have no right to stare at her or rape her. Staring is wrong. It comes under basic etiquette. You won’t stare if a person is mentally disabled. You wont stare if the person is blind or handicapped or bald or fat or black or white or women or men or animal or north indian or south indian or french or italian or american. You won’t stare because staring is bad manners.

  2. B

    Being out late at night is dangerous for men too, as many get mugged, stabbed, and robbed.

    In the western world, many parents do not allow their daughters to wear revealing attire, and in many schools and colleges in the west, their are strict rules about what girls can and cannot wear. Also, many parents are more concerned about having their daughters cover up and not date rather than come home one day and tell their parents that they are pregnant.

    With the promotion of plunging necklines, tight leggings, spandex pants, short skirts, tight jeans, short shorts, tops so deep that when girls bend down accidentally they reveal a lot more than they intended, girls today are bent on showing the world their rights.

    1. swati

      Oh i am sorry. I forgot you came here to shame women not listen to logic. You are here to shut women up so that you can continue molesting them and they won’t able to tell. You are here to show how women are most disgusting creature on earth. You don’t care about whether they wear sari or jeans. All you care is when you molest then or rape them they will shut up.
      But here is the thing we are not going to shut up no matter how much you shout.
      You know why parents tell their daughter to cover up because people like you created a mentality in parents mind that if girl is not covered she is a whore and she should be rape. SHE IS A DISGUSTING PIG WHO SHOULD BE BUTCHERED IF SHE DARE TO OPEN HER MOUTH.

    2. B

      Good thing I checked back. False accusations? Doing what women do best? You are only here to shame men, and to drown their voice if they stand up for themselves. Only women are human beings. Only women are supposed to have rights, correct?

    3. swati

      Please don’t tell me that you really care about men. You don’t care about anybody but yourself. If you really care about men then you have appreciated and share the post posted by YKA about a 20 year boy who was raped. But you won’t do that because you are using men as tool to shut up victims. you will boast on that post if the perpetrator was women but no it was men. You don’t care about men or boys who are raped by men. So don’t give me this shit about men’s right. Men are the biggest perpetrator on men. Men were killed by men on name of war, anger, greed. Hitler which killed thousand of Jews is a men. Its a japanese general a men who order to destroy pearl harbor in second world war even though america don’t want to fight in war. America sends troops to Vietnam to capture it. This senseless and useless ego of men has destroy earth but you won’t care about earth as long as it gives you (Only B I am not talking about all men) enough resources to live comfortably.

  3. vinod Rana

    Swati, I completely agree with all your points. but I have two questions if you can answer them-

    1. What if girls stare on boys?

    2. What if the girl put the wrong allegation of molestation to get her work done in the work place. Who is going to define and set rules about staring that when this become as molestation?
    3. Why men are judged always on prima facia in the case of molestation and now that too on staring, so basically from now onwards you keep your eyes shut whenever a woman passes by you. Is that what you want?

    1. ss wwerd

      Vinod –
      1. A – there is a difference between staring and looking.
      B – If a girl is staring thats equally wrong. Where is the doubt here? This doubt clearly states the mindset we have of unequality between men and women.
      2. A girl can put wrong allegation using many other things. A wrong person can do many things you cant think of. A BOY too as a girl can.
      3. Men are judged more often because of dumb asses LIKE YOU. (You make me angry and disgusted) YOU dont keep your eyes shut dumb ass. There is a difference between liking a person for what so ever reason. Thats natural. and there is a difference when you start looking and donot remove your sight even when the other person start getting uncomfortable- and start staring and think of all fancy things (people like u dumb ass will neither get nor deserve). I WILL TELL YOU WHAT NORMAL MAN AND WOMAN WANT- (because u r a dumb ass i am trying hard to make it simple and straight forward for you) – WE WANT FEELING OF RESPECT FOR EVERYONE AND NOT A FEELING OF FUCK FOR EVERY OTHER GIRL YOU SEE. So you dont have too keep your eyes shut whenever a girl passes by, have some respect for other person because just like u that other person is a thinking human being.

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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.

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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.

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