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How To Deal With Street Harassment

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By David Joshua Jennings

If you’re a woman in India, street sexual harassment or eve teasing is a dismal reality. But that doesn’t mean you need to put up with it. Dealing with harassment situations can be daunting, but a little preparation and technique can go a long way to make you more confident and skilful in your response.



Understand What Street Sexual Harassment Is: 

Street sexual harassment isn’t just unwanted grabbing or touching in public, it may include vulgar gestures or noises, shouting obscenities, whistling or leering. In India, there are laws against sexual harassment. Find out what they are and how you can use them against the harasser.

Learn Self-Defense Skills:

Being able to fend off an attacker may save your life. At the very least, consider arming yourself with pepper spray.

Assess Each And Every Situation: 

There isn’t a “best” way, or even a right or wrong way, to respond to every street harassment situation. You must be the judge and act accordingly, keeping your safety as your first priority. At times, no response is the best response. Let the situation determine the response that is right for you.

Seek Refuge In A Private Space:

If you find yourself in a situation where your harasser is following you and refuses to go away, one way to get them off your back is to slip into a nearby place of business, such as an internet shop or hotel. If the harasser seems dangerous, you may have someone inside call the police. Otherwise you can wait inside until they have disappeared.

Be Firm If You Choose To Respond To Your Harasser Directly:

Look your harasser in the eye and denounce their behaviour with a strong, clear voice, showing your assertiveness and strength. Project confidence and calm, even if you do not feel that way. Many people prefer to identify the harasser and name their behaviour out loud, saying, for example, “Man in the yellow shirt, do not comment on my body, that is harassment!” or “Do not stare at me like that, that is harassment,” or something similar. You can also say “that is not OK!” or “don’t speak to me like that!” Try out different phrases and see what feels natural to you. The important thing is that you aren’t apologetic in your response.

Keep Moving

Once you’ve given him your piece of mind, keep moving. Harassers don’t deserve the pleasure of your company.

Take Action

To end street harassment, we must change the culture that makes it acceptable to begin with. Such cultural shifts begin with people coming forward to share their stories and formulate a plan of action. You can join the movement by joining such anti-street harassment organizations as Hollaback! (, or starting one in your own city.


Forget: Your Safety Is Your Primary Concern: 

Regardless of how enraged and violated a harasser may make you feel, your personal safety should be your first priority when responding. If you feel you’re in an unsafe situation, without the support of those around, or alone with a potentially violent person, no response may be the best strategy – remove yourself from the situation as soon as possible.

Be A Passive Victim: 

If you feel that responding will not jeopardise your safety, then stand up for yourself – lend your support to changing the culture of street harassment by calling out your harasser and letting them know that their behaviour is unacceptable.

Swear Or Lose Your Temper:

When responding to a harasser, it’s important to be strong and firm, but don’t lose your temper. This type of reaction could make your harasser respond with anger or violence. Let them know their actions are unwelcome and unacceptable while still keeping in control of the situation.

Engage The Harasser Once You’ve Said Your Piece: 

Harassers may try to react to your firm response. They may try to engage you in further conversation or even make fun of you. As tempting as a verbal war with them may be, it’s not recommended. The attention may further feed their abusive behaviour. Say your piece then remove yourself from the situation.

Underestimate The Power Of Numbers: 

One simple step to decrease the likelihood of harassment is to be in the company of others. Potential harassers are a lot less likely to bother you if someone else is around.

Be Ignorant Of The Local Culture:

So that you don’t have to perform any of the undesirable actions listed above, the first set of precautions should be to know what is acceptable within the culture you are traveling. If it is scandalous within that culture to reveal your knees or shoulders, then you will be attracting a whole lot of unwanted attention if you do so. Should women be able to wear whatever they want? Sure. Will they be harassed if they wear clothing that draws unwanted attention within the culture they are in? It’s likely. Your vacation to another city or state is no time to push cultural boundaries. Sometimes even the police will be insensitive to your harassment claims if they judge you to be wearing something inappropriate. Even if you totally disagree with a society’s conservatism, you risk harassment if you do not play by its rules.

This article was originally published here on Love Matters

You must be to comment.
  1. Spider-Man

    I was in a line to buy movie tickets when a girl barged to the front, stood right next to me in a manner her arm and hip kept touching mine. She could have moved a little to avoid the contact, but didn’t. I am not saying that it must have been intentional and I am not judging her either, but then, reverse the genders and we get a totally differently picture. Girls are not as innocent as we think they are, or highlight them to be.

  2. The Hulk

    Sometime ago I walked into a hospital and in a certain section all the seats were occupied by women and men were left standing. I was surprised and looked around to see if there was any sign which stated that the seats were reserved for women. I couldn’t find any. After a while a woman left her seat and I sat down. In a couple of minutes another woman walked in and asked me to leave my seat for her. The seats were by no means reserved for women. This happens all the time in buses, metros, public places, hospitals etc. How to deal with such kinds of harassment from women?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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