I am writing this as a testimonial to Blank Noise.
Here are three sections from the Indian penal code:
Whoever to the annoyance of others, does any obscene act in any public place or sings, recites or utters any obscene song or ballad or words in or near any public place shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three months or with fine or both. (Cognizable, bailable and triable offense).
Whoever intending to insult the modesty of any woman utters any word, makes any sound or gesture, or exhibits any objects, intending that such word or sound shall be heard, or that such gesture or object shall be seen by such woman or intrudes upon the privacy of such woman, shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year or with fine or both(Cognizable and bailable offence).
Whoever assaults or uses criminal force to any woman intending to outrage, or knowing it to be likely that he will thereby outrage her modesty, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years or fine or both.
Ironic isnt it?
Isn't it sad that these lofty and utopian ideals exist in the Indian penal code, sections which people didnt even know existed, clearly stating that it is a criminal offense to heckle, tease, or abuse a woman sexually or otherwise? Isn't it depressing that our judicial system and the police force are oftentimes the ones who break the code themselves?
What can you do with rules, edicts and codes when our society has become "conditioned" to abuse and molestation, inflicted on the woman?
Women, as my grandmother once said should "take precautions". These included the following so-called unconscious rules every girl should inflict upon herself, to follow:
1. Dress appropritately; only salwars or saris, with the duppatta of the salwar covering the bosom completely.
2. Never travel alone after 6 pm. Ever.
3. Meekly accept that molestation and groping in public places, is a fact of life we have to live with, and go about our business.
As much as I love my grandmother, none of her points are feasible, or humanly possible without feeling like a caged animal.
This harassment happens in all Indian cities, with the metropolitan citites being the worst.
I see this pattern again and again, it is the women who are blamed repeatedly, it is the women who are subjected to layer upon layer of clothes, to cover her arms, legs, body, to "prevent" street sexual harassment or "eve-teasing".
We are constantly told to wear shapeless clothes, loose clothes to hide the curves in our body, we are constantly reminded to not be independent, to almost always have a male escort or travel in groups because what can "we" as women do? "Men will be men" right?
I detest that argument. Aren't men humans too? Are they incapable of having basic control to curb a hard on (for want of a better word), when a good looking girl walks by? Aren't they equipped with a brain: to think, to use logic, to use reason, before behaving obscenely?
Men dont you find it offensive when people think you are incapable of controlling your carnal desires akin to a dog's? Dont you find it offensive when people including our "culture police" make statements like this: "Of course men will get aroused and behave wantonly, if a woman wears tight figure hugging clothes, it is upto the woman to cover up."
Dont you think it is downright appalling to the psyche of a man, when you are considered a wanton and sex starved creature, and women are repeatedly advised to wear layers of clothes, because you, being the nymphomanical animal that you are presumed to be, cannot resist even the sight of a woman in clothes which FIT her?
I am NOT, repeat, not putting down the male of the species here. I am simply trying to make a point that men should find it offensive and insulting to be referred to like this, a lot of men who do not actively partake in eve-teasing ignore the issue, since it does not concern them. So men, it concerns you as much as it concerns us women. Wake up. Please.
Women attempt suicides because of eve-teasing and some are brutally murdered. Other girls have to deal with the life long scars of acid thrown in their faces, because they dont succumb to their perpetuator.
Who is the eve-teaser?
It can be anyone, a father, a brother, a husband or a boyfriend.
Psychologically, eve-teasers harass women to sadistically prove their superiority over women.
Some of them also harass women to fill a void in their life, be it emotionally, sexually or otherwise.
There is no specific age when eve teasing or harassment begins.
A man showed me his organ when I was 10. I was cycling home on my way back from school. As soon as I skirted a turn, this man jumps in front of me with everything hanging out. I was terrified for an instant, but I swerved around him and I sped away.
I was groped in a train when I was 12. I was coming out of the train toilet, when an old man( in his 50's I guess) pushes himself onto me and squeezes my butt.
I scurried around him and I run to my mom. I never left her side for the rest of the journey.
I was felt up my skirt(my school skirt) within a matter of weeks after the train incident, by the bus conductor, in a pretense of helping me get down from the crowded bus.
My breasts have been pinched SEVERAL times in crowded areas and while sitting in an auto during a traffic signal.
Almost every woman goes through the same harassment every day in one form or the other.
Let us look at this scenario:
You are waiting at the bus stop early in the morning, minding your business as usual, when a group of guys sitting on a wall behind the stop, as if on cue, burst out into a loud rendition of "Chholi ke peeche kya hai, chholi ke peechey!" or something like "Anney, madipa pakuraaru, anney idupu a pakkuraaru!"( ohh Brother look at the folds of the hips! Or something like that) .
You valiantly try to ignore them and jump into the next bus which comes along.
To your dismay, the bus is extremely crowded, and to top it off, an old man cannot keep his hands to himself and makes it a point to grope your breast everytime the bus driver applies the brakes and to make matters worse you can feel him getting a hard on.
You have had enough and you decide to get down at the very next stop, but you have to fight through the huge group of guys hanging off the footboard of the bus and you get groped on your way out, by seven pairs of hands atleast.
You are left feeling violated, but you have to go to work/college/school, so you call an auto and get into it and heave a sigh of relief. But your relief is short lived as you notice the auto driver adjusting his rearview mirror to catch glimpses at you, and you try you level best to keep a somber expression and you stubbornly look at the road instead.
At the next signal you are caught off guard by some guy who puts his hand into the auto through the window and pinches your breast(in lightning speed) as he zips by. By the time you get over the shock and the pain, he has sped off and you are left feeling dirty and filthy and all you can think of, is how you need to take a bath. Badly.
Finally you reach your destination and as you walk towards it, you jump out of your skin as a car hurtles towards you, and swerves just before running you over. The driver stops, just in time to cackle loudly along with his cronies at your discomfiture and drives away.
You have had enough. You need that shower. You need to rub that feeling off your skin. Now.
Women, isnt this what you go through, in some form or the other, every, single, day?
Mentally you are traumatised. Paranoia takes over. You dont even want to wear the same clothes that you were wearing "that" day. The day you finally come to terms with it, is the day you get harassed again. All the pseudo bravado is shattered.
So what are you supposed to do?
First and most cardinal, be PSYCHOLOGICALLY prepared for it. Do not be insecure or nervous, that is your downfall. Be cautious and alert instead.
IGNORE all the "good advice" from people, who say that you have to dress in a certain way.
It is as baseless as saying that you got robbed because you were carrying a lot of money. Poor robber what was he supposed to do? He couldnt control himself, because you were carrying a lot of money so its your fault, not the robber's. It is as absurd as that. So wear what you want.
Grow long nails. Very useful.
Gauge the perpetuator. This is very important.
If it is a single guy or a couple of guys, hit back. Please dont remove chappals and try to hit him. It is a WASTE of time and time is the essence here. Carry a huge handbag and fill it up. Hit him with that in the groin area.
If you are comfortable with using your hands and legs use your knee in his groin area, shove your fingers under his adams apple or his eyes( these have worked for me very effectively).
Scream. As loud as you can. As loud as you can possibly be. As loud as your life depends on it. Dont stand there with a stupefied expression on your face.
Walk as if you know where you are going, even if you don't. A potential eveteaser can always pick out a girl who is nervous or insecure or lost.
Take that innocent, 'holier than thou' look off your face. You are only asking for trouble.
And last but definitely not the least, be brave enough to FILE A COMPLAINT. There is nothing wrong with a woman going to a police station. NOTHING. I know you will feel guilty by the disapproving eyes of the policemen at the station. They might even talk you out of filing a case with the laughable plea: "Please, think of this boy/man as your brother/father, do not ruin his life, he has a family". But do not succumb, and just go ahead with a stony face and FILE that complaint. KPS Gill was arrested for slapping Rupan Deol Bajaj on the butt. If she was brave enough to file a complaint against KPS Gill, then you can cough up the courage too.
We have always been told that as girls we should keep our voice, down, our eyes low, that we should never, ever protest and that we should always get used to "men being men".
But women you should learn to give as good as you can get. And what have you got?
So isnt it time you learnt to fight back? To give back?
Women, it's about time that we showed that girls aren't feeble, faint hearted creatures, incapable of fighting back.
Lash out at men who treat us as the so-called weaker sex.
This is not our birthright.
We dont have to live this this.
Post script: For those of you who might argue that the 'scenario' I described above is arbit or whatever.....listen.
That scenario, happened to my 15 year old sister, on her way to school. Every incident, as I had described, happened to her on the same day, one after the other.
P.P.S: This article was brought to my attention by Venkat Ramanan:
He gives insightful tips on how to control the menace of street harassment.
So take heed of the plug peeps, and check it out!
- Action Hero Megha Krishnan