Eve teasing. What we CAN do about it.

Every city in this country has its horror stories: The recent rape of a college girl in Mumbai by a city policeman in broad daylight on Marine Drive; Seema Shah’s death in Chennai at the hands of a bunch of eve teasers in an auto; well chronicled and endless outrages in Delhi, including a girl at a bus stop dragged by her hair for a distance by a motor bike riding eve teaser because she wouldn’t respond to his dumb comments.

What is it with our society that encourages ‘eve teasers’? To begin, with the place of women in society. Where a large section of the population considers them ‘inferior' to men. Its not just a socio-cultural phenomenon, but goes deeper into how women have been exploited to ‘keep them in their place’. Then it’s the unnatural segregation of the sexes in many cities in schools, colleges and even social functions. So that boys and girls don’t know how to interact naturally with each other. And worse, have no decent opportunity to do so.

Most of all, it’s the lack of proper values instilled in families in their children about respecting the sexes as equal. But then, if the social fabric is flawed with regard to the sexes, what can you expect? Especially when you have middle class ‘respectable’ fathers who become groping octopuses on Delhi buses. Which brings us back to the question, if the problem is so large, what can we do about it? Why do so many women suffer the indignity & ignominy of eve teasing in our cities?

It’s because no one around them rises to their aid. It’s ridiculous but true. Eve teasers know that what they are doing is not acceptable. They have wives, daughters, sisters and cousins like anyone else. You think they’d do the same to them? No way! They’d kill anybody who tried. Yet, because nobody around them comes to the help of the victim, they continue to prey on them. Take the recent case of a plucky Chennai girl who dared to retort to an eve teaser with a group of boys harassing her at a popular Chennai theatre.

She verbally put him in his place. Incensed (I suppose his ‘manhood’ was affronted), the eve teaser attacked her. He slapped her first, then punched her a few times in the stomach. What did the other movie goers at the theatre do? (Mind you, the place was packed). Nothing. Everyone discreetly looked the other way. Why would not eve teasers continue to do what they want then? After all, society doesn’t protest. And by virtue of this silence, gives them leave and license to continue to do what they do.

Come on, people of India. Stop clucking about how bad it is. Get a backbone, and next time you see something that’s not acceptable, step right up and confront the eve teaser. Since they already know what they’re doing is not acceptable, they will back down. Not if the victim protests, because it’s a power thing with a victim, but if others around raise their voices in protest. I know, I’ve done it many times. You don’t even have to speak. Sometimes all you have to do is walk in between the eve teaser and the victim, and give him a forbidding stare.

Let me share something with you. When I was in the first year in college, I had to take a long bus ride to get there. The bus passed the Holy Angels Convent girls school in Chennai. Many of the school’s students used to be on the bus. So were a horde of young men who felt they were fair game. They used to move through the bus to try and position themselves next to one of these pretty, innocent young things so they could get up against them for cheap thrills. I would move in such a way that I would get between them and the girls so they couldn’t reach them.

If they tried pushing past, I’d shove them right back with a steely stare. Over a period of time, the girls sensed what was going on. And if they saw me on the bus, they ensured that they were close to where I was so that they felt protected. None of those eve teasers, and there were many of them over time, dared do anything when they saw there was some one to watch out for these girls. I never spoke to any of the girls, but they understood and appreciated what I was doing. They would look at me and smile their thanks as they got off the bus at the Holy Angels stop. That’s all the thanks I needed. After all, they could’ve been my kid sisters. (I never had one).

Is that so hard to do? Think about it. And the next time you see some one teasing a girl, speak up, or get between the teaser and the teased and put a stop to it. I would. I would even go so far as to clout the guy if he deserved it. Like the one who punched the girl at the cinema. Believe me, the rest of the crowd would rally around. So let’s take on the eve teasers in the world around us. Rather than just bemoan what’s going on. For the answer lies with you. And me.

Action Hero David Appasamy