A Monday morning rush on the public transport of your choice, a visit to a popular temple, an evening spent shopping at a well known mall, a quiet evening at one's favourite coffee shop, at the theatres…. Name the place, you always find one common thread that binds all these places together in a shameful truss – eve teasing.
Eve teasing or Street harassment not only is it widely prevalent, but most of the society takes it for granted. Groping, catcalling, whistles, lewd comments, staring…. The list is endless. What makes me angry is that the patriarchal setup that we live in makes it seemingly 'normal' and accepted'. The so called 'societal norms' puts the onus on the woman. There are 'acceptable' clothes that a woman can wear or cannot wear. The clothes that a woman might wear can be considered provocative. "Do not wear this unless you want to invite trouble on the streets." I have heard this many a number of times spoken to a woman. I feel disgusted that such is that state of things. Sexual harassment on the streets is a crime and 'eve' teasing must stop.
My head gets into so many states of contemplation when an incident of street harassment happens around me. Should I stand up and fight? Should I merely form a part of the muted audience? Should I rationalize my inaction by accepting that it is normal? Should I report this to the authorities? By doing this would I be simply piling my responsibility to fight against injustice onto the authorities, the outcome of which I almost surely know? Should I just pretend that it never happened and vindicate myself by saying that I do not harass women, so it is ok for me to not get involved? And trust me; it has happened enough times to make me want to puke.
There's this one particular incident that stands starkly in my mind as a colossal monument among ruins. It was nearly nine in the night, raining heavily and I was hurrying down a quite popular road in Bangalore so as to not be late for the dinner with friends. The intensity of the downpour increased and I was forced to take shelter. There were nearly fifty people taking refuge. There were quite a few women and I started noticing that few of the ladies started leaving the comfort of the shelter even though the rain had not let up. Then I noticed what was happening. There were a group of men who were moving around, scoping out the women and feeling them up. I also noticed that quite a few people among the men were also bearing witness to this act of monstrosity. I did not know what to do. I was shocked, angry and surprised at my own inability to speak up and act when push came to shove. Then, something happened that would be etched in my mind forever. It took the clichéd lady in red to act up. There was a 'thaaaaaap', followed by swear words that one would normally use while driving, that rose above the din of thunder. My protagonist had given it back to the wrong doers. And then the crowd took it up and there were quite a few blows dealt with, finally leading to the 'group of men' fleeing into the rain. I was relieved. Lady, whoever you are, wherever you are, you are my hero. This one incident has put my mind to rest when dealing with such incidents. I need to ask myself just this one question. Would I want this to happen to me?
Eve teasing and sexual harassment of woman on the streets is just is not normal in any sensible value system. It has to be fought against vehemently and it is not a battle of man vs. woman. The society has to redefine its values on sexuality and sexual relationships.
Not so cheerful about the current state of affairs,
A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance. - Nehru
Action Hero Lakshminarasimhan Srini