Hi, I’m a 20 year old college student, who loves living her life independently. Although I don’t abuse my independence, I also don’t limit it to doing things my way. I enjoy doing my own chores, I value taking my own decisions and I take pride in the fact that I can go to new places and meet new people, all by myself. And although my family is very supportive of my love for my independence, I have but a problem in my life. It is like a rein which curbs my free spirit and keeps pulling me back, keeps tightening it’s grasp around my throat the moment I try to dash ahead–the fact that I’m raped everyday….because of the social menace of Eve-teasing.
It follows me (and every woman in my country) wherever I go. Be it the bus-stop, the mall, the cinema, the market, or even when I go out for a walk. Every woman in India has at some point of time in her life, faced this menace. It’s like you can not walk down the road without being scrutinised by some passing man.
And if only it stopped at that. Be it the lyrics to a famous Bollywood number, random cat-calls, a wink, an air kiss, or even slowing their bikes down to match my pace, I’ve faced it all. And the number of adjectives used for me over-whelm, and even flatter me to an extent– hot, sexy, beautiful, gorgeous, item.. To name a few.
Initially I used to come back and wonder how a t-shirt, jeans and flip flops could possibly make me look so ravishing, that strangers of all ages shout out such comments. But then I realized that they necessarily don’t mean it, not most of them at least!
Because I’ve used the term “eve-teasing” , I should also define it. According to Wikipedia, “Eve-teasing is a euphemism used in India, Pakistan, (and sometimes Nepal and Bhutan) for public sexual harassment or molestation of women by men, with use of the word “Eve” being a reference to the biblical Eve, who many consider the first woman. Considered a problem related to delinquency in youth, it is a form of sexual aggression that ranges in severity from sexually suggestive remarks, brushing in public places and catcalls to outright groping.”
Which brings me to a very important question- why do men like to mentally and physically harass women on the streets? Is it because they are sexually frustrated and even making random passes and obnoxious comments on women, is kind of like a release? Is it because it gives them an ego boost to be able to do that publicly? Is it because they know that more often than not, there are NO serious consequences to face? Or do they do that for the sheer joy of seeing another being suffer because of them?
Whatever be the reason for the men, I know the effect it has on us women. It makes us cringe, it makes us so utterly self-conscious that we keep adjusting our clothes while walking, we cover our front with open hair, and our behind with side-bags. Umbrellas, packets, wallets are just other accessories we women use to avoid drawing attention to certain parts on our bodies.
I, for one, have been so affected by this that I feel handicapped without a side-bag. Coming from a modern, liberal family I have been given the freedom of choice to choose what I wear. But because I travel alone I have to always carry stoles, shrugs, bags, umbrellas, just about anything to cover the “exposed parts” of my body.
I know women who are scared to step out of their houses alone. They are terrified of being followed, of being groped, or of being raped.
To a man, it might just be a comment, a gesture, or a touch, and he walks away and can forget about it. But to the woman who’s been the victim, it is traumatic. From a simple touch, to groping, fondling or even rubbing against her body, she can be deeply wounded mentally. Her sense of confidence fades away, she chooses not to look men in the eyes, she wants to just reach her destination, un-noticed and untouched.
After the Chennai incident where a girl committed suicide because of eve-teasing, the Government decided to appoint female sentries in disguise to keep a watch on the area. But even that didn’t last for too long.
So what do we women do? Should we stay quiet and ignore their remarks, hoping that our sheer indifference will discourage them to continue? Or should we raise a hue and cry about it and try gathering support from people around us? If we stay quiet, we are never at peace with ourselves, and if we raise an alarm, we are still never at peace.. What if he comes back tomorrow? What if he brings others? What if he follows me home? These are just few of the questions which grapple us down, and more often than not, we choose to look down, and keep walking.
Because we are subjected to eve-teasing almost everyday, we women have become very alert. One look at a man, and we know we don’t want to be noticed by him. Although we can kind of estimate who to avoid, is that really the solution to this?
Gone are the days when ‘gentlemen’ used to make way for ladies to pass by. Nowadays men choose to walk straight in the woman’s path, from the opposite side, as if he possesses the ability to pass right through her. And to avoid a direct collision, which one of us ultimately has to move away? Obviously us ladies, because now we have to make way for men to pass by.
Why aren’t women respected? Why aren’t we treated as equals? I have never seen a man indulging in booty-calls for another man, on the streets. So why do it to women. Treat us with the same indifference you treat someone of your own sex.
All I’m asking for here is a little sensitivity, a little respect, a little indifference too maybe. I want to walk alone at times, I want to walk and not be noticed, I don’t want to be stared at, or commented on. I want to move around without having to look around as to who is making gestures at me. I want to be looked at, not stared at. I want to be offered a helping hand, not to be groped at, I want to be respected, not to be raped..everyday..in a hundred men’s mind.